ST. CLOUD, Minn. — When North Dakota senior Brandon Bochenski finally goes to bed tonight, he’ll still probably be hearing the clank from his what-could-have-been late heroics Friday night.
Nonetheless he will still sleep pretty well, as the Minnesota native and the rest of the top-ranked Fighting Sioux climbed back from an early 3-0 deficit to skate to a 4-4 tie with No. 8 St. Cloud State before 6,685 entertained fans inside the National Hockey Center.
He did nearly end it though, rocketing a shot off the far post behind Huskies netminder Adam Coole with eight ticks left in the overtime. Had it gone in, it would have capped a near perfect night for Bochenski and his linemates, who together helped ease the absence of Zach Parise, Brady Murray and Drew Stafford, all on the other side of the planet playing in the World Junior Championships.
“We were missing three of our top four forwards and we had some other guys step up tonight,” said Bochenski, who along with Quinn Fylling and Colby Genoway on UND’s top line accounted for three of the goals and eight total points. “But we got a good character team here and to come in and fight back to get the tie shows that.”
Early on it looked like the Sioux had their work cut out for them, as the Huskies tried to bury them in the game’s first three minutes. Billy Hengen scored 28 seconds into the game, cleaning up a mess that Jordan Parise made in his own crease. Dave Iannazzo walked around Matt Smaby, worked his way into the slot before firing a puck past a screened Parise less than a minute later to make it 2-0. Then Colin Peters scored into a wide open net at the 3:06 mark, nearly taking the roof off the place, and before anyone had a chance to get comfortable, it was 3-0.
And it could have been worse, as Smaby went off for slashing 20 seconds after Peters made it 3-0 and Genoway was called for holding a minute after Smaby’s penalty expired. But North Dakota came through with a pair of huge kills and started to get some get some momentum.
“We started out like a house of fire and then we got those power plays, which they did a good job of killing off and it kind of took us out of our rhythm,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “But we knew after we got up 3-0 in three minutes that there was a lot of game left, we weren’t playing the little sisters of the poor.”
The team they were playing finally showed up about midway through the first, as the Sioux started to look like the top-ranked team in the land. They got on the board shortly after that when Brian Canady picked up puck that a pair of SCSU defenders couldn’t get to and slid it under Coole.
Then Bochenski and Co. started to take over. With St. Cloud’s Matt Gens in the penalty box, Genoway took a pass from Matt Greene at the point and blasted a shot that Bochenski redirected in with 1:57 to go in the first, pulling North Dakota to within one at 3-2. He struck again 12 seconds into the second, riffling another pass from Genoway over Coole’s blocker, and as fast as it was 3-0, the game was tied at three apiece.
“We fought back hard to get the game tied up again,” said Fighting Sioux head coach Dean Blais. “We talked about having someone step up tonight with those three guys gone and tonight at least, I thought Brandon [Bochenski] was the best player on the ice.”
He looked like it after setting up Fylling three minutes into the third, threading a pass to his winger that gave North Dakota a 4-3 lead that seemed like it was going to hold. But Joe Jensen finally found some free space in the Fighting Sioux zone late in the third, waited for Andy Schneider to slide by, then beat Parise — who had already committed — high.
“We were pretty fortunate at the end to get one,” said Jensen. “This game was too much like a roller coaster though, we need to stay more level. I think we got too excited when we got up 3-0, we need to just maintain.”
They’ll get another chance to level out tomorrow night, as the two teams meet again. Game time is set for 7:05 (CT).