MANKATO, Minn. — Riding a big second period, No. 2 North Dakota defeated Minnesota State 6-3 Friday night to break a three-game road losing streak and keep first place in the WCHA within reach.
Quinn Fylling paced UND with two goals and an assist, and Brady Murray added two goals. Goalie Jake Brandt stopped 34 shots.
Despite outshooting North Dakota 37 to 29, the Mavericks’ weakness in goaltending continued to plague them. MSU had given up the most goals in the nation heading into the game with 138, and the Sioux (21-6-3, 15-5-3 WCHA) faced few obstacles in raising that statistic.
The turning point in the game came early in the second. With the score 2-2, MSU’s Adam Gerlach had a chance to give his team the lead. But Brandt made the first save, and Gerlach wasn’t able to put the rebound in.
The Sioux transitioned down ice, and Rory McMahon blasted a shot from the right circle to give his team a 3-2 lead. North Dakota never looked back.
“That was the difference,” UND coach Dean Blais said. “We were fortunate to get some big saves at opportune times and capitalize on the other end.”
Early on, it was the Mavericks (6-20-5, 5-16-4 WCHA) that had the jump. MSU blew out of the gates and outshot UND 11-4 in the first period. The Mavericks took the early lead by scoring on the power play 7:19 into the game to the delight of the crowd of 4,329.
Travis Morin and Dana Sorenson finished a perfect give-and-go rush to make it a 1-0 game. Morin passed to Sorenson from the left side, and Sorenson eluded the defense before sending the puck back to Morin. Morin put the backhander over Brandt for his sixth goal of the year.
But the Sioux made it 1-1 with a power-play goal of their own at 11:18 of the first. David Lundbohm got the puck from behind the net up to Chris Porter. The freshman was able to slide the puck on his backhand past MSU netminder Jon Volp.
With both teams skating four-on-four minutes later, Fylling gave North Dakota its first lead. The junior’s shot from the right side deflected off MSU’s Nate Metcalf and slowly rolled in on net. Volp allowed the puck to find its way in for Fylling’s 10th of the season at 15:08.
“I came down, and it actually deflected on the defenseman’s stick and went five-hole,” Fylling said.
“It’s nice to chip in every once in a while and help the team to win,” Fylling continued. “And it’s great in a way because we can’t be counting on one line or one person to produce all the time.”
But Sioux penalties gave Minnesota State another chance. The Mavericks got under UND’s skin early, causing North Dakota to take six minor penalties in just the first frame and 15 in the game.
“It was a tough game tonight with all the penalties,” Blais said. “It’s hard to get into the flow of the game with so many penalties.”
The Mavericks capitalized on another power play at 17:13 as Shane Joseph ripped a shot from the left circle past Brandt’s glove. Joseph’s 15th of the year made it a 2-2 game heading into the second.
But the poor goaltending the got received was too much, and North Dakota jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the second. McMahon gave the Sioux their third goal by firing a far shot from the right wing that beat Volp five-hole at 2:02 of the period.
On the power play six minutes later, Brandon Bochenski took a shot from the left side that Volp stopped, but he allowed the puck to squeak over to the right side where Murray crammed the puck into the empty net.
Fylling capped off the offensive flurry with a goal from in front at the 10:30 mark. Volp, after giving up five goals on 16 shots, was then removed in favor of freshman Chris Clark.
Although Maverick coach Troy Jutting didn’t say Volp played badly, he didn’t exactly defend him.
“You saw it. You can make your own assessments of him,” Jutting said.
“They’re a good hockey team,” Jutting added. “They scored some goals that we just can’t give up.”
Any chance of a third-period comeback was put to rest in the first four minutes, as once again North Dakota showcased its great transitional game.
In UND’s zone, Maverick sophomore Brock Becker had a pointblank shot that Brandt was able to stop. Back up ice, Murray finished off a two-on-one with Zach Parise to make it a 6-2 lead for the Sioux.
“If Jake didn’t make some good saves, it could have been a different story,” Fylling said.
MSU’s Dana Sorenson added a goal late in the game, but the Mavericks weren’t able to get any closer and the game ended 6-3.
Minnesota-Duluth’s win Friday night kept both UMD and the Sioux separated by just a point in the standings. Next weekend, both teams will collide with first place on the line.
“We want to get into a situation where next weekend it could be for the whole bag of marbles,” Blais said.
Despite losing their 20th game of the season and dropping to just one point away from 10th in the WCHA, Jutting was happy with the effort his squad gave.
“I thought our kids played great,” Jutting said. “I thought they battled hard against an excellent hockey team. I thought they played start to finish as well tonight.
“I’m proud of them. They’re working hard, and they kept working hard all night long, even though there were some things that shouldn’t have happened. I couldn’t be more pleased with the effort our kids gave tonight.”
The series will conclude Saturday night with the puck set to drop at 7:05 p.m. CT.