GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Denver overcame the loss of one of its top players and used an outstanding goaltending effort by freshman Sam Brittain to blank North Dakota 3-0 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Brittain made 33 saves, several of them on quality scoring opportunities.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling,” said the rookie goaltender. “I’ve got to thank the guys. They did a phenomenal job and helped me out. Getting this win on a Saturday night was huge. Those two points were huge.”
The Sioux, who had nearly double Denver’s shots on goal, didn’t lack for quality scoring opportunities, particularly in the first half of the game.
“Some of our top scorers had pretty good chances,” said UND senior captain Chay Genoway. “I give their goalie credit; he was pretty good tonight.”
“The real key was not being able to score in that first 30 minutes,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “There were some pretty good chances.”
The victory was tempered by the loss of Pioneers senior center Jesse Martin, who was carried off the ice on a stretcher with his neck immobilized after a hit by UND senior Brad Malone at 11:06 of the second period. No penalty was called, play continued and UND maintained possession of the puck for at least five seconds before the action was stopped.
Martin crumpled to the ice and didn’t move as trainers rushed out onto the ice. As he was tended to, the officials and captains from both teams conferred in front of the penalty box. Malone was assessed a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct.
Just as time expired on the major penalty, Denver completed a beautifully executed tic-tac-toe play that culminated with the game-winning goal by sophomore center Drew Shore at 16:06. Antony Miani’s cross-ice pass found Shore all alone looking at nothing but net. He buried the opportunity to put the Pioneers up 1-0.
“He made a pretty good heads-up play to go back door,” said UND sophomore goalie Brad Eidsness. “It’s frustrating, but when things aren’t going well, that’s how things go.”
Between periods in the locker room, the team learned that Martin was alert and moving, but was taken to Altru Hosptial in Grand Forks as a precautionary measure.
“We said a prayer for him at the second intermission,” Brittain related. “You never want to see that happen to anybody. We made sure that we got that win for him tonight.
In the third period, UND had a chance to get back into the game on a power play, but freshman forward Jason Zucker snuffed out that chance when he scored a short-handed breakaway at 4:15. The goal was set up on a pass out of the UND zone by Denver senior captain Kyle Ostrow.
“I heard someone calling and I looked up,” he said. “I had some time and just tried to backhand it as high as I can. I kind of lobbed it to (Zucker) and he made a great play.”
Another penalty on Denver gave the Sioux 32 seconds of five-on-three power play time, but the Pioneers killed both penalties to preserve their two-goal lead. Ostrow made it 3-0 with an empty-net goal in the game’s final 18 seconds.
Denver coach George Gwozdecky and Hakstol discussed Malone’s hit in their post-game comments.
“I didn’t see the hit right away,” Gwozdecky said. “We watched it back on video during the intermission. You could see where he would have been injured. It was a hard hit.”
Hakstol was frustrated that a penalty not called on the ice turned into a five-minute major that led to the game-winning goal. Although Greg Shepherd, head of WCHA officials, was at the game and in the press box, Hakstol said that he hadn’t received a good explanation of what transpired.
“I don’t really have it straight,” he said. “They say they felt like a penalty was warranted. I really do believe that it was a clean hit from everything I’ve seen, both live and on video.”
Hakstol then added, “But first things first. We’ll hope that Jesse’s doing alright and go from there.”
“It was a pretty scary moment, but I think the team responded well,” Ostrow said. “It kind of gave us a little passion, a little emotion there. To see a team member fall down like that and not get up, you want to respond and win the game for him.”
UND, which falls to 4-3-1 overall and 3-1-0 in the WCHA, next hosts Minnesota-Duluth Nov. 5-6. The Pioneers, 3-3-2 overall and 2-1-1 in league play, have a home-and-home series with Colorado College Nov. 5-6.