GRAND FORKS, ND — The college hockey heavyweight matchup of the week turned into an embarrassing night for North Dakota as visiting Maine erupted for five unanswered second-period goals to rout the Sioux 6-2.
Last season, both teams were semifinalists at the NCAA Frozen Four. This season, UND and Maine entered the series ranked third fourth in the nation respectively. But after taking a 1-0 lead into the second period, the dream series between the Sioux and Black Bears turned into a nightmare for UND.
Struggling for words to describe his team’s second period, UND coach Dave Hakstol said, “We played a very unintelligent, slow period that lacked intensity. That’s a good way to get beat up a little bit by a good team, and that’s what happened.”
Sophomore Ryan Duncan’s goal at 14:39 of the first period turned out to be one of the few bright spots for UND. The second period was all Maine as the Black Bears started out by frustrating the Sioux, taking them out of their game and then capitalizing on three power play opportunities. Five-on-five, Maine put on a forechecking clinic that resulted in two even-strength goals.
“It was a little bit intimidating the first period,” said Maine captain Michel Leveille. “We were kind of shy, didn’t make any plays. We just wanted to bounce back from the first period and that’s what we did. We scored on the power play, a couple goals. It gave us a boost and from then we just moved on.”
“Momentum swung to us, and it was tough for them to get it back,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “I don’t think it’s one thing in particular. That’s just the way the game is sometimes.
“We were fortunate this time that pucks started going in addition to just having momentum,” he added. “Before you know it, they were behind the eight ball.”
Maine forward Teddy Purcell tied the game with a power play goal at 3:37 of the second period when he one-timed a feed from Leveille past Sioux goalie Philippe Lamoureux. Senior forward Josh Soares put Maine ahead for good with a power play goal at 7:33. He deflected defenseman Mike Lundin’s shot from the point past Lamoureux, and the floodgates opened.
With tenacious forechecking, the Black Bears kept the Sioux bottled up in their own end. Senior forward Keith Johnson beat Lamoureux short side on a wrist shot from the bottom of the left circle for the game-winner at the 11:07 mark.
“We definitely want to be aggressive,” Leveille said. “We want to put on pressure and make their defense make some plays. That’s the way we’ve been playing since I’ve been here. We just want to keep doing that.”
Hakstol called a timeout to settle down his team, but it did little good.
Just 24 seconds after play resumed, Leveille knocked in Soares’ centering pass from behind the net to give the Black Bears a 4-1 lead.
“It’s a game of momentum,” Whitehead said. “I’ve seen it so many times. And we seized the momentum.”
Maine wasn’t done yet. With 1:17 left in the period and the Black Bears on the power play, Lundin intercepted a UND clearing attempt and patiently held the puck before firing a wrister through traffic that cleanly beat Lamoureux, giving Maine a commanding 5-1 lead.
UND hadn’t given up that many goals at home in a single period since Nov. 29, 2002, and penalties were a large part of Maine’s success.
“Penalties are part of hockey sense,” Hakstol said. “We didn’t show a lot of hockey sense tonight in that area.”
UND forward Jonathan Toews left the game with an injury in the second period and didn’t return. Hakstol said he didn’t know the seriousness of the injury.
The Sioux got a spark in the third period when sophomore forward Matt Watkins scored on a slapshot from the left circle at 15:09. But even that small victory was short-lived. With 38 seconds left in what became a chippy game, Maine’s Brent Shepheard shot a rebound past Lamoureux to make the final score 6-2.
“They’re a good hockey team. We knew that coming in,” Hakstol said of the Black Bears. “They’re an intelligent team with good skill with good experience and a little bit of savvy. They showed that tonight. We made it easier for them than it should have been. But give them some credit. They did a lot of good things.”
Whitehead credited Bishop with keeping Maine in the game early and Leveille with playing a key leadership role when the Black Bears needed it most.
“I was very proud of him,” he said. “We’re playing a team with a lot of elite players in North Dakota, and we need our elite players to step to the forefront. I thought Leveille really led the way.”
UND and Maine will meet for the second game of the series at 7:05 p.m. in Ralph Engelstad Arena.