GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota won the opening game of its best-of-three playoff series with Michigan Tech using the same formula that earned the Fighting Sioux the WCHA regular season title.
In its 5-1 victory, UND got goals from five different forwards on four different lines, as well as a three point performance from senior defenseman Brad Miller.
Some nights, one line gets more (goals) than another line, but everyone can play, everyone can score, said junior center Darcy Zajac whose third period short-handed goal iced the game for UND. Thats helped this team be successful so far.
They can bring it in waves, said Huskies captain John Schwarz. Theyre a great hockey team and they proved that in the second half of the season.
Coming into the series in front of 11,680 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena, MTU had every reason to believe that it could give top-seeded UND a battle after going 1-1-1 against the Sioux during the regular season.
Theyre a good team, said UND coach Dave Hakstol. Weve known that all year every time we played them. Weve been in a dogfight for 60 minutes, and it was no different tonight.
In the first period, it looked as if the two teams would again be locked in another low-scoring, grind-it-out, defensive battle that characterized last seasons playoff series between the two schools.
Everyone on our team understands what kind of a team they are, Miller said of the Huskies. They beat us in Detroit and they tied us in Houghton. We knew they were going to be tough.
You can throw the numbers out the window right now, he added. Its playoff time and every game you play is going to be tough. Just because were the first seed, it doesnt mean anything. We have to go out there and prove it.
MTU came out outskating and outhustling the MacNaughton Cup champions. Neither team generated much offense in the first 8 minutes of the game. Each had a power play, but neither could capitalize.
I thought our first period was outstanding, said MTU coach Jamie Russell. We came out and played a darn good, smart period of road hockey.
The Sioux finally broke through at 17:04 when Miller hit sophomore forward Matt Frattin with a long outlet pass from UNDs zone. Frattin raced down the right side and came in alone on goalie Rob Nolan, who stopped his backhander. But trailing the play, junior center Chris VandeVelde knocked in the rebound to give UND a 1-0 lead through the end of the first.
UND struck for a power-play goal and an even-strength goal in the second period to take a 3-0 lead. Three minutes into the period with UND on the man advantage, Miller hit senior forward Ryan Duncan with a back-door, cross-ice pass that he tipped into a wide-open net.
Give him an open net anywhere around the net, and hes not going to miss it, Miller said of Duncans game-winning goal.
At 6:08, the Sioux won a faceoff in the Huskies zone. Nolan stopped Frattins quick shot off the draw, the rebound shot by VandeVelde and nearly blocked forward Evan Trupps shot from the left of the net. But as the puck slid parallel to the goal line, the end of Nolans stick knocked it across the line as he reached back, giving UND a 3-0 lead.
MTU made it a 3-1 game on freshman forward Alex MacLeods power play goal at 6:13 of the third period. He tipped a shot by Schwarz from the left point past freshman goalie Brad Eidsness to give the Huskies new life.
Going on the power play again, MTU had the opportunity to cut the Sioux lead to one, but UND junior defenseman Chay Genoway took the puck away at the blue line. He led a two-on-one rush into the Huskies zone, feeding Zajac the puck in the slot to isolate him on Nolan.
It was a great play by Chay, Zajac said. He made a great pass to me and I just made a little deke, got the goalie to move and put it in.
The goal took the wind out of MTUs sails.
Thats a big play in the game, Schwarz said. If we score there, its 3-2 and we have a chance to tie it up at the end of the game. They make it 4-1 on a shorthanded opportunity. Thats definitely tough in the third period.
A goal by UND freshman forward Mario Lamoureux at 11:13 closed out the scoring.
We had a great 20 minutes, but we didnt sustain that, Russell said of his teams performance. Mentally, we had some breakdowns. We need to play a complete 60 minutes. Youre not going to get an upset win on the road in the playoffs playing 20 minutes of a 60-minute game.
Hakstol noted that most of UNDs goals were the result of hard work down low.
Thats typical of playoff hockey, he said. Theres not going to be anything easy offensively around the net at this time of year.
UND improves to 22-12-4 while MTU falls to 6-23-7. The two teams play the second game of the series at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Engelstad Arena.