GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Was it the week off for Christmas break, the lack of practice, the three missing forwards, or all of the above?
Whatever the case, the unranked Findlay Oilers gave the number-one ranked North Dakota Fighting Sioux — hosts of the Subway Holiday Classic Tournament — all they could handle on their home ice. Despite outshooting the Oilers 41-15, UND had to come from behind in the third period for a 3-1 win.
“We had it under control, but you look at that scoreboard, it’s 1-0 and you get a little nervous,” said UND coach Dean Blais.
UND played without three of its top four scorers. Sophomore center Zach Parise and freshman forwards Brady Murray and Drew Stafford are playing for Team USA at the World Junior Championships in Helsinki, Finland.
“Parise and Murray are on one line and Stafford’s on another. You’ve got two lines screwed up. That’s half of our offense,” said UND coach Dean Blais.
After sweeping Minnesota-Duluth at home two weekends ago, the Sioux had a week off over Christmas break.
“Our legs were working, but we didn’t execute as well as we should have,” Blais said. “We missed opportunities, and that’s from being off and not practicing. A lot of guys only skated one practice and then, bam, they’re playing a game.”
The Sioux and the Oilers played two periods of scoreless hockey before Mark Bastl’s goal at 4:30 of the third period gave Findlay a 1-0 lead. Bastl found the loose puck just outside the crease and pounded it five-hole through Sioux freshman goalie Jordan Parise.
“I think one of the things that got us going was their goal,” said Sioux captain Andy Schneider. “Maybe we needed to be down and feel the urgency,”.
Behind outstanding goaltending by freshman Will Hooper, Findlay kept UND off the scoreboard until the 12:04 mark. Playing four-on-four, junior defenseman Schneider gathered the puck at the top of the slot and blasted a slapshot past Hooper to tie it 1-1.
“I hit the guy at the point and he went to the bench, so that freed me up,” Schneider said. “All of a sudden, I looked up and the puck was laying right in the slot. I got some good wood on it and it went in.”
The Sioux took the lead at 14:15 when freshman forward Chris Porter scored off a pass from senior center David Lundbohm.
“There was kind of a scrum off the draw and I was going to the far post,” Porter said. “Lundy just happened to get it right on his stick. He passed it over to me and I one-timed it right along the ice. It went in five hole.”
With 58 seconds left in the game, Findlay coach Pat Ford called a timeout and pulled Hooper for an extra attacker. But center Rory McMahon hit junior wing James Massen with a pass that sent him in alone for an empty-net goal with 37 seconds remaining.
“I was happy with the way we played for 50 minutes of the game, but unfortunately the most important juncture of the game was that last 10 minutes and we didn’t handle it well,” Ford said. “That’s why we’re a fifth-place team in our league and that’s why they’re a first-place team. That’s a lesson that we need to learn as a team is how to play with the lead. Unfortunately, tonight, we didn’t do a great job of it.”
UND is now 12-2-0 overall and 7-1 in the WCHA. Findlay is 4-12-2 overall and 1-4-1 in the CHA. North Dakota will play Wayne State in the Championship game while Findlay will take on Brown in the consolation game.