MINNEAPOLIS — Friday’s confrontation between Minnesota and North Dakota had all the elements that were expected. Up-and-down skating — scoring chances aplenty? Check.
Bad blood? Hard hitting? Special teams in a critical role? Check.
An hour-long delay due to unplayable ice conditions?
In a game with a little of everything, North Dakota shook off a lengthy stoppage of play and a third-period deficit to knock off host Minnesota, 4-2. Chris Porter scored the game-winner midway through the third, the second of two late power-play goals for UND.
In attendance was a Mariucci Arena-record crowd of 10,327 — many garbed in green and white and cheering lustily for the visiting Sioux (18-2-2, 12-1-2 WCHA), who extended their unbeaten streak to 14 games.
They were rewarded with solid play from UND’s marquee players, including goals by Zach Parise and Brandon Bochenski — but the key performance came from goaltender Jake Brandt, who stopped 31 of 33 Minnesota shots, including several to keep the Gophers (13-9-3, 8-8-1 WCHA) from pulling away early.
“Jake’s played well all year,” said UND coach Dean Blais, who earned his 250th win in a 10-year career. “He made five or six good saves.”
“They’re a different team than they were earlier in the year [when UND swept Minnesota handily at home],” said Brandt. “And we were well aware of that.”
Amid the action, the officials ended the first period 36.8 seconds prematurely due to a five-foot square of ice behind the Sioux net that had melted below the rest of the surface. A lengthy delay ensued when it was determined that the Zamboni’d ice had still not frozen.
During the 51-minute delay, three fire extinguishers were applied to try to chill the ice, and the extinguishers’ carbon dioxide emissions made for a foggy landscape across which mascot Goldy Gopher moonwalked in an effort to entertain the capacity crowd.
Despite the sideshow, neither coach felt the delay played a role.
“I didn’t think it affected the game at all,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia.
The third period seemed to feature tighter officiating than the first 40 minutes, leading to several power plays. North Dakota, which entered the third down 2-1, took advantage, scoring twice on three shots to take the lead.
“I felt good after two periods, but I didn’t think two goals was going to be enough,” said Lucia.
He was right. A hold behind the Minnesota net put Gopher Judd Stevens in the box, giving North Dakota its third power play. Bochenski promptly knotted the score with his nation-leading 21st goal, a shot high in the left circle that eluded Kellen Briggs (22 saves) on the near side at 5:54 of the third.
The Sioux then claimed the lead with another power-play goal, after a Jon Waibel rough. Porter took the puck along the boards, circled into the high slot and fired a shot that Briggs never saw until it was behind him. Porter’s sixth goal of the year made it 3-2 UND at 10:44.
UND went 2-for-4 while up a man, holding Minnesota to 1-for-7.
“It was just the power play,” said Lucia. “That ultimately was the difference.”
After a late UND penalty, Minnesota pulled Briggs for a six-on-four with a minute and a half to go, but the Sioux killed the power play and Mike Prpich scored into the empty net to seal the win.
“I think maybe we saved our best penalty-kill for that last one,” said Blais.
Early on, Minnesota had an apparent goal waved off five minutes into the first period. Brandt stopped Barry Tallackson’s wrister beneath his body, but pushed the puck into the net as he rolled over. Referee Derek Shepherd waved it off, as play had been blown dead.
Minutes later, UND’s Drew Stafford grabbed a turnover at the far blue line and skated in two-on-one with Parise. Briggs stopped Stafford’s wrister, but Parise swooped in and beat him far-side at 8:03, Parise’s 11th goal of the year.
After a roughing call against UND winger Brian Canady, Brandt stopped both Troy Riddle and Thomas Vanek from the doorstep. But two penalties 19 seconds apart — a boarding call on Matt Greene and a high-stick against Prpich — gave the Gophers a five-on-three, which they converted.
Matt Koalska hit Vanek with a pass between the circles, and Vanek waited until Grant Potulny was in position to Brandt’s left. Potulny one-timed Vanek’s pass under Brandt for his 11th goal and a 1-1 tie.
“You don’t give Minnesota four straight power plays, or something’s going to happen,” said Blais, “and usually it’s bad.”
After the ice delay, the second period started with Bochenski’s bid to untie the game four minutes in. Briggs stopped his shot from the high slot, leaving a long rebound, but the junior from Blaine, Minn., pushed his follow-up wide.
Minnesota took its first lead at 6:20 of the second courtesy of Vanek, who slipped behind the defense to Brandt’s left and tipped Jake Fleming’s centering pass over the goaltender’s glove, his 18th goal of the season.
“The big guys stepped up tonight,” said Lucia in reference to Vanek, Parise and Bochenski.
The two teams meet again Saturday evening for the series finale. Faceoff at Mariucci is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.