GRAND FORKS, N.D. — On a senior-laden team, North Dakota’s freshman were the difference as the Fighting Sioux downed Bemidji State 3-1 in a nonconference game at Ralph Engelstad Arena Saturday.
Although UND skated eight seniors, freshman forward Rastislav Spirko scored the game-tying goal for the Sioux and freshman defenseman Kyle Radke’s first career goal proved to be the game-winner. For Radke, who was expected to contribute more offense to UND’s defensive corps, the goal was significant.
“It’s more of a feeling of relief just to finally get it out of the way,” he said.
After UND fell behind 3-0 in Friday’s game and had to rally for a 3-3 tie, North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said his team needed a better start on Saturday. UND’s start Saturday was different, but not necessarily better.
BSU scored 1:11 into the game on its first shot on goal. Senior forward Brendan Cook brought the puck out from behind the net and jammed it past Sioux goalie Jordan Parise.
“As I was coming around the net, I saw that Parise wasn’t quite hugging his post, so I just tried to rap it as hard as I could,” Cook said. “Any time you get the first goal on the road, it’s huge. It was definitely the start that we wanted.”
Three minutes later, Sioux assistant captain and senior center Rory McMahon was called for spearing and given a five-minute major penalty and a game disqualification.
“It changes things quite a bit, but you adapt,” said Hakstol.
The Sioux were already playing without forwards Brady Murray and Rylan Kaip, both out with injuries, as well as defenseman and captain Matt Greene, who was serving the second game of a two-game suspension that Hakstol imposed after Greene was arrested last weekend in Warroad, Minn., on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
Eleven seconds after McMahon’s penalty expired, UND sophomore forward Chris Porter was called for crosschecking. Fortunately for the Sioux, their penalty kill remained perfect for the weekend, shutting out the Beavers on all four of their power-play opportunities.
In the process of killing the penalties, UND generated some of its best scoring chances of the game, but came up empty. For the second straight night, freshman center Travis Zajac hit a pipe on a shorthanded breakaway.
BSU sophomore goalie Layne Sedevie, a Bismarck, N.D., native and one-time UND recruit, stymied the Sioux on repeated breakaways and odd-man rushes.
The first-period breaks continued to go against UND. The Sioux appeared to tie the game on the power play at 11:54, only to have referee Jon Campion wave it off, ruling that the puck had been directed in with a skate.
The Sioux tied the game at the 12:40 mark of the first period, just three seconds after their power play expired. UND center Colby Genoway stole the puck in BSU’s zone and passed it to Zajac, who relayed a cross-crease pass to Spirko.
“It was a situation, 3-on-1, in front of the net,” Spirko said. “It was a great pass from Colby to Zajac. It was also a great pass from Zajac to me. I had an open net. I couldn’t miss.”
“It was key that we were able to come back and get a goal just after the power play,” Hakstol said. “I think that was a big momentum-builder for us.”
At 2:14 of the second period, Radke blasted a slapshot from the point that went in short side over Sedevie’s shoulder, giving the Sioux a 2-1 lead. The goal came after Zajac won a faceoff deep in BSU’s zone and forward Drew Stafford dished the puck to Radke.
Late in the third period BSU had an opportunity to tie the game when Sioux senior Quinn Fylling was called for high-sticking with just under four minutes left in the game. But once again, Parise and the Sioux penalty kill blanked the Beavers.
With 1:23 left and a faceoff in UND’s zone, BSU coach Tom Serratore called a timeout and pulled Sedevie for an extra attacker. The Beavers applied tremendous pressure as the clock wound down, but UND’s defense held.
In the final three seconds, Fylling intercepted a BSU pass out of its zone and rifled the puck into the empty net, giving UND a 3-1 win.
“I was happy with how we played,” said Serratore. “I was very upset yesterday that we gave the game away. Tonight, the guys did all we could ask of them to work hard and work smart. We brought our A game. But you know what, the puck just didn’t bounce our way.”
The Sioux outshot the Beavers 31-28. Both teams were 0-4 on the power play. Sedevie made 28 saves and Parise had 27.
UND is 15-10-3 overall (10-9-1 WCHA) and BSU is 14-9-1 overall (9-3-0 CHA). The Sioux are at home Feb. 4-5 for a series with Denver. The Beavers play Wayne State at home Feb. 4-5.