GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Behind four goals by Brandon Bochenski, a rejuvenated power play and a overwhelming third-period attack, North Dakota downed Alaska-Anchorage 6-2 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
On a night made special by the return of UND forwards Zach Parise, Brady Murray and Drew Stafford who helped the United States win the gold medal at the World Junior Championships in Finland, Bochenski put on a show.
“He’s real strong on the puck with an NHL shot — big-time shot,” said Sioux coach Dean Blais. “There’s guys in the NHL who can’t shoot it like Brandon.”
The Seawolves were at a disadvantage, playing their first game in 27 days on the road against the number-one Sioux. They also were without forward John Hopson, who recently quit the team, and defenseman Matt Hanson, who was ruled academically ineligible.
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum,” UAA coach John Hill said of the Sioux. “Whereas us, we last played 27 days ago and we’re trying to get started again. For two periods, I thought we played pretty good hockey and in the third period, they just took over the game.”
Blais kept together a line centered by junior Colby Genoway with freshman Chris Porter on the left wing and Bochenski on the right wing. Sophomore Parise centered the gold-medal line with freshmen Murray and Stafford on the wings. The line combinations paid off with Murray netting the other two Sioux goals.
UND struck first at 3:40 of the first period. UAA goalie Kevin Reiter stopped a shot by Stafford set up by Parise, but Murray found the rebound in front of the net, spun around and put the puck over the prone goalie.
The Seawolves answered at 14:53 with a power-play goal by freshman forward Justin Bourne. The first period ended in a 1-1 tie.
Just 49 seconds into the second period, the Sioux took a 2-1 lead off a power-play goal by Bochenski. The Seawolves answered at 1:59 with an unassisted goal by sophomore center Chris Fournier, who began his college career at UND two seasons ago.
After picking up an errant Sioux pass at neutral ice, Fournier skated into the Sioux zone one-on-one with freshman UND defenseman Robbie Bina. From the left circle, he fired a wrist shot that beat Sioux goalie Jake Brandt high glove side.
“He kind of backed in a little bit, so I tried to use him as a screen,” Fournier said. “I think Brandt was screened on the goal.”
At 9:54 with UND on the power play, Murray scored the game-winning goal, giving credit to Parise for making the play.
“I just put my stick on the ice and he pretty much just shot it off my stick and in,” he said.
In the third period, the Sioux turned what had been a close game into a rout when Bochenski scored three unanswered goals.
“When it was 2-2, we had a couple of opportunities that maybe change the game,” Hill said. “We don’t bury them and then the third period, they just put it on us with the power play goals.”
With a 5-on-3 advantage, Bochenski gave UND a 4-2 lead at the 5:28 mark. He got the hat trick at 11:39 after Genoway won a faceoff and defenseman Matt Jones passed the puck to him in the slot. In heavy traffic with a defenseman on him, Bochenski somehow got the shot off.
“I couldn’t see where I was shooting,” he said. “I felt that I could beat him (Reiter) in his five hole. That one snuck through. The only reason I knew it went in was because I heard the pad go thud. I was on my knees after it went in.”
Bochenski’s fourth goal came on the power play with 57 seconds left in the game. His hard wrist shot from the bottom of the left circle beat Reiter five-hole again, giving the Sioux a 6-2 victory.
The Sioux outshot the Seawolves 34-17 and have outscored opponents in the third period 40-12.
UND came into the game with a power play ranked 57th in the nation (9.1 percent), but converted on 4 of 7 opportunities against UAA, which went 1-for-6. Hill called the Seawolves penalty kill “horrendous” during the team’s past three series.
“We have to win the special-teams battle tomorrow night if we want to have a chance,” he said.
Genoway picked up three assists on the night and has become UND’s second-leading scorer with 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) on the season. Centering the line with Bochenski helps.
“It’s every guy’s dream,” Genoway said. “I take pride in the assist column and having a guy like Brandon with his scoring touch is phenomenal. Every night it’s, ‘Get Brandon the puck.’ He can fire it. There’s no one better in this league. It makes my job a little easier and we’re working good together.”
Fournier knows exactly what Genoway means.
“Bochenski, he’s a hell of a player,” he said. “I had the privilege to play with him in Lincoln. We were on the same line. He was the same way in juniors as he is right now. He’s a great player and a great scorer. He can put a puck through a coffee cup.”
UAA and UND play the second game of the series Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in Engelstad Arena.