GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota defenseman Jake Marto played the hometown hero against Minnesota in an intense and entertainingly wild game before 11,898 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
A Grand Forks native, Marto’s goal at 13:10 of the third period and game-saving shot-block with under a 1:30 to play in regulation enabled the Fighting Sioux to escape with a 3-3 tie. UND improved to 3-0-1 on the season and extended its home unbeaten streak to 16 (13-0-3).
UND coach Dave Hakstol described Marto’s play this season as “efficient” because of his ability to skate with the puck and play intelligent, positional defense.
“Tonight, he had a couple of plays that bring a little more spotlight attention to him,” he said.
After a 4-0 drubbing Friday, Minnesota coach Don Lucia shook up the Gophers’ lineup and started sophomore goalie Kent Patterson in place of junior Alex Kangas. Some words from the coach might have been a factor, too.
“We kind of got chewed out a little bit in video,” said Minnesota junior forward Mike Hoeffel, who led the Gophers with two goals. “Honestly, we just didn’t compete last night. That was the main thing we did tonight.”
“The lines didn’t matter tonight,” Lucia said. “The thing that matters is that our puck pursuit was better, our battle at the puck was better and our play supporting the puck offensively and defensively was much better tonight.”
Hoeffel looked as if he would be the hero for Minnesota, scoring a short-handed goal in the second period to tie the game 2-2 and scoring again at 11:52 of the third to put the Gophers up 3-2. However, it was Marto’s goal 78 seconds later and his block of Hoeffel’s shot as time wound down in regulation that preserved the tie for UND.
The Gophers missed a golden opportunity to win in the last 1:30 of regulation when Sioux goalie Brad Eidsness fell as he attempted to play a rebound of a shot off the end boards, leaving the net wide open. Sophomore forward Taylor Matson’s shot hit the right post and rebounded to Hoeffel on the left side of the net.
“It bounced to the left of me and was a little out of my reach,” Hoeffel recalled. “I just managed to get a little something on it, but the defenseman went down on one knee and made a great stop.”
“I was just trying to cover the front of the net, and I saw (Eidsness) out of the net and out of play,” Marto recounted. “So I just kind of went to my knees and I happened to stop it with my shin pad.
“It was kind of lucky,” he added, “but I guess I was at the right place at the right time.”
Marto’s game-tying goal at 13:10 of the third period came off the cycle of UND’s third line and a feed from junior center Darcy Zajac. A wrist shot from high in the slot found the back of the net.
“I ended up getting a bounce and it went in,” Marto said. “There was a lot of traffic in front. I just thought that it hit somebody.”
“Hey, right place at the right time on both the goal and the save,” Hakstol said.
The Gophers withstood an initial strong start by the Sioux to stake a 1-0 lead in the first period. At 6:21, senior forward Jay Barriball scored unassisted on what started with a turnover at the Minnesota blue line. Barriball led a two-on-one rush into UND’s zone and sniped the corner on Eidsness’ glove side.
UND defenseman Chay Genoway’s two second period power play goals gave the Sioux a 2-1 lead. He made it a 1-1 game at 2:46 of the second when his slap shot from above the left circle through traffic beat Patterson cleanly.
Genoway then notched his third goal of the season on a power play at the 6:55 mark. Freshman Danny Kristo’s shot from the point got through traffic, causing a melee in front of the net with the puck lying outside the crease. Genoway found it and got a backhander off that hit the post and trickled out, but he got his stick on the puck and poked it over the line to put UND up 2-1.
The Gophers appeared to be flirting with disaster when they put UND’s power play back on the ice, but a Sioux turnover led to a two-on-one rush with Matson carrying the puck down the right side. He feathered a centering pass to Mike Hoeffel that he fired home before Eidsness could get across, tying the game 2-2 at 11:23.
“I was kind of behind the play a bit, but he (Matson) slowed up, waited for me and put a real nice pass in there,” Hoeffel said. “All I had to do was whack it in. It made my job easy.”
The teams then traded goals in the third period, and despite the up-and-down action near misses on both ends of the ice, the overtime period failed to produce a winner.
UND hasn’t allowed a power-play goal in its first four games and has held opposing teams 0-15. The Sioux scored four power-play goals and a short-handed goal on the Gophers while holding them to one shorthanded goal for the series.
“A big sore spot was our specialty teams, and it cost us big this weekend,” Lucia said.
On one of the WCHA’s youngest teams, Hakstol reserved praise for the leadership of the Sioux veterans.
“This was a high-intensity series, and certainly tonight, it was everything we thought it would be with Minnesota coming back with a better effort,” he said. “I thought our captains and our veteran players did a very good job leading out team through what was a tough hockey game.”
Patterson made 31 saves on 34 shots and the Gophers went 0-4 on the power play. Eidsness stopped 16 of the 19 shots he faced and the Sioux were 2-6 on the power play. UND ended the weekend tied for second in the WCHA. The Gophers are 1-1-0 overall and in 0-1-1 league play.
UND next travels to Alaska-Anchorage for a two-game series with the Seawolves Oct. 23-24. Minnesota is at home against Denver for two games Oct. 23-24.