ORONO, Maine — Playing its season opener, North Dakota overcame a lively, ThunderStix-wielding crowd in one of college hockey’s most feared arenas, taking a stunning 4-3 overtime decision from Maine on a Drew Stafford penalty shot.
Despite a Black Bear power play to open OT — the result of a UND penalty near the end of regulation — the Sioux persevered, and earned the controversial call when Maine was whistled for delay of game after knocking the net off its moorings.
“Obviously it’s a tough loss to lose on a penalty shot,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead, who also noted, “We have new officials this season and I am not going to be critical of them.”
North Dakota overcame the Alfond crowd, scoring an early goal to quiet the Maine loyalists. Rylan Kaip passed to Mike Prpich, whose pass across the front of the net deflected off Howard and was finished off by Rory McMahon, his first of the year at 1:42 of the first period.
With 11 minutes remaining in the first, penalties began to hurt North Dakota. Kaip took a minor for obstruction-holding, and on the delayed call, McMahon took a shot at Maine forward Michel Leveille, resulting in a five-minute major to go with it.
On the power play Maine forwards Derek Damon and Ben Murphy ran a give-and-go from the corner to the point. Damon let a shot go through a screen and hit the top corner with a rocket of a wrister, tying the game at 1 with his first goal of season at 9:54 of the first.
As time was winding down the Sioux made a turnover at the point and forward Mike Hamilton went in on a breakaway, only to be stuffed by North Dakota goalie Jordan Parise as time expired. North Dakota had six penalties for 15 minutes while Maine had four for eight minutes in the first frame.
On another Maine power play early in the second period, an odd bounce behind the net caught Parise off guard, and Josh Soares hit the nearly empty net for his second goal of the season at 2:30.
Immediately after the goal, penalties on Matt Smaby and Tom Zabkowicz created a four-on-four situation. Andy Schneider took a pass from Robbie Bina and buried a wrist shot from the top of the slot that lit the lamp. It was Schneider’s first goal of the season and tied the game at 2 at 4:27 of the second period.
With half the second period remaining the Black Bears turned over the puck at the Sioux blue line and Ratislav Spirko head-manned it to Colby Genoway, who broke in on Howard and made a pass to the far post where forward Brady Murray stuffed it home, giving the Sioux a 3-2 lead at 9:44.
Penalties continue to mount in the second period. North Dakota took 16 minutes’ worth and Maine six.
Just 4:15 into the third, the Bears answered. Zabkowicz fired on net off a pass from behind the crease; Parise made a glove save but Damon swooped in for his second goal of the night, finishing the rebound with a shot that trickled in off a defenseman.
Both teams were forced to kill penalties late in the third period. North Dakota gave the Black Bears their 10th power play of the night, and Maine returned the favor with 3:30 remaining before North Dakota took the penalty that gave Maine the man advantage for the end of regulation and into overtime.
On the power play to start overtime Maine was stopped by the Fighting Sioux, who went on the attack Howard came to the rescue on a few occasions, en route to 25 saves for the Black Bears. Parise made 23 stops for North Dakota.
But Stafford finally buried the penalty shot, giving the Sioux the victory.
The penalty shot, although controversial, was a thrilling ending to a scrappy, rough game. The two teams face off again Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Alfond.