GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota used two second-period power-play goals to down Northeastern 2-1 and complete a sweep of the nonconference series before 10,491 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Huskies coach Greg Cronin gave his team credit for playing better after its 6-0 thrashing by the Fighting Sioux on Friday, but was critical of the WCHA officiating crew headed by referee Bill Mason.
“Honest to God, I’ve coached in the National Hockey League, the American Hockey League, the OHL, international, WCHA, Hockey East, and that was the worst officiating I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. “All three of them — Moe, Larry and Curly — were sniffing glue. It was embarrassing. If I was the league, I’d be embarrassed by that.”
In the first period, UND had six power-play opportunities to three for Northeastern, but came away with nothing to show for them.
“Early on, we had a lot of opportunities on the power play and weren’t able to take advantage of that,” said Sioux coach Dave Hakstol. “That very easily could have been a pretty costly factor.”
The trips to the penalty box proved costly to the Huskies in the second period. Northeastern wing Carter Lee was called for checking from behind and a assessed a game misconduct at the 4:18 mark, giving the Sioux a five-minute power play on the major penalty.
UND went up 1-0 at 5:55 when sophomore defenseman Kyle Radke intercepted a clearing attempt in the slot and fired the puck past junior goalie Adam Geragosian. The play was set up by freshman center T.J. Oshie’s strong move to the net.
“Oshie made a great play around the net,” Radke said. “He wrapped it around and the rebound came out high slot. There was kind of a cluster in front. I saw the goalie was down and tried to put it upstairs. It all worked out for the best.”
With the major penalty still in effect, Northeastern was called for too many men on the ice. Just as the 5-on-3 advantage expired, Oshie blew past the Huskies defense and threw a centering pass in front of the crease that was tipped in by freshman forward Ryan Duncan. The power-play goal gave UND a 2-0 lead.
Hakstol praised Oshie, who had four assists on the weekend and leads the Sioux in scoring with a goal and five assists in four games.
“That’s how he plays the game, he said. “Regardless of what zone it is, he’s making plays, and certainly did tonight.”
After being shut out the night before by UND goalie Jordan Parise, the Huskies got on the board against Sioux sophomore goalie Philippe Lamoureux at 13:16 to make it a 2-1 game. Just as a Sioux penalty ended, there was a melee in front of the net. Freshman forward Dennis McCauley found the loose puck and shot it in over the prone Lamoureux.
But that was close as Northeastern would get. Hakstol said a strong third period in which the Sioux outshot the Huskies 16-5 was an important factor in the outcome.
“The key to the game was the last 20 minutes,” he said. “We stayed strong and played pretty well in the third period to close out a one-goal hockey game, which we’re going to have to play a lot of this year.”
Playing in close, low-scoring games is becoming a habit for Lamoureux. Last season, he lost several of them, but he came out on the winning end this time.
“Is it pressure? Yeah, it’s pressure, but it’s pressure you want,” the Grand Forks native said. “That’s why I’m a goaltender. I love playing in the pressure situations.”
The Sioux converted on two of their 13 power-play opportunities and outshot the Huskies 38-18. Northeastern was 0-5 on the power play. The difference in power play and penalty minutes (37 for Northeastern, 12 for UND) was a sore point for Cronin.
“I’m not crying. They’ve got a better hockey team,” he said. “I’m not saying that the referee lost us the game. But it’s just bad officiating.”
Cronin said the Huskies put forth a much better effort against the Sioux and noted Geragosian’s outstanding performance.
“We battled much better. I thought we were really timid and passive last night. I thought we were able to cycle the puck a bit. But that’s small consolation. It’s a loss.”
Hakstol said sophomore forward Rastislav Spirko, who left Friday’s game and didn’t return, was likely to be out for several weeks with a knee injury.
UND, now 3-1, goes on the road Oct. 21-22 for another nonconference series, this time with Hockey East opponent New Hampshire. Northeastern, 0-2, will play its conference- and home-opener Oct. 22 against Boston College.