GRAND FORKS, N.D. — For the second straight night, North Dakota won the special-teams battle with Canisius, cruising to a 4-1 nonconference win at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Coming into the series with Canisius, UND’s power play was sputtering along at 13 percent (15 of 115). But against the Golden Griffins, who had been leading the nation in penalty killing, the Sioux converted on six of 11 power plays over two games — a sizzling 54.5 percent.
“Five on five, I think we handled them pretty good,” said Griffs captain Fred Coccimiglio. “Their power play was excellent this weekend. It’s basically what cost us.”
In Saturday’s game, all four UND goals were scored on special teams. Forward Chris Porter chipped in two power-play goals, center Travis Zajac had a power-play goal and forward Colby Genoway scored shorthanded. The Sioux also turned the tables on the Griffs, shutting them out for the series on all 10 of their power plays.
Canisius interim coach Clancy Seymour was more pleased with his team’s performance Saturday than he was with Friday’s 5-1 loss.
“I thought we had a more consistent effort — no question about it — for all three periods,” he said “I was really, really proud of the team and how hard they worked. We were up against a tough, talented club.”
UND opened the scoring at 2:19 of the first period. Zajac deflected defenseman Nick Fuher’s slapshot from the point past Canisius sophomore goalie Max Buetow, netting his seventh power-play goal of the season.
The Griffs knotted the score 1-1 at 7:54 as Joel Kitchen converted on a 2-on-1 rush. Forward Michael Cohen’s cross-ice pass to Kitchen sent him in alone on Sioux goalie Jordan Parise. He fired a wrist shot that went in short side.
UND took a 2-1 lead at the 12:15 mark. With Canisius on the power play, Genoway carried the puck down the right side on a 2-on-1 rush with forward Brady Murray speeding down the slot. Instead of passing, Genoway fired in the game-winner and gave the Sioux a one-goal lead at the end of the first period.
“The pass wasn’t really there,” Genoway said. “I took the next best thing and shot.”
When Griffs’ forward Jon Durno was sent to the penalty box for slashing, UND cashed in with a goal by Porter at 17:17 of the second period. Buetow couldn’t control a shot by freshman defenseman Kyle Radke from the left circle. Porter found the loose puck in the crease and poked it in to give UND a 3-1 lead after two periods.
Porter’s second power-play goal at 14:27 of the third period was nearly a duplicate of his first. Once again, Buetow couldn’t control a shot from the point by Radke, enabling Porter to calmly flip in the loose puck.
“Those are great goals. I don’t mind getting those at all,” Porter said. “Just tap it into the empty net. That’s fine with me.”
The rebound goals on the power play are fine with Sioux coach Dave Hakstol, too.
“We haven’t been getting a lot of those goals on the power play up until now,” said Sioux coach Dave Hakstol. “Chris is one of the guys who can do that. He can stand in front and he has good enough touch around the net to get some tips and some rebounds.”
With two assists, Radke picked up his first career points with UND.
“It was a few overdue points, but it’s nice to get them out of the way — finally,” he said.
In taking the loss, Buetow had a career-high 42 saves as the Sioux outshot the Griffs 46-17.
“Max played a fantastic game,” Seymour said. “He came out, he challenged, he played the puck well, he took whistles like we asked him to do. I can’t say enough about his effort.”
At 2 p.m. Sunday in Engelstad Arena, UND plays an exhibition game against the U.S. National Junior Team coached by Minnesota-Duluth’s Scott Sandelin. The Sioux return to regular season action at home Jan. 7-8 against WCHA opponent Minnesota State. Canisius next plays AHA opponent Quinnipiac at home Jan. 4.
Eighth-ranked UND’s overall record improves to 13-7-2 (9-6-1 WCHA). Canisius falls to 8-9-2 overall (7-2-1 AHC).