GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota scored three times in the third period and goalie Jordan Parise recorded his fourth shutout of the season as the Fighting Sioux defeated Michigan Tech, 4-0, to take sole possession of fifth place in the WCHA.
The Sioux came out sluggish in the first period and, for the first 10 minutes, were outshot badly by the Huskies. However, after giving up six goals to Denver last Saturday, Parise was solid for UND, at one point turning back three MTU shots in quick succession with the Huskies on the power play.
“I think on Monday I may have second-guessed myself a couple of times,” Parise said. “It’s just a natural response when you get lit up for six. After Monday, I don’t think there was any doubt. I knew that I was playing at the top of my game.”
UND was awarded a penalty shot when sophomore forward Rylan Kaip was hauled down while breaking in alone on MTU freshman goalie Michael-Lee Teslak. But Kaip was unable to convert, leaving him still looking for his first career goal after 55 games at UND.
“I was pretty nervous,” Kaip said. “That would have been my first goal. You don’t get a better chance than that. I just have to keep working and it will come.”
UND coach Dave Hakstol said that although his team got off to a slow start, it began to play better half way through the period.
“I thought by the second half of the first period, the guys had started to bear down a little bit,” he said. “They really turned it around themselves. It comes to this time of the year and the guys know when they’re playing well and when they have to get a little bit better. They showed tonight that they wanted to get better in the second and third, and did a good job of it.”
After a scoreless opening period, it took UND’s Drew Stafford just 17 seconds to score the game-winner. Center Jonathan Toews left a drop pass at the top of the right circle that Stafford blasted into the far corner. There was no need to review the goal as the puck remained firmly lodged in the net’s webbing.
“That was pretty funny,” the junior forward said. “I don’t know what to say. I’ve never really seen that before.”
Although the Sioux dominated the period in time of possession and scoring opportunities, Teslak held the Huskies in the game with some spectacular saves. He twice robbed Stafford and forward Matt Watkins on what appeared to be perfectly executed back-door plays. The Sioux ended the period clinging to a slim 1-0 lead.
“It was an awful tight hockey game going into the third period,” Hakstol said. “The guys just continued to do the little things right and, eventually, we were rewarded for it.”
UND began the final period on the power play, and it took the Sioux just 41 seconds to capitalize on it. Toews skated into the right circle and fired a wrister that beat Teslak short side to put UND up, 2-0. It was the 17-year-old freshman’s 17th goal of the season and his sixth goal in the past four games.
“He’s found his spot,” Stafford said of Toews. “He’s playing on the top line now, and he’s playing with confidence and he’s making plays. I’m pretty proud of him and the way he’s been playing.”
Sioux freshman forward Ryan Duncan picked up his 11th goal of the season at 4:30. Toews picked off an MTU outlet pass, fed the puck to Stafford who hit Duncan with a back-door pass that Teslak got a pad on but couldn’t stop.
Stafford scored his second goal of the game and fifth shorthanded goal of the season with 1:45 left in the game. Sophomore center Travis Zajac won a faceoff in MTU’s zone, battled through the defenders and slid a cross-ice pass to Stafford that he one-timed past Teslak to make the final score 4-0.
“Travis called that play before it happened,” Stafford said. “He said ‘I’m going to go forward with it.’ So I went forward as well. He put it right where I like it and I was able to get off a good shot.”
Stafford has a team-leading 22 goals and is tied for first nationally in shorthanded goals with Chris Collins of Boston College.
Twelve of the 22 shots Parise faced came in the first period. The shutout was the eighth of the junior goalie’s career. Teslak made 34 saves on 38 UND shots. The Sioux were 1-for-3 on the power play while the Huskies were 0-for-4.
UND’s win, combined with St. Cloud State’s 1-0 loss to Wisconsin, put the Sioux all alone in fifth place and one game away from securing home ice in the WCHA playoffs. Because Colorado College and Denver played to a 3-3 tie, a win over MTU Saturday could put UND in fourth place because it has more league victories than the Tigers.
MTU and UND meet at 7:05 Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena for the second game of the series.