GRAND FORKS, N.D. — If Bemidji State hoped to end the nation’s longest unbeaten streak, getting into penalty trouble early in the first period against No. 2 North Dakota wasn’t the way to do it.
Skating to a 5-1 non-conference victory, the Fighting Sioux scored three first-period power play goals, capitalizing on a two-man advantage and a five-minute major penalty. Ryan Duncan, last season’s Hobey Baker winner, scored two goals as UND extended its unbeaten streak to 11-0-1.
The Sioux went 4-10 on the power play. Through two periods, 21 of UND’s 33 shots on goal came with the man advantage. For UND coach Dave Hakstol, it was an example of his team finding yet another way to win.
“The power play was absolutely the difference, and I don’t really recall the last time that it was,” he said. “We had an overtime win. We had a real good comeback win. We’ve had some one-goal wins. Tonight was a night when specialty teams separated us. When you’re playing well, you find different ways to win.”
Through the first seven minutes of the game, the Beavers played even with the Sioux. However, 20 seconds after BSU’s Matt Pope went to the box for slashing, Matt Read was whistled for checking Duncan from behind. Suddenly, the Beavers were down two players and faced with killing a five-minute major penalty.
“Obviously, after that, it really deflates you, it really demoralizes you,” said BSU coach Tom Serratore. “The kid that gets kicked out is our best player, so it’s a double whammy.”
The Sioux wasted little time cashing in. BSU goalie Matt Climie couldn’t control defenseman Taylor Chorney’s shot from the top of the left circle. Off the rebound, center Chris VandeVelde put the puck over Climie’s outstretched pad on his third attempt to give UND a 1-0 lead at 12:59.
Skating five-on-four, VandeVelde spotted Duncan all alone coming down the slot and hit him with a centering pass that he tipped past Climie to put the Sioux up 2-0 at 13:36.
The Sioux struck for their third power play goal 56 seconds later when junior forward Matt Watkins one-timed a pass from the right dot at 14:30.
Serratore said it was exactly the type of start the Beavers didn’t need against UND.
“You need to get into a little bit of a rhythm, you need to get into a flow, you need to score the first goal,” he said. “You need to maybe get out of the first period on the road against these guys 1-0. When you’re down 3-0, it’s just like, ‘When can this nightmare end?’”
“The key is not to waste power play time, and we didn’t,” Hakstol said. “We generated a lot of opportunities.”
The second period saw both teams trade power-play goals. The Beavers dodged a bullet when the Sioux appeared to go up 4-0 on a power-play goal by defenseman Robbie Bina at 14:14. After reviewing the play, referee Jon Campion ruled that VandeVelde was in the crease and disallowed the goal.
BSU made it a two-goal game with a power-play goal by senior defenseman Riley Weselowski at 14:28. Center Travis Winter spotted Weselowski alone at the top of the slot and hit him with a pass from behind the net. The defenseman fired a quick wrister that beat UND goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux high glove side.
UND went up 4-1 on Duncan’s second goal of the game and 12th of the season. With the Sioux on the power play, T.J. Oshie, who had three assists, hit Duncan with a cross-ice, backdoor pass that he tipped in with 35 seconds left in the period.
“They say in hockey that a two-goal lead is the toughest one to keep,” Duncan said. “We were only up by two until that goal was scored, so it was big to go into the third period with a three-goal lead.”
The third period remained scoreless until BSU pulled Climie for the extra attacker with 1:41 to play. Sioux junior forward Brad Miller notched his third goal of the season to give UND the 5-1 win.
If there was a bright spot for the Beavers, it was the play of Climie, who weathered a storm of Sioux shots on their 10 power play opportunities.
“Climie was great,” Serratore said. “That’s why I think he’s an All-American and one of the best goalies in the country. He’s done it for four years. Take a look at his numbers. I think he validated that today.”
UND, second in the WCHA, improved its record to 20-8-2 overall. BSU, which leads the CHA, is 14-14-3 overall. The two teams meet at 3:37 p.m. Sunday at Ralph Engelstad Arena for the second game of the series.