GRAND FORKS, N.D. — What did North Dakota accomplish by sweeping Minnesota State with a 4-2 win at Ralph Engelstad Arena? As it turns out, quite a bit.
Thanks to Minnesota’s sweep of Colorado College, UND moved into sole possession of fourth place in the WCHA. Prior to the series, the Mavericks had crept to within three points of the Fighting Sioux, but fell back into a three-way tie for seventh place after dropping two games on the road.
The Sioux entered the series with a 5-6 record at home and came out with a 7-6 record in Engelstad Arena, another accomplishment that pleased UND coach Dave Hakstol.
“It’s very important for us to get some wins at home and get a good feeling here at home,” he said. “We played with some intensity, we played with some edge and we played as a team. We did it for the better part of 120 minutes, so that’s a real positive coming out of this weekend, along with the four points.”
Following a 6-3 loss Friday, the Mavericks made certain that the sweep didn’t come easy, literally fighting the Sioux every inch of the way. A brawl erupted with just under nine minutes left in the game, sending four players from each team to the penalty box. Two players from each team were ejected with game disqualifications for fighting.
Given the Mavericks’ history of playing the Sioux tough at home, MSU coach Troy Jutting wasn’t surprised that the game became intense and physical.
“I just think it was two teams battling hard,” he said “When you look at the games we have with North Dakota, you see two teams that play pretty darn hard and compete pretty hard. At times, tempers are going to flare when that happens.”
“It’s a team game,” Hakstol said. “You stick together as a team. Emotions and intensity are part of it.”
UND built a commanding 3-0 lead on Drew Stafford’s goal at 7:29 of the third period. However, MSU stormed back with goals by Ryan Carter and Travis Morin at 10:34 and 16:09 respectively, making it a one-goal game.
“We got the spark with the first goal and we started playing really well after that,” Morin said. “Our team won’t give up. We’re going to keep battling to the end.”
MSU sophomore forward Joel Hanson appeared to score the tying goal with 3:26 left in the game. But after reviewing the play, referee Scott Zelkin ruled that Hanson had interfered with Sioux goalie Jordan Parise and disallowed the goal.
“It was just a back-door pass,” Parise said, describing the play. “And as I was about to slide over, their guy came — I don’t know if it was a knee or a skate or what it was — and just kind of hit me in the head. He got me pretty good.”
Parise, who missed five games after being injured in early January, stayed down on the ice after the apparent goal. He was checked out by UND’s trainer, but stayed in the game. His play earned praise from Jutting.
“I thought Jordan made some really big saves on some power-play opportunities that we had earlier on in the game,” he said. “We didn’t finish with the execution and it cost us a hockey game tonight.”
Jutting pulled goalie Dan Tormey for the extra attacker with a minute to play, but UND sophomore center Travis Zajac put the game out of reach with an empty-net goal at the 19:20 mark.
Sioux forward Chris Porter opened the scoring at 13:39 of the first period when he stuffed in rebound off teammate Andrew Kozek’s shot.
Sioux freshman forward Jonathan Toews made the most of a fortunate bounce and gave UND a 2-0 lead with his power-play goal at 2:43 of the second period. A deflected dump-in pass sent Toews in alone on Tormey. Several dekes later, the puck was in the net.
“I think I deked myself out, too,” Toews laughed. “I was glad I put that in. It was a glorious opportunity.”
UND’s first sweep at home since its October series against Northeastern enabled the Sioux to maintain a five-point margin over sixth-place St. Cloud State, which plays a two-game series in Grand Forks Jan. 27-28.
UND improves to 17-10-0 overall and 10-8-0 in the WCHA. MSU is 9-13-4 overall and 5-10-3 in league play. The Mavericks next travel to Minnesota-Duluth for a two-game series Jan. 27-28.