GRAND FORKS, N.D. — When one of the best defensive teams in the nation met one of the lowest scoring teams, the last thing anybody expected was a high-scoring shootout.
In defeating 12th-ranked Cornell 7-3 in front of 11,363 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena, North Dakota accomplished important team and individual objectives. Besides the offensive explosion, UND picked up its first non-conference win of the season and handed Cornell its first loss.
“It was a battle all the way through,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “We got a couple of late ones (goals) that stretched the lead a little bit, but it was anyone’s game through 50 minutes.”
Sophomore forward Matt Frattin led UND with three goals and an assist while junior defenseman Chay Genoway had a career-high five points with a goal and four assists. Genoway and sophomore center Evan Trupp each scored their first goals of the season.
The Fighting Sioux entered the series averaging 2.3 goals per game. They hadn’t scored five-on-five in more than 14 periods of hockey. Their power play had been sputtering along at 14 percent.
UND faced Cornell junior goalie Ben Scrivens, who came to Grand Forks with a gaudy .971 save percentage and a .81 goals against average, both tops in the country. He left the game in the third period after giving up five goals on 26 shots. UND also went 3-7 on the power play against Cornell’s nation-leading penalty kill.
“It seemed like we just started getting some bounces from putting pucks on net,” Genoway said. “We’ve been working hard for those bounces, and it’s nice to see them finally go our way tonight.”
Cornell coach Mike Schafer agreed with Hakstol’s assessment of the game. With more than 15 minutes left to play in the third period, the Sioux led 4-3 before erupting for three goals, two against Scriven’s replacement, freshman goalie Michael Garman.
“When we got down 4-3, we had some really good scoring chances,” Schafer said. “It was a tighter game than the score would indicate. It’s just one of those things where you regroup, revamp and get ready to go again tomorrow.”
In a season that’s seen little go right, UND finally had a game in which little went wrong.
“Things finally started going our way as far as putting the puck in the net,” Trupp said. “It had to come sometime.:
Cornell struck first just 2:43 into the opening period. Junior forward Locke Jillson capitalized on a two-on-one rush when he flipped a backhand from the left of UND goalie Brad Eidsness that went in five-hole.
UND answered 1:12 later with its first five-on-five goal since Nov. 8. Genoway blasted a slapper from the point, causing Scrivens to kick the rebound out to his right. The puck went to Frattin, who fired it in to make it 1-1.
Cornell went up 2-1 at 6:28. From deep in the left corner of UND’s zone, senior forward Evan Barlow found linemate Colin Greening alone in the slot. He rifled the puck past Eidsness for his third goal of the season.
The Sioux tied it up 2-2, cashing in on the power play at the 17:08 mark. Frattin’s centering pass through traffic found its way to senior forward Ryan Martens in the right circle. He fired a quick wrister over the sprawling Scrivens to knot the score at the end of one period.
UND took a 3-2 lead in the second period off a power-play goal by senior forward Ryan Duncan at 6:07. Cornell got into penalty trouble early, taking three straight infractions that led to a five-on-three advantage for the Sioux. Defenseman Brad Miller found Duncan alone to Scriven’s right. His snapshot beat the goalie through the pads.
Just 51 seconds into the third period, UND extended its lead to two goals. Genoway took a pass from center Chris VandeVelde and fired a slap shot past Scrivens from high in the slot. At the 4:47 mark, Cornell made it a 4-3 game when junior defenseman Brendon Nash hit brother Riley Nash with a pass that sent him in alone on UND freshman goalie Brad Eidsness.
The Big Red got no closer. Schafer said his team pressed too hard when it got behind and took some chances that UND exploited.
“Hopefully, we learned our lesson that if we do get down tomorrow night, not to play the way we did in the third, trying to open it up rather than sticking with things a little bit longer in order to get ourselves back in the game,” he said.
Frattin got his second goal at 7:17 when he took a drop pass from Jason Gregoire in the right circle and fired a shot that beat Scrivens over the shoulder. Schafer then replaced Scrivens with Garman.
Trupp made it 6-3 at 15:01 when he banged the puck past Garman during a melee in front of the net. Frattin notched the hat trick at 18:56, tipping in Genoway’s slap shot from the left point to make the final score 7-3.
In all, the Sioux line centered by Trupp with Gregoire and Frattin on the wings recorded four goals and six assists.
“I thought we’ve been a good line since we’ve been together,” Trupp said. “We just haven’t been able to bury our chances. We started clicking tonight as far as bearing down and finishing our chances. We need to keep that going.”
On a team that has struggled to meet the high expectations set early in the season, Hakstol was pleased to play a game that saw the breaks go UND’s way.
“It was nice to see us get a few things that bounced our way,” he said. “We haven’t had a whole lot of that, especially on the offensive side of the game. Maybe that will loosen us up a bit.”
UND improves to 5-7-1 overall (4-5-1 WCHA) while Cornell falls to 4-1-2 (3-0-0 ECAC). The two teams will meet at 7:07 p.m. Saturday at Engelstad Arena for the second game of the series.