GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Denvers Marc Cheverie learned the hard way that North Dakotas Ralph Engelstad Arena is not kind to opposing goalies.
In an 8-3 Fighting Sioux thumping of the WCHA-leading Pioneers, Cheverie was pulled not once, but twice from the game. Entering the contest as the leagues top goaltender, the Pioneer sophomore surrendered seven goals on 21 shots.
Cheverie has good company, however, joining Cornells Ben Scrivens, St. Clouds Jase Weslosky and Minnesotas Alex Kangas as the latest goalie to be chased from the nets by a UND scoring onslaught.
They came out and basically took advantage of every mistake we made, said DU assistant captain Tyler Ruegsegger said of UNDs four-goal first period. We gave them a lot of odd-man rushes and they capitalized on every one — to their credit.
The 15th ranked Fighting Sioux continued to roll in the same fashion thats enabled them to put together a 6-0-1 unbeaten streak and go 12-3-1 since late December. UND got goals from all four lines and eight different players, including defensemen Jake Marto and Joe Finley, who had a four point night.
A lot of hard works paying off, Finley said. Guys are going to the right area of the ice and were starting to get rewarded. Everything seems to be working for us right now.
UNDs win, combined with a tie by Colorado College and Minnesota and Wisconsin being idle, enabled the Sioux (14-10-2 overall and 9-5-2 WCHA) to tie the Badgers for second place in the league, one point behind DU.
It was a wild game with scoring back and forth, said UND coach Dave Hakstol. We were able to close it out with a good third period.
In a span of a little more than six minutes in the first period, four goals by UND caused DU coach George Gwozdecky to replace Cheverie with sophomore Lars Paulgaard.
I looked at the first four goals and usually you can be critical of at least one or two, and I was critical of none of them, he explained. They were throwing everything at him and he was getting not much help.
When you give people the opportunity to tee it up from the ladys tees 15 feet in front of the net, your chances of scoring are pretty good, Gwozdecky said.
UND junior center Chris VandeVelde started got the Sioux on the board with a power play goal at 7:29. Carrying the puck down the right side, he cut to the slot and fired a wrister that beat Cheverie. At 8:35, senior forward Ryan Martens one-timed Matt Watkins pass from behind the net to put UND up 2-0.
Marto notched UNDs third goal, converting an odd-man rush with his wrist shot from the slot at 11:52. Senior center Ryan Duncan made it 4-0 at 13:37 when he fired the puck in from the left circle.
But DU refused to give up and Rhett Rakhshanis goal with 2.7 seconds left on the clock made it a 4-1 game. Sioux goalie Brad Eidsness stopped a wraparound attempt by Patrick Wiercioc, but the puck went all the way through the crease where Rakhshani flipped in a backhander for his 11th goal of the season.
Cheverie returned to the nets to start the second period. After UNDs Watkins scored on a breakaway at 10:41 for a 5-1 lead, the Pioneers continued to scratch and claw their way back into the game by taking advantage of UNDs sloppy play.
At the 12:28 mark, DU forward Tyler Ruegsegger picked up a UND neutral-ice turnover and came in alone on Eidsness, beating him with a wrister through the five hole for a power-play goal.
And once again, UNDs failure to play to the end of the period cost them. The Pioneers got a goal with 39.2 seconds left in the period when freshman forward Luke Salazar pounced on a turnover in UNDs zone and fired a wrister from the left circle that beat Eidsness high glove side to make it 5-3.
Although the Pioneers had life, they could pull no closer and UND put the game out of reach in the third period. Even-strength goals by sophomore Matt Frattin and freshman David Toews at 2:19 and 8:20 respectively gave the Sioux a 7-3 lead. Cheverie was once again replaced by Paulgaard.
Play got chippy in the final half of the game. Denver had 22 penalties for 68 minutes while UND had 19 penalties for 46 minutes. UND was 2-8 on the power play and DU was 1-6. Despite numerous scrums in the closing minutes, no players were given fighting majors.
Watkins said the biggest difference between the Sioux now and the team which began the season 5-7-1 is their level of confidence.
When youre winning, confidence builds, he said. When youre inconsistent like we were at the start of the year, its tough to build and get confidence. Every game, were just really focused to come on the ice, get a good start and drive the other team back.
UND and DU will square off for game two of the series at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Engelstad Arena.