GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota twice rallied from two goal deficits to tie Wisconsin 3-3 before 11,564 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
UND freshman Danny Kristos power-play goal halfway through the third period capped off the Fighting Sioux comeback. The third ranked Sioux remained in sixth place in the league while No. 11 Wisconsin is tied for third with St. Cloud State.
We had a little bit of an edge in the first and they fought back and their power play got momentum in the second, said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves. It was a slugfest in the third, up and down the ice. It was a good college hockey game.
In the first period, a turnover in the neutral zone by UND defenseman Ben Blood created a 2-on-1 rush for the Badgers.
Freshman forward Craig Smith carried the puck into the Sioux zone with senior center Blake Geoffrion trailing the play. They played the give-and-go to perfection with Smith passing to Geoffrion who gave it right back. Smiths easy tip-in at the side of the net beat sophomore goalie Brad Eidsness and gave Wisconsin a 1-0 lead at 9:00.
The Sioux were unable to generate much offense on their two power plays. Instead, with 16.8 seconds left in the period, the Badgers made it a 2-0 game. High in the slot, Geoffrion one-timed Smiths pass, beating Eidsness high stick side. Eidsness had to make another save just before time expired to keep the deficit at two.
You dont give yourself much of an opportunity against Wisconsin when you play a step slow, said UND coach Dave Hakstol. The first period, we werent a half step slow, we were a full step slow.
The second period was almost a complete reversal of the first. The Sioux outshot the Badgers 12-2 and cashed in on a power play.
Between periods, some of our leaders in the dressing room stepped up, Kristo said. It was just unacceptable the way we started out in the first period. We kind of regrouped and got together as a team before the second period.
UND got the lift it needed with a quick goal at 1:58 to cut Wisconsins lead to one. Displaying some deft puck movement, UNDs Evan Trupp passed from the right corner to Kristo at the right of Wisconsin goalie Scott Gudmandson. He relayed the puck cross ice to junior center Brad Malone, who rifled it in before Gudmandson could get across to make it 2-1 at 1:58.
But just 1:50 later, Wisconsins Andy Bohmbach restored the Badgers two goal lead when he scored unassisted on a wrister from the left circle that beat Eidsness through the pads.
Eidsness was pulled for the first time in his career after giving up three goals on 13 shots.
His replacement, freshman Aaron Dell, had been pulled from the one game he played this season. On Nov. 14 against St. Cloud State, he allowed three goals on seven shots. Dell only saw nine shots for the remainder of the game, but he stopped them all.
I was a little nervous at first, but I warmed up after I got in there and got used to it, Dell said. Its tough to come in like that, but I guess thats what I was there for today.
Aaron Dell did a good job coming in and giving us an opportunity to try to dig ourselves out of the hole that we were in, Hakstol said.
The Badgers then got into penalty trouble, and the Sioux cashed in. Blood made it 3-2 when he blasted a drop pass from VandeVelde past Gudmandson for a power-play goal at 9:35.
The power play goal that Ben Blood scored certainly wasnt pretty, Hakstol said. But that was a big goal for us. And I thought from that point on, it was a real good hockey game, an entertaining hockey game.
With 2:14 left in the period, the Badgers were given an opportunity to extend their lead when UND forward Brett Hextall received a five minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind. However, two penalties on the Wisconsin wiped out all but a minute and a half of the power play.
That could have been our opportunity to get some rhythm and flow on the power play and create some more chances, Eaves said. We took ourselves out of that by taking a couple more penalties.
At the 2:28 mark of the third, it appeared that the Badgers had scored with the man advantage to go up by two, but the referee immediately waived it off, signaling that the puck had been played with a high stick. After a review, the goal was disallowed.
I noticed it right away, Dell said. I could tell that it (the stick) was quite a ways over my head.
Hakstol, who has expressed frustration at some calls and non-calls that have gone against UND recently, said I think it was a good call; Ive seen it on tape.
Eaves, however, wasnt so sure.
The replay that we have for that particular play is useless because you cant tell where the stick is, he said.
Kristo knotted it 3-3 with a 4-on-3 power-play tally at 10:14. He skated from left circle to top of slot, firing a wrist shot that beat a screened Gudmandson high to glove side.
(Jake) Marto was yelling at me Walk! Walk and shoot! Kristo said I just walked to the middle and Malone had a great screen like he always does. I just picked a spot and it went in.
The Badgers went on the power play for the last time at 12:16 when Malone was whistled for tripping. But UNDs penalty kill remained perfect on the night, limiting the Badgers to just one shot on goal with the man advantage for the entire game.
In overtime, the stage was set for UND when Wisconsins Craig Smith went to the box for slashing. But Gudmandson and the Badgers penalty kill kept the Sioux off the board and the contest ended in a 3-3 tie.
Until this game, UNDs line combinations and defensive pairings hadnt varied greatly, but Hakstol made some significant changes in hopes of generating more scoring.
We were just looking for some improved combinations, and the experiment didnt look so good after the first period, he said. We stuck with it, and I thought we saw a lot of real good things out of some of those new combinations.
Wisconsin (10-5-2 overall, 7-4-2 in the WCHA) and North Dakota (9-5-3, 6-5-2) meet Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in Engelstad Arena as opponents for the final time in the regular season.