MINNEAPOLIS — Big rivalries produce big goals, big momentum swings, and occasionally big blowups. Such was the case Saturday night at Mariucci Arena, where North Dakota and Minnesota battled — sometimes literally — to a 1-1 draw in a game dotted with overruns of emotion on the ice.
In a contest that had already seen 67 minutes of penalties, a postgame brawl resulted in 97 more, including a game misconduct to UND’s Joe Finley and game disqualifications for Minnesota’s Tony Lucia and North Dakota’s Darcy Zajac for fighting.
Despite the bad blood, both teams were quick to put it behind them and focus on the results.
“This is a huge rivalry. A lot of guys know each other, and it’s a battle out there,” said Chris VandeVelde, who scored the tying goal for UND. “Tempers get flaring, and at the end of the game both teams are mad that we tied. So we were just going at each other, I guess, but we’re fine now.”
“It’s a big game, and both teams wanted it, and it just got a little heated at the end,” agreed Minnesota netminder Alex Kangas.
The tie gave UND a three-point weekend, though not in the style to which the high-flying Sioux are accustomed. The Sioux scored only three goals in the series, but that was enough against the offensively-challenged Gophers.
“Regardless of what type of hockey game it is, you have to find ways to get points,” said UND head coach Dave Hakstol.
“It was everything we expected. We knew it was going to be a low-scoring series,” said Kangas. “A bounce or two here and there and things are different.”
Through 47 minutes, Minnesota and North Dakota combined for 41 shots on net but no goals as Jean-Philippe Lamoureux and Kangas matched each other save for save.
Minnesota was first to break through, at 7:17 of the third period. Leading a four-on-two rush, Blake Wheeler passed to Ben Gordon steaming up the middle of the ice, and the senior winger unleashed a shot that landed just inside the left post.
VandeVelde knotted it back up at 11:14. Kangas couldn’t control a Robbie Bina slapshot from the point, leaving the puck for Ryan Martens, who sent the puck through the crease to VandeVelde. He swatted it home past a sprawled Kangas.
“That was just a good play by ‘Marty.’ He threw it out front, and I had a wide-open net and buried it,” said VandeVelde.
Lamoureux maintained the tie by robbing Minnesota’s Evan Kaufmann with four minutes left in regulation, dramatically gloving a wrist shot to send the game to overtime for the second night in a row.
“The glove save was game-saving for us,” said Hakstol of Lamoureux. “I thought both goaltenders, they were the reason it was a 1-1 game.”
Minnesota appeared to earn a power play with two minutes left in overtime when Sioux captain Rylan Kaip got his stick up on Gordon, drawing a hooking penalty, but Wheeler picked up a minor for roughing in the resulting scrum, ending the man-advantage before it could start.
“It was obviously an emotional game, and Blake lost his cool a little bit,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “You don’t have to protect anybody there with two minutes to go and a chance at the power play. But he’s playing hard.”
The match ended with no further scoring, but the action wasn’t over. Zajac crosschecked R.J. Anderson from behind at the final horn in apparent retaliation for a hit by Anderson on T.J. Oshie, precipitating a wild scrum.
Even the postgame handshake proved too much to handle as Wheeler and the Sioux’s Joe Finley tangled, after which the handshake was called off and the teams sent to the locker rooms.
“You’ve got 20 guys on each side playing hard … You’ve got emotions running high,” said Hakstol. “It’s not something you like to see.”
“It’s just unfortunate. The game could have ended, but you get a crosscheck in the back to escalate things, and you just don’t like to see that,” said Don Lucia.
The trouble started early. Just seven seconds into the game, reigning Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan was ejected for checking Jay Barriball from behind, earning a five-minute major and the obligatory game misconduct. North Dakota, though, turned the penalty kill into a showcase, nearly getting a shorthander on a breakaway by Friday’s overtime hero, Evan Trupp.
Tempers flared in the second period when Minnesota captain Derek Peltier finished a check on Brad Malone too enthusiastically for the Fighting Sioux, causing Peltier to tangle with the UND third line of Trupp, Malone and Brad Frattin.
The result was a Minnesota power play at 7:37 and a 10-minute misconduct for Malone, but the advantage was cut short due to a slash by Wheeler, who earned a 10-minute misconduct in the process as well.
Kangas kept it scoreless with four minutes to go in the period, sliding across the crease to deny Oshie’s rebound attempt, setting up the inconclusive third period and the overtime fireworks.
Next up for Minnesota is a series at Denver Friday and Saturday, while North Dakota is off before hosting those same Pioneers Feb. 15-16.