GRAND FORKS, N.D. — T.J. Oshie missed nearly three-fourths of North Dakota’s game against Michigan State, but his first-period power-play goal on UND’s first shot on goal was the game-winner as the Fighting Sioux blanked the visiting Spartans 6-0.
For the first two periods in front of a sellout crowd of 11,738 at Ralph Engelstad Arena, the No. 1 Sioux and No. 3 Spartans played the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame game as if it were the last of the season, not the first. Three Sioux goals in the third period put the game out of reach.
“It’s kind of the worst nightmare,” said MSU coach Rick Comley, whose team is the defending NCAA champion. “It’s what you fear after six months of people patting you on the back and then you come in here and play a team of that caliber.”
“They’re a good team,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said of the Spartans. “It was a hard-fought game and it was just the way the bounces went tonight.”
UND senior goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, who got the shutout, shook off last weekend’s performance in which he gave up two goals on two shots in an exhibition game against the Manitoba Bison.
“If anything, it motivated me to have a better week of practice,” he said after stopping all 23 MSU shots. “I came in Monday and I worked very hard to get focused and get ready.”
The Sioux didn’t get their first shot on goal until the 11:38 of the first period. Oshie, a junior forward and assistant captain, made it count. His hard wrist shot from the right side beat MSU goalie Jeff Lerg short side over the glove, giving the Sioux a 1-0 lead.
However, less than two minutes later, Oshie was whistled for checking from behind and given a five-minute major and game misconduct. The Sioux were without the services of their first-line center for the remainder of the game.
“It’s definitely an adjustment losing Oshie up the middle,” said freshman forward Matt Frattin, who plays on the first line with Ryan Duncan. “He’s such a great player.”
The loss of last season’s second-leading scorer didn’t faze the Sioux. Not only did they kill off the major, they came through it with a two-goal lead.
“Losing a high-caliber, talented player like T.J. definitely makes everyone wake up a little more,” said Duncan. “It gave everybody on the bench the opportunity to step up and fill some roles they weren’t used to. Hopefully, that’s a sign of things to come with the character we showed on our team tonight.”
With MSU forward Justin Abdelkader in the box for goalie interference and the teams skating four a side, the Sioux went up 2-0 at 16:28. Forwards Ryan Duncan and Andrew Kozek broke into the MSU zone two-on-one, and Duncan’s centering attempt hit the skate of Spartan forward Dustin Gazely and deflected between Lerg’s pads.
Hakstol was pleased with how the team responded to losing Oshie early in the game.
“Those are the kinds of things you have to adjust to,” he said. “The real test for me wasn’t so much physical, it was mental. I thought the bench handled it very well. That’s a good mental test early in the year.”
UND capitalized on another fortunate bounce to take a 3-0 lead that held through the second period. Just as time expired on an MSU penalty, UND junior defenseman Taylor Chorney blasted a slapshot that missed everything but the glass behind the net. The puck ricocheted to the side of the crease where sophomore center Chris VandeVelde batted it in at the 6:55 mark.
At the 3:03 mark of the third period, Frattin put the Sioux up 4-0. Leading a three-on-two rush down the left side, he sniped a wrister between Lerg’s pads for his first collegiate goal.
“I saw the opening,” Frattin said. “I faked off Duncan for the pass across and put it in five-hole.”
Kozek made it a five-goal game at 15:49 when he rifled a wrist shot past Lerg off a faceoff in MSU’s zone. Sioux sophomore defenseman Chay Genoway closed out the scoring when his slapshot from the blue line went in high glove side to make it 6-0.
“We struggled in some areas, obviously,” Crowley said, “but we didn’t give up a lot of shots. You take it for what it is.”
The Sioux finished 1-6 on the power play while the Spartans were 0-4. Lerg finished with 16 saves on 22 shots.
“The shots were very low on both sides, but I think you have to give a lot of credit to our defensive corps,” Duncan said. “They did a great job keeping the puck out of our zone as much as they could and making smart plays. We played great team defense, Phil stood on his head again and did what we had to do to win the game.”
MSU is at home Oct. 19-20 for a series with Colgate. UND next plays at Boston College on Oct. 19 and at Northeastern on Oct. 20.