GRAND FORKS, N.D. — In an uncharacteristic display of offensive firepower, North Dakota scored five straight goals, then coasted to an 8-2 win over Minnesota-Duluth in the first game of a best-of-3 WCHA playoff series.
The Fighting Sioux averaged 2.75 goals per game during the regular season, but against the Bulldogs, they accomplished in spades what they’ve failed to do much of the season.
“It seems like we’ve been working hard all year to get the breaks,” said UND sophomore forward Erik Fabian, who scored two goals. “Now, finally in the last three or four weeks, we’re starting to get some breaks, so the goals are starting to go in for us. I guess tonight we got a lot of them.”
UND got goals from five different players on three different lines, including a pair from senior wing Colby Genoway. They cashed in on their scoring opportunities and even got a flukey goal from senior defenseman Matt Jones.
“That’s one of the biggest differences we’ve seen from some of the past weekends,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “We made some good plays and we were able to finish on those. And obviously, some offensive bounces don’t hurt.”
Genoway, who led the Sioux in scoring with a four-point game, got his team on the board at 3:12 of the first period. His sharp-angled shot from nearly parallel to the goal line beat UMD junior goalie short-side.
At 13:02, Sioux freshman center Travis Zajac netted his 15th goal of the season when he one-timed a cross-ice pass from forward Brady Murray past Reichmuth. Freshman forward Rastislav Spirko put UND up 3-0 with the game-winner off a feed from Genoway at the 16:15 mark.
Jones’ goal at 17:59 gave the Sioux a commanding 4-0 lead. Coming down the slot, the 6-0, 218-pound defenseman tried to control a centering pass from Murray with the 5-9, 170-pound Tim Stapleton draped all over him. The puck was deflected on goal and slid past a befuddled Reichmuth.
“They’re not a team you can get down against,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said of the Sioux. “Tonight, they got up, they smelled blood and they went after it.”
After Reichmuth gave up four goals on 14 shots, Sandelin started the second period with sophomore goalie Josh Johnson. 1:59 into the second period, Fabian carried the puck from behind the net, skated into the right circle and fired a wrist shot that beat Johnson far side.
The Bulldogs made it a 5-1 game with a power-play goal by Stapleton at 8:02. It was the first power play goal allowed by UND in 29 attempts dating back to Feb. 18 against Alaska-Anchorage.
In the third period, Fabian dashed any hopes of a UMD rally with his second goal of the game and third of the season at the 5:21 mark. Goals by forwards Rory McMahon at 7:57 and Genoway at 9:14 put UND up 8-1.
The Bulldogs closed out the scoring with a power-play goal by freshman center Matt McKnight at 15:24 to make the final 8-2.
“I thought [UND] played extremely well and we didn’t compete,” Sandelin said. “When you do that, good teams are going to make you pay, and they did.”
UND sophomore goalie Jordan Parise gave up two goals on 19 shots while Johnson had 12 saves on 16 shots. UND outshot UMD 30-19. The Sioux went 0-4 on the power play and the Bulldogs were 2-5.
“They’re a good hockey team and I think we caught them on an off night,” Fabian said. “You’re going to do that from time to time. But you know, tomorrow night, they’re going to come out and play hard. They’re going to play with desperation.”
UMD and UND square off for the second game of the series Saturday at 7:35 p.m. in Ralph Engelstad Arena.