ST. CLOUD, Minn. — North Dakota came into the National Hockey Center and accomplished a major task by earning the one point it needed to clinch the fifth and final home ice spot for the WCHA playoffs. However, it turns out that the 2-2 tie with St. Cloud State left more of a bittersweet taste in their mouth, rather than a sense of accomplishment.
“Personally, clinching home ice, I don’t really care about that, because that’s just WCHA playoffs,” said UND goalie Jordan Parise. “We’ve got to look more towards the big picture of just getting into the NCAA tournament and taking up the last spot there. To me this WCHA thing doesn’t mean anything.”
Parise, the reigning WCHA Defensive Player of the week could have been asleep for the first 11 minutes of the game, as the Huskies were yet to put a shot on him while being outshot 7-0 up to that point. However, all it took was one nightmare in the form of Joe Jensen crashing the net to wake him up.
SCSU forward Nate Raduns’ pass from beyond the left post rattled off Matt Green’s stick and Parise’s pad until Jensen, who whiffed once and was stuffed on his second attempt, finally bodied the puck past Parise to give the Huskies the early lead.
“I deflected the pass and made the first save and the puck went up in the air right into [Jensen's] midsection,” said Parise, “and if you watch the replay, he kind of pushed, and it may have went of his hand, I’m not sure. I made the first save, spun around and saw the puck go over my shoulder and into the net.”
Both teams came into the series with stagnant offenses, and to make matters worse they were each without their leading scorers. UND’s Colby Genoway (6-26–32) injured his back last weekend against Wisconsin, and Husky senior Dave Iannazzo (16-16–32) ended his collegiate career after aggravating a hernia last weekend against the Gophers. As a result of the absences, and tough defense by both teams, there was only a handful of scoring opportunities both ways.
Huskies goalie Tim Boron repositioned himself after nearly getting beat on a 2-on-1 early in the second period to make a pad save on sophomore forward Robbie Bina and shortly after Parise matched Boron with a clutch save of his own when he stuffed Husky freshman Sean Garrity on a rush.
UND finally tied the game after taking full advantage of a delayed penalty. After Husky forward Billy Hengen was whistled, UND kept the puck live long enough to get an extra man and an eventual goal from forward Mike Prpich, who streaked across the slot and went five-hole on Boron 5:08 into the second period.
Drew Stafford gave the Fighting Sioux a 2-1 lead at the 6:51 with a pretty one-timer from the top of the right circle for his 11th goal of the season.
SCSU winger Grant Clafton played a fluttering puck perfectly after a turnover in UND’s zone and rifled a knuckle-puck of a slapshot from the top of the left circle over Parise’s glove to tie the game 4:24 into the third period.
“We made an error and started flying the zone before we had control over the puck and there was a little bit of a cluster in the slot there,” Parise said. “It was flipped in the air and when the puck was coming down it’s obviously going to cause problems between the two defensemen. It was two of our defenseman, one of their guys and Clafton was the fourth guy who came in and took a whack through all those guys. As soon as I lost sight of the puck, I went down and tried to be as big as possible and it went over my shoulder.”
After being outshot badly in the first period, the Huskies battled back to stick even with UND with 10 shots a piece in the second period, and outshot the Fighting Sioux 15-8 in the third and 2-1 in a scoreless overtime.
“The last half of the game I thought we played extremely well,” said SCSU coach Craig Dahl. “It’s another game where we kept the other team under 30 shots. I thought our guys played well and the defenseman played better as the game went on, better passing and Timmy gave us a good game in the nets which was key.”
Boron finished with 25 saves; the biggest of which may have been a one-on-one save on senior Rory McMahon, who deked around Husky forward Brock Hooton only to have his backhand stifled point-blank.
UND is trying to hold on to the 13th spot in the Pairwise rankings which mimics the 16 team NCAA field, but after a tie with the Huskies, a team fighting for ninth in the WCHA standings at 14-20-3 (8-18-1 WCHA), felt more like a loss. Although they took three points from Wisconsin last weekend they are still desperate for wins, having only three in their last 12 games.
“Obviously we wanted to clinch home ice with a win,” Stafford said. “That’s what we came here to do, to get all four points not only to get home ice, but also to help us with the Pairwise. We need to win games. We’re running out of opportunities to get some wins to help our standings for the Pairwise. Tomorrow is a must win for us.”
Tomorrow night’s rematch also carries special meaning for the Huskies, who will have their last chance to grab their first conference home win since Nov. 26, 2004 on Senior Night at the NHC.
“It’s going to be huge because its senior night too and those guys deserve to go out on a high note,” Raduns said. “We’ve just been in a funk here at home, I don’t know what the deal is but I think we’re going to pull together and we played a good game tonight but I think we’ll be even better tomorrow.”