GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Maine goalie Ben Bishop came up short of a shutout by two minutes and seven seconds, but his outstanding play in net was instrumental in helping the visiting Black Bears sweep North Dakota with a 3-1 win at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“Whenever you can take a win in North Dakota in their own barn, you’re going to take the win,” said Bishop, a 6-foot-7 sophomore who stopped 33 of 34 shots he faced. “I’m not really worried about the shutout.”
After seeing his team melt down in the second period Friday night and give up five goals, UND coach Dave Hakstol thought the Fighting Sioux played well enough to win.
“Last night, we didn’t play well. Tonight, I thought we deserved a better fate,” he said. “We played extremely hard and we played well enough to win tonight.”
Maine coach Tim Whitehead also felt the Black Bears were fortunate to leave North Dakota with a road sweep.
“I think tonight we got a little lucky with a few posts and some good bounces,” he said. “Our goalie was exceptional tonight. But I did like our determination and we did have some good moments. To come in here against a team this strong and get these results, we’re very pleased.”
“We’ve had a tough five first games against good opponents and we wanted to prove that we can play, and that’s what we did,” said Maine captain Michel Leveille, who had two goals. “It’s tough to get a sweep here.”
With the sweep of UND and a win over Minnesota, Maine is proving to be a thorn in the WCHA’s side.
“The WCHA is always a strong league and we want to prove that Hockey East is just as strong, and that’s what we did,” Leveille said. “We want to show them that we can compete.”
Maine got on the board at 3:20 of the third period. Forward Teddy Purcell came into the UND zone one-on-one and fired a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Philippe Lamoureux stick side, giving the freshman his fifth goal of the season. Maine held that lead at the end of the first period.
On Friday night, the Sioux lost their cool at the start of the second period and gave up three power-play goals. This time, Maine got into penalty trouble, twice giving UND two-man advantages. Bishop, however, repeatedly came up with big saves and got some help from the pipes. T.J. Oshie set Matt Watkins up for a shot at a wide-open net, but the Sioux forward’s wrister from the slot rang off the post.
“Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it goes in the net,” Hakstol said.
“They had a lot of shots on the five-on-threes in the second period, but my defense did a great job,” Bishop said. “I saw most of the shots. I was just trying to stay patient and not run around too much because they’re so good at passing the puck.”
After weathering a storm of UND power plays, Maine scored on just its third shot on goal of the period at 8:39. Black Bear senior forward Josh Soares won a battle in the corner and fired a centering pass to Leveille, who one-timed the shot past Lamoureux. The goal proved to be the game-winner.
Leveille struck again when a defensive error in the Sioux zone enabled him to skate in alone on Lamoureux and flip in a backhander that gave Maine a 3-0 lead at 11:27.
With his team on the power play and trailing 3-0 late in the third period, Hakstol pulled Lamoureux for a six-on-four advantage. The move paid off when defenseman Brian Lee’s wrist shot from the point beat Bishop high glove-side at 17:53.
Despite playing without a goalie for most of the remainder of the game, the Sioux could get no closer.
UND assistant captain Erik Fabian said there was no team letdown from Maine’s 6-2 rout of the Sioux on Friday.
“I thought everybody competed up and down the lineup. There wasn’t one weak link out there tonight. It was gut-check time for us and everybody came out ready to play,” he said.
UND outshot Maine 34-28 and was 1-5 on the power play. The Black Bears were 0-6 on the power play. Lamoureux had 25 saves.
The Sioux played without star sophomore forward Jonathan Toews, who left Friday’s game with an injury. Hakstol wouldn’t comment on Toews’ injury or how long he might be out of the lineup.
Fourth-ranked Maine improved to 5-0-0 while third-ranked UND fell to 3-3-0 (1-1-0 WCHA). The Black Bears next face Massachusetts at home Oct. 28. The Sioux travel to WCHA opponent Minnesota State for a two-game series Oct. 27-28.