GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The night after being upset 2-1 by No. 8 St. Cloud State, top-ranked North Dakota returned the favor by ending the Huskies’ undefeated streak with a 2-1 victory.
SCSU coach Craig Dahl rested red-hot goalie Adam Coole, who was nursing a pulled groin muscle, in favor of sophomore Jason Montgomery. UND coach Dean Blais stuck with junior goalie Jake Brandt, the first time this season he’s started two games in a row.
“I just thought Jake played so well last night that it was a shame that he lost that game,” Blais said. “Jake, right now, deserves a back-to-back start. I had a feeling that for as well as he played last night, he could follow it up with another good game tonight.”
For nearly 36 minutes, both goalies refused to crack. The first period ended in a 0-0 tie with the Huskies outshooting the Sioux 5-4. UND turned up the heat in the second period, outshooting SCSU 18-4.
At 15:52, the Sioux finally got the puck past Montgomery. It wasn’t pretty, but it counted.
With Brandt off the ice for a sixth attacker on a delayed penalty, the Sioux swarmed the net. From the left corner, UND defenseman Matt Jones fired a shot nearly parallel to the goal line. The puck hit center Zach Parise and deflected in, giving UND a 1-0 lead.
“We were just all over them and I was just thinking to myself, ‘I’m going to go over and park in front of the net’. Hopefully, something will go off me and it did,” Parise said.
“Parise’s back was right into me,” Montgomery said. “I think I was trying to push off of him. I guess it bounced off his shin pad. It was just an unfortunate bounce. It went through my legs. I just looked in the back of the net and it was there.”
His team reeling from UND’s relentless pressure, Dahl called a timeout.
“I just wanted to settle our guys down. They were getting a little nervous, a little jittery. And when that happens, their legs cramp up and they don’t move,” he said.
The Sioux continued to pressure Montgomery in the third period while giving the Huskies few good opportunities.
At the 7:25 mark, junior center Rory McMahon gave UND a 2-0 lead when he put in the rebound off linemate Drew Stafford’s blast from the top of the left circle.
“They play really tight defensively and it’s hard to get anything going against them,” McMahon said. “We knew we just had to keep chipping away, chipping away, working hard and eventually the puck was going to bounce for us and it did a couple times.”
The Huskies answered with a power-play goal at 10:30. Freshman defenseman Justin Fletcher banged in forward Mike Doyle’s beautifully executed back-door pass to cut the Sioux lead to one goal.
With just under 3 minutes in the game, the Sioux got off a three-shot flurry from point-blank range, but Montgomery somehow stopped them all to give his team a chance.
“That little flurry there, I don’t know what I was doing,” Montgomery said. “I was just kicking legs out and everything. I was pretty lucky.”
Although Dahl pulled Montgomery for the extra attacker during the game’s final minute, Brandt turned back SCSU’s final shots to give the Sioux a 2-1 victory.
Brandt credited the Sioux forwards and defensemen for blocking shots and limiting SCSU’s shots on goal to 18.
“It really helps out when we have key blocks at key times,” he said. “A block here and there in a tight game like this can make the difference between winning and losing.”
Although his team’s undefeated streak came one game short of setting a school record for a season’s start, Dahl likes what he sees in his team and listed the reasons the Huskies have been successful.
“One, it’s great leadership inside the team. Two, it’s a good work ethic. Three, it’s good goaltending,” he explained. “And I still say our defensemen are better than anybody gives them credit for. They’re kind of unsung, in a way, but they play very well.”
Blais said his team’s intensity was the difference between a Friday loss and a Saturday win.
“I thought we had a lot more intensity. I thought, maybe as a coach, I talked too much about being number-one and getting beat instead of being number-one and winning,” he said. “We got outworked last night, but I don’t think we got outworked tonight. St. Cloud deserved the game last night, and we deserved the game tonight.”
SCSU is 8-1-1 overall and leads the WCHA with a 6-1-1 record. UND is 7-2-0 over all and 3-1-0 in the WCHA.
The Huskies travel to Rensselaer for a two-game series Nov. 21-22. The Sioux play a two-game series at Denver Nov. 21-22.