GRAND FORKS, N.D. — After upsetting 12th-ranked Brown Friday and then watching Findlay nearly steal a game from North Dakota, Wayne State coach Bill Wilkinson hoped his Warriors could at least give the Sioux a good battle.
But tournament host UND skated to an 8-2 victory in the championship game of the Subway Holiday Classic at Ralph Engelstad Arena, showing why the Fighting Sioux are the top-ranked team in the nation.
“My game plan didn’t work. I couldn’t nail the damn door shut to their locker room,” Wilkinson joked. “They’re an excellent team, certainly in a different league than we are,” he said. “They’ve got great speed and great strength. Tonight, they found the net pretty good.”
With three of his team’s top forwards at the World Junior Championships in Helsinki, Finland, Sioux coach Dean Blais hoped some players would step up their scoring. He didn’t expect three goals from the team’s fourth line, composed of center Tyler Palmiscno, converted defenseman Lee Marvin and assistant captain Ryan Hale.
Until Sunday’s game, Palmiscno and Marvin had seen little ice time this season. Neither Hale nor Palmiscno had scored a goal. But every member of the line netted a goal against Wayne State and Hale also set up a goal by defenseman Nick Fuher.
“The fourth line was the best line on the ice tonight,” Blais said. “They did things I hadn’t seen them do for a long time.”
“Somebody has to step up when those other three guys are gone. Luckily, tonight it was us. We got it going early and were able to put points up,” said Hale, who had a three-point game, was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
“Ryan knows that he has to have games like he had tonight to even stay in the lineup, especially being a senior,” Blais said.
The Sioux struck first with Hale’s goal at 8:24 of the first period. The Warriors tied it 1-1 at 9:47 when sophomore Derek MacKay put a rebound past UND junior goalie Jake Brandt.
At 11:18, Palmiscno tipped in defenseman Matt Greene’s shot from the point past Warrior goalie Matt Kelly to give UND a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period.
“A good week for me,” Palmiscno said with a smile. “A birthday. A goal is nice. I got engaged. What’s next week?”
Just 55 seconds into the second period, junior forward Brandon Bochenski scored his 12th goal of the season to put the Sioux up 3-1. At the 2:34 mark, Marvin scored off a feed from Hale to give UND a three-goal lead.
The Warriors cut UND’s lead when junior forward John Grubb broke away cleanly and roofed a shot over a sprawling Brandt. But Wayne State would get no closer.
Sioux junior center Colby Genoway scored his sixth goal of the season at 16:23 when he knocked in a rebound off Bochenski’s shot. Fuher then scored at 18:43 to give UND a 6-2 lead at the end of the second period.
Wilkinson’s desire for a close, low-scoring game similar the one his team played against Brown was gone at the end of the second period.
“That’s how we play. If we hang around long enough, we get a chance to win,” he said. “Tonight, we didn’t hang around very long, so it was over in a hurry.”
In the third period, senior Marc Carlson replaced Kelly in goal, but it didn’t help. Sioux center David Lundbohm scored goals at 2:11 and 13:32 to seal UND’s 8-2 victory. UND freshman goalie Nate Ziegelmann played the final 10:26 of the period.
Blais said that the difference between Saturday and Sunday was getting back on the ice after a long layoff and having the team getting a game under its belt. Not having forwards Zach Parise, Brady Murray and Drew Stafford made little difference.
“Tonight, even without the three, we probably would have beat anyone in the league,” he said.
Warrior forward MacKay suffered a broken ankle during the third period and is likely lost for the season.
UND, now 13-2-0 overall and 7-1-0 in the WCHA, travels to St. Cloud for a two-game series Jan. 2-3. Wayne State, 5-9-2 overall and 1-5-0 in the CHA, plays Jan. 2 at Colorado College and Jan. 3 at Denver.