MANKATO, Minn. — North Dakota freshman Erik Fabian enjoyed his first goal so much, he decided to make goal-scoring a habit.
Fabian notched the first three goals of his young collegiate career, and added an assist as No. 2 UND defeated Minnesota State 10-1 to earn the weekend sweep.
Drew Stafford also had a four-point night, and Brad Murray and Zach Parise each had three-point efforts as well. Goalie Jake Brandt stopped 15 shots in the win, which kept North Dakota (22-6-3, 16-5-3 WCHA) in the race for first place with Minnesota-Duluth.
UND outshot Minnesota State (6-21-5, 5-17-4 WCHA) 45-16 in what might have been the Sioux’s best game of the year.
“It was a complete game,” North Dakota coach Dean Blais said. “There wasn’t a flaw or chink in the armor.”
But Fabian’s play was the story of the night. Playing in just his eighth game, the freshman forward from Roseau, Minn., took advantage of every opportunity.
“It is a dream come true,” Fabian said. “You step into the lineup and don’t see many games, and all of the sudden you break out in one game and have four points.”
Fabian’s first collegiate goal came with his team already enjoying a 2-0 lead. Fabian deflected Stafford’s pass on net and MSU netminder Chris Clark tried to squeeze the pads, but the puck trickled between Clark’s legs and over the goal line.
“I tipped it in, and it squeezed between his legs,” Fabian said. “I’m behind the net, and I’m pinched between the boards, and I’m going, ‘It’s going in, it’s going in!’ And it went in, and I guess I just let loose. I didn’t know what to do.”
In the second, Fabian tallied again off of hard work from his linemate Ryan Hale. After Clark went behind the net to play the puck, Hale made contact with the Maverick netminder. After Clark went down, Hale got the puck out in front to Fabian, who had a wide-open net to put the puck into.
Finally, in the third, Fabian again took a fed from Stafford and put it over Clark to cap the hat trick.
“It’s a great feeling, and I would like to thank my teammates obviously tonight too,” Fabian said. “They played an extremely hard fought game, and they played very well. They had the opportunity to set me up.”
His teammates were as thrilled for Fabian as he was.
“He really hasn’t been in the lineup too much this year, and it’s just great for him,” Stafford said. “Everybody’s so happy for him that he was able to go out and bury a couple of those. I was just trying to do my best to give him the puck and he was in the right place at the right time.”
“He’s a hard worker … The guys were so excited when he got his first goal, but when he scores his third goal, the bench was just laughing. They all know that he puts in more time than anyone else, and he gets rewarded for it,” Blais said.
The game was no contest early on, as the Sioux carried the momentum from their victory Friday into Saturday’s game and dominated the first period, outshooting MSU 15-3.
Stafford started the scoring by putting his own rebound home at 8:30 of the first.
Later in the period on the penalty kill, Murray set up Brandon Bochenski by dancing around MSU’s Nate Metcalf at center ice to create a two-on-one. Murray fed Bochenski on the right side, who beat Clark for his 23rd goal of the season.
Fabian had the next two goals to put his team comfortably ahead 4-0.
The Mavericks finally tallied as Brock Becker beat Brandt upstairs on the power play, making the score 4-1 at 10:04 of the second.
David Lundbohm made good on a pass from Stafford on the power play to make it a 5-1 game at 14:47 of the second. Colby Genoway, Parise, Lundbohm, Fabian and Murray each scored in the third to cap the 10-1 final.
“We got beat by a lot better hockey team tonight,” MSU coach Troy Jutting said. “I thought they played very well, and we did not play as well (as last night). Their guys just out-muscled us and made the play. They were bigger and stronger and had more heart tonight.”
UND only trails Minnesota-Duluth by two points, and the two WCHA titans will compete next weekend with first place on the line.
“We’re not going to back down, especially after coming off this big weekend here,” Stafford said. “We’re definitely going to be coming into Duluth flying, so it’ll be good for us.”
“Here we are with four games to go, and the WCHA title is in our hands,” Blais said. “We have an opportunity to get it.”
Meanwhile, the ninth-place Mavericks will battle 10th-place Michigan Tech next week with both teams trying to keep from earning last in the league.