GRAND FORKS, N.D. — New Hampshire twice battled back from two-goal deficits and scored five goals in the third period to earn a 7-4 non-conference road win against seventh-ranked North Dakota.
“We beat a good team here tonight,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “To come out here and get a split, we’ll go home pleased with that.”
With the Fighting Sioux seemingly in control and clinging to a 3-2 lead, senior forward Matt Fornataro scored on a four-on-four at 13:44 to tie the game. The Wildcats took a 4-3 lead at 17:01 when junior forward Jerry Pollastrone rifled a wrister past UND senior goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux.
Just 51 seconds later, senior center Mike Radja scored the game winner and gave UNH a 5-3 lead, punching in a rebound from the top of the crease off a shot by freshman forward Danny Dries.
“Once we tied it with about six and a half minutes left, it showed that all you had to do was work hard and another puck might go in,” Radja said. “You never know what can happen. We kind of had a match lit under us and it seemed to work.”
With Lamoureux pulled for the extra attacker, the Sioux made it a 5-4 game with 1:18 left. Senior defenseman Robbie Bina knocked in a rebound that beat senior UNH senior goalie Kevin Regan. However, two straight empty net goals by junior forward Greg Collins and Radja at 18:50 and 19:00 respectively iced the win for the ninth-ranked Wildcats.
Umile was pleased with how the Wildcats responded after being down a game in the series and behind a goal late in the third period.
“I told the team that our backs were against the wall to get a split here,” he said. “I was pleased with the way they battled all night.”
UND coach Dave Hakstol thought the Sioux had the game under control for the first half of the third period before the bottom fell out.
“I thought we were playing very, very well,” he said. “I really liked what we were doing in the first 10-12 minutes, but one mistake seemed to lead to two and three, and that’s all it takes. This is a good hockey team we’re playing against and they capitalized.”
UND not only failed to sweep an opponent at home for the fourth time this season, but also lost for the first time in 13 games when leading after two periods. It was also the first time since Feb. 6, 2004 that UND lost after leading by two or more goals and just the second time this season that the Sioux lost after scoring the first goal.
At 14:53 of the first period, freshman forward Evan Trupp got UND on the board with his third goal of the season. As time expired on a UNH penalty, Sioux defenseman Derrick LaPoint fired a shot from the left point that Trupp tipped behind goalie Regan.
UND went ahead 2-0 at 2:27 of the second period with a power play goal by junior forward T.J. Oshie. Regan made the save on forward Rylan Kaip’s attempted tip-in, but Oshie pounced on the rebound and shot the puck into the open net.
The Wildcats, who entered the game ranked 47th in the nation on the power play, responded with a power play goal of their own from junior forward Bobby Butler at 4:12. Forward Peter LeBlanc’s cross-ice pass found Butler alone in the left circle, and his hard wrister beat Lamoureux short side.
UND regained its two-goal lead at 7:26 on junior forward Ryan Duncan’s seventh goal of the season. A pass from defenseman Chay Genoway to Duncan sent him and Kaip in on a two-on-one rush. Duncan held the puck before firing a hard wrister from the right circle that barely trickled in through Regan’s pads.
However, the Wildcats would not go away and capitalized on the second penalty of the period on Bina. Lamoureux got a glove on Radja’s shot from the slot, but couldn’t control the puck. Crashing the net, freshman Danny Dries knocked in the loose puck to make it a 3-2 game at 11:40.
Umile said the Wildcats used a simple formula to get goals past Lamoureux.
“That’s how you’ve got to beat him: shot, rebound,” he said. “He’s a pretty difficult goaltender to beat straight on, one-on-one. We had to beat him with a second shot.”
For more than half the third period, UND used a strong forecheck to effectively keep the Wildcats bottled up in their own end, but once Fornataro scored the game-tying goal four-on-four, the goals came fast and furious for UNH.
“We don’t want to go to a four-on-four situation,” Hakstol said. “They scored a good rebound goal off of that. After that, we made soft plays on the following two goals, and that was the difference in the game. The last two meaningful goals, I thought, were weak plays defensively by us.”
UND outshot UNH 44-36 and went 1-3 on the power play while the Wildcats were 2-3.
In making 40 saves, Regan became the Wildcats’ all-time saves leader.
“Kevin hung in there and gave us an opportunity to win in the third period,” Umile said.
UNH next travels to Merrimack Jan. 4. UND goes on the road for a two-game WCHA series at St. Cloud State Jan. 4-5.