GRAND FORKS, N.D. — “The play is under review” is a phrase that North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol has probably heard more times than he’d care to remember this season because so many of the decisions have gone against the Fighting Sioux.
So when senior Brad Malone scored what appeared to be the go-ahead goal for North Dakota at 6:23 of the third period against St. Cloud State, the “under review” announcement might have caused Hakstol a bit of apprehension.
“Tonight, it went our direction,” he smiled.
Malone’s goal — his first in 11 games — stood and was the game winner. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound center also notched the insurance marker with less than 5 minutes remaining to give the Fighting Sioux a 3-1 win before 11,644 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena. It was the first two-goal game of his college career.
Malone’s line, with seniors Matt Frattin and Evan Trupp on the wings, accounted for all three Sioux tallies. Off a faceoff won by Malone, Frattin knotted the score 1-1 just 18 seconds into the second period on his 14th goal of the season.
With Sioux forwards Jason Gregoire and Brett Hextall out with injuries, North Dakota’s lineup included two defensemen playing as forwards: senior Jake Marto, who hadn’t played forward since his freshman season, and sophomore Joe Gleason, who had never played forward before this season.
“I think the older guys in our lineup tonight really stepped forward,” Hakstol said. “Jake Marto played a little forward, a little defense. He did whatever needed to be done. He stepped up and stepped forward. I thought that was a common theme throughout by some of the veterans in our lineup. That made it a good win.”
Although North Dakota (10-5-2, 8-3-0 WCHA) outshot St. Cloud State 14-7 in the opening stanza, the Huskies (5-8-2, 3-5-1) came away with a 1-0 lead. A turnover in the Sioux zone led to a shot from the slot by Huskies defenseman Brett Barta. Huskies junior forward Drew LeBlanc gathered in the rebound, skated to the left of Sioux goalie Aaron Dell and put the puck in the net at 13:53 to give St. Cloud State a 1-0 lead.
“We needed to make a play and we got one,” St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. “The problem is that we didn’t make another one the rest of the night.”
In the second period, with three seconds left in a UND power play, Malone won a faceoff in the left circle of the SCSU zone. Frattin pounced on the puck just above the dot and fired a wrister through traffic that beat sophomore goalie Mike Lee high glove side to make it a 1-1 game just 18 seconds in.
SCSU survived two straight penalties by senior defenseman Chris Hepp. Eight seconds after he left the box for hooking, he was sent back for tripping Sioux defenseman Chay Genoway in front of the SCSU bench. If there was one positive for the Huskies, it’s that UND went 0-for-5 on the power play.
“The penalty kill was good,” Motzko said. “Mike Lee gave us a chance to win. We needed some guys to make plays.”
Malone broke the deadlock at 6:23 of the third when the Sioux capitalized on a SCSU turnover. Frattin dished the puck to Trupp, who passed to Malone below the left circle. He got around one defender, got Lee to commit and tried to stuff the puck in short side.
The puck bounced in off Huskies forward Nic Dowd, who took the net off its moorings when he crashed into the net. That triggered a review by the officials. But the goal stood and UND had a 2-1 lead.
Just as SCSU’s lone power play of the game expired, Genoway burst out of UND’s zone carrying the puck with Malone on his right wing. Malone tapped his stick and Genoway fed him a pass that sent him across SCSU’s blue line with a head of steam. He got around the defense, swept in on Lee and jammed the puck under the goalie’s pads to give UND a 3-1 lead at the 15:04 mark.
“I usually don’t tap my stick on the ice,” Malone said. “It’s kind of embarrassing, now that you say that.”
Hakstol said the power moves on which Malone scored are typical of his style of play.
“If he gets a step and is able to get that leg out there, he’s a big body with some pretty good hands,” he said.
“We were in a good position going into the third,” Motzko said. “It wasn’t a real good hockey game. It came down to, who’s going to make a play? Malone made them all tonight. You’ve got to tip your hat to Malone. I thought he was really good tonight.”
For UND, which has seen third-period leads slip away this season, Hakstol said that getting the lead late and building on it was the key. He praised sophomore goalie Aaron Dell, who stopped 21 of 22 shots he faced, for making timely saves.
“We got a couple of real key saves at the right time,” he said. “Aaron Dell made a save on the breakaway. We were able to get the 2-1 lead, and then he made a real key save on the penalty kill. That allowed us to get the third goal with Malone.”
Asked if he was disappointed that the Huskies didn’t have more than one power play, Motzko replied, “I don’t even think we should’ve had the one we got. I thought that was not a very good call.”