GRAND FORKS, ND — Did T.J. Oshie end his goal-scoring drought in North Dakota’s 3-1 victory over visiting St. Cloud State because he:
A. Ditched his mullet?
B. Went back to wearing a tattered old black shirt he’d worn since high
C. Was reunited with fellow sophomore forwards Jonathan Toews and Ryan
D. All of the above.
C is probably the correct answer, although the new hair style and old shirt probably didn’t hurt as hockey superstitions go.
Oshie, a number-one draft choice of the St. Louis Blues in 2005, hadn’t scored a goal since Oct. 6, UND’s season opener against Quinnipiac. His luck changed when he notched his second goal of the season, a third-period insurance marker against SCSU.
“I think I just needed a change,” Oshie said of his shaved head. “I went back to my old shirt. The last time I wore it was the Quinnipiac series when I got my first goal.”
Sioux freshman goalie Anthony Grieco, making his third straight start, had to be sharp in the first period after UND put SCSU on three consecutive power plays. Some good saves on close-in opportunities kept it a 0-0 game, despite the Huskies outshooting the Sioux 15-5.
“He did a good job in helping us to get by with a slow start to this game,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “They had 15 shots on goal. Some of them were quality. He gave us a chance to overcome that in the second and third period.”
After starting two wild games last weekend in Mankato that UND won 5-4 and 8-5, the rookie felt more comfortable.
“I was a bit more confident in there, having two games under my belt,” Grieco said after making 27 saves while filling in for injured goalie Philippe Lamoureux.
Hakstol also gave Grieco much of the credit for shutting down the SCSU power play.
“Your goaltender has to be your best penalty killer,” he said. “Tonight, I thought our penalty killing was good. He’s the anchor of that.”
For SCSU coach Bob Motzko, the lack of success on the power play is a continuing source of frustration.
“What was our power play? 0-8?” he asked. “There you go. There’s your hockey
game. We were 0-10 last week. That would have made it a game down the stretch.”
UND got on the board first at 2:13 of the second period with a power play goal by sophomore defenseman Taylor Chorney, his first of the year. He skated to near the top of the left circle and unleashed a slapshot that beat senior goalie Bobby Goepfert cleanly through traffic.
SCSU answered back with an even-strength goal at the 14:08 mark. Freshman forward Ryan Lasch led a three-on-one Huskies’ rush down the right side. He pulled up in the circle, held the puck and then fired a wrister that beat Grieco short side. The unassisted goal was the rookie’s third of the season.
“I really liked Lasch tonight,” Motzko said. “He’s just outstanding as a freshman. He showed up to play. That’s what we’re looking for, guys who are going to want to take that next step.”
The 1-1 tied held through the end of the second period, but it took just 28 seconds of the third period for the game-winning goal to be scored. Sioux captain Chris Porter fired a slapshot from just inside the blue line that bounced past Goepfert short side to put UND up 2-1.
“It (the puck) was just rolling the whole way,” Porter said. “I couldn’t get it to settle down. I was at the end of a shift and I was just trying to put it on net. It knuckle-balled, hit the ice once and went over the goalie’s pads. Good things happen when you put the puck on net.”
“Hey, luck and bounces are part of the game,” Hakstol said. “It was our good fortune that we got the bounce.”
Hakstol reunited his top line of sophomores Toews, Duncan and Oshie in the second period, and it paid off. At 13:05, Duncan hustled to hold the puck in the SCSU zone. Toews backhanded a pass from behind the net that found Oshie in the slot. He knocked it past Goepfert to give UND a 3-1 lead in a close, hard-fought battle.
“That’s a big goal for him,” Hakstol said of Oshie’s tally. “He hadn’t scored in a while, but he’s been playing well. He’s been playing extremely hard. The puck just hasn’t gone in the net, so it was nice to see one go in tonight.”
For the Huskies, it was a game of missed opportunities.
“We didn’t make a couple plays,” Motzko said. “We had our chances.”
On the plus side, the Huskies coach saw some good sign in his team’s development.
“We did a lot of good things the way we played. We were struggling to find some continuity, so this is a good, building game for us,” he said.
Getting Toews back in the lineup, who hadn’t played since the second period of the Oct. 20 game against Maine in which he was injured, provided the Sioux with an extra offensive spark.
“I think he did a good job for being off that amount of time and having limited practice time,” Hakstol said. “It’s awful tough to jump back into a game that was as competitive as this one was tonight.”
UND improves to 6-3-0 overall and 4-1-0 in the WCHA. SCSU, which has played all league games, is 2-3-0. The two teams meet for the second game of the series at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Ralph Engelstad Arena.