North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol went into the new season saying that the loss of scoring and goaltending gave other players the opportunity to step up their games.
In UND’s nonconference home opener, a 6-1 victory over ECAC opponent Quinnipiac, he couldn’t have asked for more. With three top forwards and standout goalie Jordan Parise leaving early for the pros, scoring and goaltending were questions for the Sioux.
It didn’t matter. UND got four goals from its third and fourth lines. Three players — two sophomores and a freshman — netted their first career goals. Junior goalie Philippe Lamoureux was outstanding, stopping 29 of 30 shots he faced.
“We got contributions from throughout the lineup,” Hakstol said. “It’s nice to see guys get off to a good start offensively.”
Those contributions weren’t lost on Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold, who saw his Bobcats do a good job of keeping UND’s top line of Jonathan Toews, T.J. Oshie and Ryan Duncan in check, only to be burned by the other three lines.
“That’s the mark of a good team,” Pecknold said. “North Dakota’s got a lot of depth. I thought we did a good job on the first line, but you have to stop everybody.
Lamoureux had to be sharp early when UND put the Bobcats on the power play three times in the opening 10 minutes. QU out shot the UND 8-4 in the first half of the period, but playing 5-on-5, the Sioux were outshot the Bobcats 14-10 by period’s end.
“Phil’s play in the game, especially early on was a key in the game,” Hakstol said. “His play is what we expect of him. I thought he was seeing the puck well. I thought he was reading the plays well. I though he looked very confident.”
UND got on the board first at the 17:28 mark of the first period. Carrying the puck across the blue line, Sioux forward Andrew Kozek got knocked down. The puck squirted to forward Chris Porter who made a short tip pass to Matt Watkins in the slot. He rifled the puck past Quinnipiac sophomore goalie Bud Fisher to give UND the lead.
The Sioux took a 3-0 lead with two goals early in the second period. With UND on the power play, sophomore forward T.J. Oshie tipped in a blast from the point by Jonathan Toews just 28 seconds into the period.
UND sophomore center Ryan Martens scored his first career goal at the 2:26 mark. Erik Fabian’s centering attempt from behind the net found Martens cruising untouched down the slot. He buried a wrister to put UND up by 3.
It wasn’t as if the Bobcats didn’t have opportunities. Lamoureux continued making brilliant saves on odd-man rushes and point-blank shots. At one point, the junior goalie attempted a pass from behind the net that went directly on to the stick of a QU player, forcing Lamoureux to make a diving save to prevent the goal.
“Coming in as a freshman, this is the position I wanted to be in, but unfortunately I had to wait two years,” Lamoureux said. “Coming out with a strong start is definitely a step in the right direction.”
The Bobcats came out strong in the third period, but the Sioux snuffed out their momentum when sophomore forward Brad Miller scored his first career goal at 5:03. His wrist shot from the left of Fisher appeared to cleanly beat the QU goalie short side. However, the puck almost immediately bounced out after hitting the top rear pad.
Play continued until a UND penalty forced a stop. After reviewing the tape for a few minutes, referee Marco Hunt signaled the goal.
“I could have sworn that it hit the back and popped out, but once it started taking so long, I wasn’t too sure,” Miller said.
Freshman forward Darcy Zajac’s power play goal at the 7:33 mark made him the third Sioux player of the night to score his first career goal. Zajac tipped in Andrew Kozek’s shot through traffic to give UND a 5-0 lead.
The Bobcats spoiled Lamoureux’s shutout bid with a power play goal at 11:01. Junior wing Dan Travis passed to sophomore David Marshall from behind the net. He put the puck over the sprawling Lamoureux to make it 5-1.
Zajac closed out the scoring with his second goal at 16:43 against freshman goalie Zach Kleiman who replaced Fisher half way through the third period.
The Sioux outshot the Bobcats 38-30 and 2-5 on the power play while the Bobcats went -8. Fisher made 29 saves on 34 shots. Kleiman had three saves on four shots.
UND and Quinnipiac will meet at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Ralph Engelstad Arena for game two of the series.