GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota used a strong third period and two goals by senior forward Ryan Martens to down visiting St. Cloud State 3-2 before 11,674 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The victory enabled the Fighting Sioux to leapfrog the Huskies in league standings, moving into sole possession of seventh place. UND, winner of four of its last five games, reached the .500 mark for the first time this season (5-5-1 WCHA, 8-8-1 overall). SCSU falls to 10-7-0 overall and 5-6-1 in the WCHA.
With the score tied 1-1 after two periods, junior center Darcy Zajac used a neutral-ice turnover to send Martens in on SCSU goalie Jase Weslosky. He split the defense and got off a wrist shot that beat the netminder blocker side under the arm. The Sioux took a 2-1 lead at the 5:25 mark and never looked back.
I was able to get a lucky break with the defense changing, Martens said of the play. Darcy had his head up and was able to make the pass over to me. I knew I had to protect the puck long enough to get something on net. I squeezed it under his arm and in.
SCSU coach Bob Motzko said Martens goal shifted the momentum to UD.
The turning point was the third period where we didnt get pucks deep and then we turned it over right at the red line, he said. We battled back and were just fine on the road. We had a real good second period. But then we stopped making plays with our defensemen going tape to tape. We got discombobulated under the pressure.
Martens, who scored just four goals during his first three seasons at UND and hadnt played regularly until this season, now has seven goals and six assists in 14 games. UND coach Dave Hakstol isnt surprised by the seniors success.
Hes been a good player for us through the stretch of the last 10 games, he said. Hes one of the guys who continually — night after night — has made a difference. I thought his second goal was a great effort.
Freshman forward Mario Lamoureux sealed the win and collected his first career goal with the game-winner at 12:35. He beat Weslosky with a shot from the slot that just trickled in. With one second left in the game, SCSU got an extra-attacker goal from freshman defenseman Sam Zabkowicz to make the final score 3-2.
UND got on the board in the first period with an even-strength goal at the 5:04 mark. Zajac hit Martens with a pass from behind the net. From a sharp angle at the bottom of the left circle, Martens one-timed the feed past Weslosky to give the Sioux an early lead.
Hakstol said the line with Martens, Zajac and senior forward Matt Watkins has developed into one of UNDs best lines.
Weve been feeding off each other really well, Zajac said. We like to keep it simple. We dont have too many rushes, but when we get in their zone, we try to cycle, get open and go to the net. Its been working for us lately.
After making some impressive saves, UND freshman goalie Brad Eidsness gave up a weak one. Huskies forward Jared Festler came into the UND zone one-on-two and got off what appeared to be a harmless shot from along the left boards. But the puck went in five hole and knotted the score 1-1 at 12:40, where it stayed through the first period.
I like his poise and his presence, Hakstol said of UNDs rookie goaltender. He lets one get through him. He knows its not a good goal, but he doesnt let it affect the next shot. He focuses on stopping the next shot. He does a very good job of that.
SCSU appeared to take the lead at 16:40 of the second period when the puck went in the net off Huskies forward Travis Novak. However, a review of the play showed that Novak kicked it in and the goal was disallowed.
Throughout the game, both Weslosky and Eidsness made outstanding saves, but perhaps the two biggest saves came from Sioux defenseman. In the first period, converted forward Brad Miller blocked a shot aimed at a wide-open net. In the second period, a high-flying puck sailing toward UNDs net was battled out of the air by defenseman Derrick LaPoint.
Those are bounces that a lot of times have bounced the other way against us, Hakstol said. Theyre skill plays, but theres also good fortune with them as well.
Eidsness made 33 saves on 35 shots. Weslosky, who was replaced by sophomore goalie Dan Dunn after UNDs third goal, stopped 40 of the 43 shots he faced. Dunn had three saves on three shots. The Huskies were 0-4 on the power play while the Sioux were 0-3.
The two teams meet at 7:05 p.m. Saturday for game two of the series at Engelstad Arena.