GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota wasn’t just hungry in the first period of its game with St. Cloud State — it was ravenous.
The Sioux, who had scored just four first-period goals all season, got three past the Huskies in the first 6:25 of the game before cruising to a 4-1 WCHA victory.
That UND came out strong after going 1-5-1 since Oct. 23 wasn’t surprising to SCSU coach Craig Dahl.
“You get a little extra hunger in your step when you haven’t won a few games in a while,” he said.
“We got what we needed tonight and that was a fast start,” said Sioux coach Dave Hakstol. “We needed to some good intensity right out of the dressing room. We did that and good things happened.”
With only one assist entering the game, UND junior forward Mike Prpich netted two goals on the night. His goal at 1:28 of the opening period helped jump-start a Sioux offense that had only six goals during a four-game stretch in which UND went 1-3.
“That’s what we needed,” Prpich said. “Guys like me need to pot a couple every once in a while to get the team going.”
Sioux defenseman Matt Greene fired a shot through traffic from the point that SCSU goalie Tim Boron stopped, but couldn’t control. Prpich found the loose puck in the crease and punched it in to give UND a 1-0 lead.
At the 3:30 mark, Sioux senior forward Colby Genoway scored the game-winner when he skated from the left circle into the slot and rifled the puck past Boron.
Twenty-three seconds after Genoway’s goal, center Rory McMahon appeared to capitalize on a 2-on-1 break. But the goal was disallowed when officials ruled that McMahon kicked the puck in.
UND rookie Travis Zajac’s eighth goal of the season at 6:25 did count and put the Sioux up 3-0. The Huskies gave forward Drew Stafford too much time and space in the left circle, enabling Zajac to tip in his centering pass.
The Huskies got some life at 13:10 of the first when sophomore defenseman Justin Fletcher scored to make it 3-1. Sioux freshman goalie Philippe Lamoureux came out of the crease to challenge Fletcher, who broke free down the right side on an odd-man rush. Fletcher got the goalie down and then stuffed the puck in on the short side.
The Sioux had 16 shots on goal in the first period to 9 for SCSU. Boron made two phenomenal saves during a UND power play with about 6:30 left in the period and then stoned Sioux forward Chris Porter on a two-on-one rush in the period’s final seconds.
Unfortunately for St. Cloud, Boron’s last save of the period proved costly and he was replaced by junior goalie Jason Montgomery with just over one second left.
“He got five or six stitches in his thumb,” Dahl said. “The puck hit it when he went to make that one save. It him right underneath the pad.”
In the second period, Prpich’s second goal at 6:01 gave UND a commanding 4-1 lead that the Huskies couldn’t dent. The third-line forward blasted a drop pass from the left circle that trickled through Montgomery’s pads.
The Huskies appeared to cut UND’s lead with just over five minutes to play in the second period, but their power-play goal was disallowed because of a man in the crease.
Hakstol was pleased with how the Sioux played with their three-goal lead.
“We played intelligent hockey,” he said. “In the last 10 minutes, I thought we did a great job of limiting any outnumbered situations. We showed a lot of poise bringing the puck out of our zone.”
UND and SCSU limited each other to 11 shots on goal in the final two periods. The Huskies were 0-4 on the power play and the Sioux were 0-2.
UND is 6-5-2 overall and 4-4-1 in the WCHA. SCSU is 6-4-1 overall and 2-3-0 in league play. The second game of the series will be played Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena beginning at 7:05 p.m.