GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Forget that the past three games between the North Dakota Fighting Sioux and the Denver Pioneers ended with lopsided outcomes in UND’s favor.
Saturday’s 1-1 tie at Ralph Engelstad Arena was a goalie duel between Denver senior Adam Berkhoel and UND freshman Jordan Parise. Through three periods and overtime, each goalie faced 31 shots and each made 30 saves.
“Jordan Parise was terrific down the stretch for them. In my mind, he was their best player tonight,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. “I thought Adam Berkhoel really came back from last night and had a strong game in our net.”
For Berkhoel, it was vindication after being pulled halfway through the first period of Friday’s game.
“Last night [stunk],” he said. “I played 10 minutes and gave up three goals. I was hoping that I’d get another chance tonight. I was really excited to be back in there and show the guys that I could rebound from a bad game.”
In Parise’s last four starts, he’s given up only four goals and has a .965 save percentage. Sioux coach Dean Blais said he decided to start Parise over junior Jake Brandt for both games of the series because of how well the freshman was seeing the puck during practice.
“I feel that I’m moving pretty well and that gets me into good position,” Parise said. “So whether I’m seeing the puck or not seeing the puck, I’m in a good enough position that the puck is hitting me.”
In the first period, it looked as if the Sioux might pick up right where they left off on Friday. Sophomore center Zach Parise took the puck away from Denver’s Gabe Gauthier, cut to the right circle and fired a quick wrist shot that beat Berkhoel wide. The unassisted goal at 11:04 was Parise’s 13th of the season.
There was no further scoring until the 6:20 mark of the third period. Junior wing Jeff Drummond spotted senior defenseman Ryan Caldwell coming uncovered down the slot and hit him with a pass. Caldwell got Parise down and put the puck over him to tie the game, 1-1.
On the bench, Blais thought about the fact that all three of UND’s losses this season have come in 2-1 games.
“That did go through my mind,” he said. “When it went 1-1, I said, ‘Oh my God, here’s another 2-1 game.’”
Not only did the Pioneers outshoot the Sioux 15-12 in the third period, they also became the first team to outscore UND in the final period since Nov. 14 when St. Cloud defeated UND 2-1.
“If you’re going to have success in this league, you have to work your tail off and you have to play with intensity,” Gwozdecky said. “We did those things tonight and, as a result, gave ourselves chance to win the game.”
Berkhoel made some of his best saves while Denver was on the power play. UND had several opportunities to score shorthanded, but the Pioneer goalie turned back the Sioux forwards each time.
“If there’s one area of our game that I wasn’t real satisfied with, it was the effort we gave on our power play,” Gwozdecky said.
Jordan Parise saved his best for the third period when he repeatedly robbed Denver’s shooters in close.
With just over nine minutes in the third period, Zach Parise rang a shot off the crossbar on UND’s best opportunity to end the game in regulation.
“It hit the pipe, and if I had the same chance, I’d take the same shot,” Parise said. “It was just one of those things that I couldn’t find the mesh. It happens.”
Blais felt that given the way both teams played, the game’s outcome was appropriate.
“I thought justice was served when each team got a point out of this game tonight,” he said.
The tie gave the WCHA-leading Sioux a three-point lead over Minnesota-Duluth, which was idle this weekend. UND, 19-3-3 overall and 13-2-3 in league play, travels to Wisconsin next for a two-game series Feb. 6-7 with the third-place Badgers.
Denver is in seventh place in the WCHA with a 6-10-4 league record (16-10-4 overall). The Pioneers next series is Feb. 13-14 in Denver with Minnesota State.