GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota’s large freshman class has struggled at times throughout the season, but Saturday against Minnesota-Duluth, the Sioux youth movement was an overwhelming force as UND downed the Bulldogs 5-1.
UND’s youngest freshman, 17-year-old forward Jonathan Toews of Winnipeg, Manitoba, scored two of the team’s five goals and added an assist while freshmen forwards Ryan Duncan and Matt Watkins each chipped in a goal.
UND’s fifth goal, scored by sophomore Travis Zajac, was set up by a beautiful pass from T.J. Oshie, who leads UND’s freshmen in scoring. He’s also the team’s third-leading scorer with 17 goals and 15 assists.
Nearly every goal the Sioux scored was the result of great passing that enabled the shooter to put the puck into an open net. There was little UMD senior goalie Isaac Reichmuth could do.
“I think we were just buzzing, moving the puck really well, and everyone seemed to know where each other was out there,” Toews said. “When you’re on the same page like that and everything’s clicking, it’s bound to go in for you.”
Sioux junior goalie Jordan Parise helped his team complete the sweep with another solid performance after shutting out UMD 4-0 on Friday. Parise stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced and now has a 10-0 career record against the Bulldogs.
“Big saves at key times, that’s what makes for good goaltending,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “And we got that all weekend.”
In contrast, Reichmuth’s career record against UND fell to 2-8-1. The Bulldogs have now lost 12 of their last 13 games against the Sioux. In three starts against UND this season, Reichmuth has given up 16 goals.
“That’s as bad defensively as we’ve played,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “But they (the Sioux) had a lot to do with that. They were moving, they were jumping, they were a half-step quicker, and they won the battles.
“I thought, on four of the goals, what’s your goalie going to do? You can’t fault him,” Sandelin said.
Toews got the Sioux on the board first with a power-play goal at 6:13 of the first period. He fired in Duncan’s centering pass from the slot to beat UMD senior goalie Isaac Reichmuth high stick side. The two freshmen teamed up for the game-winner at the 13:30 mark. Duncan tapped in a pass from Toews to give the Sioux a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period.
UND blew open the game with two second-period goals nine seconds apart. Sioux junior forward Rastislav Spirko hit Toews with a backdoor pass to put the Sioux up 3-0 at 5:59. Off a face off deep in UMD’s zone, sophomore center Rylan Kaip battled through the defense and got off a centering pass that Watkins tipped in, giving the Sioux a 4-0 lead at 6:08.
UMD scored it’s first and only goal of the series on the power play at 13:53. After Parise made a save on Michael Gergen’s shot from the right circle, Andrew Carroll got his stick on the puck, and slid it through the crease where Matt McKnight knocked it in.
The Sioux halted UMD’s momentum when Oshie carried the puck across the slot, drew the UMD defense to him and then shoveled a pass to Zajac, who shot the puck into a wide-open net. That goal at 16:05 gave the Sioux a 5-1 lead that they would hold to game’s end.
“Tonight, we had spurts, but from start to finish, UND was the better team,” Sandelin said. “I thought they played extremely well. They had that passion and that want. They deserved to win.”
With both teams coming into the series after a week off, Hakstol thought the Sioux elevated their play after a somewhat rusty Friday performance.
“We saw some chemistry between some of our forward units tonight,” he said. “Some guys made great plays.”
At 20-13-1 overall and 13-11-0 in the WCHA, UND moved up to fifth place in the league, thanks to Minnesota State’s sweep of St. Cloud State. The Sioux remain one point behind fourth-place Colorado College.
With the regular season nearing an end, the sweep of UMD puts the Sioux in position to think about home ice for the WCHA playoffs. But Hakstol said the team isn’t looking too far head.
“That’s all it is, one step. We’re a long ways away yet,” he said. “But it was one real positive step toward solidifying home ice.”
UND travels to Denver University for a two-game series with the Pioneers Feb. 24-25. UMD is 9-19-4 overall and 6-15-3 in league play. The Bulldogs are at home Feb. 24-25 for a two-game series with Colorado College.