GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota coach Dean Blais hit the jackpot against Denver when he reunited the Money Line for the first time since mid-December.
The Sioux trio of center Zach Parise and forwards Brandon Bochenski and Brady Murray lit up the Pioneers for 4 goals as UND cruised to a 6-1 victory. With Minnesota-Duluth idle this weekend, UND took sole possession of first place in the WCHA.
“It’s a lot of talent when you put Parise, Bochenski and Murray out there,” Blais said. “Brady could have had five goals tonight. Every time I looked up, he was in on the goaltender through his speed and good plays by Zach getting him the puck.”
In the first period, Murray scored goals at 3:52 and 5:39 to give the Sioux a quick 2-0 lead. Then Bochenski, the nation’s leading goal scorer, pounded in his ninth power play goal of the season at 10:54 to put UND up 3-0.
After the third Sioux goal, Denver coach George Gwozdecky replaced starting goalie Adam Berkhoel with freshman Glenn Fisher. Berkhoel had 8 saves on 11 shots and Fisher had 17 saves on 20 shots.
The Pioneers cut the Sioux lead to 3-1 on junior forward Jeff Drummond’s power-play goal at 4:11 of the second period. But the Sioux answered with a power-play goal of their own by senior center David Lundbohm at 10:38 of the second.
“David’s played well the last three weekends and you saw one of his better performances tonight,” Blais said. “He was in the right place at the right time.”
As one of three seniors on UND’s team, Lundbohm wants his final year to end on a positive note.
“You can see how many games you have left and you want to make sure you make the best of them,” he said. “When I’m done, looking back, I don’t want to say, ‘Maybe I should have given a little more.’”
The Sioux continued the third-period dominance they’ve shown throughout the season with even-strength goals by Lundbohm at 5:13 and Parise at 13:26. UND has now outscored opponents in the third period 52-13.
“One of the things we were very poor at tonight was starting the attack out of our own zone,” Gwozdecky said. “We turned the puck over numerous times and it hurt us.
“When you give the puck to a talented offensive team like North Dakota and you give them outnumbered situations, they’re going to make the most of it. And they did,” he added.
Freshman goalie Jordan Parise got the win for the Sioux, stopping 25 of 26 shots he faced. Denver was 1-4 on the power play while the Sioux were 2-5.
In three games against the Sioux this season, the Pioneers have been outscored 20-5.
“Sometimes we play better than the number-one team in the nation and other times we play like the worst team in the nation,” said Denver captain Ryan Caldwell. “We seem to be really inconsistent, not just game to game, but also shift to shift.”
The top-ranked Sioux improve to 19-3-2 overall and 13-2-2 in conference play. Denver, ranked 10th nationally, falls to 16-10-3 overall and 6-10-3 in the WCHA.
The teams will meet at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena for the second game of the series.