GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota junior goalie Brad Eidsness had a shutout going after getting his first start in seven games, only to have it ruined by future Fighting Sioux player J.T. Miller.
UND held on for a 2-1 exhibition win over the U.S. Under-18 Team on Saturday in what turned out to be a goalie duel between Eidsness and Matt McNeely, a Burnsville, Minn., native committed to Minnesota-Duluth.
Miller, who’s from East Palestine, Ohio, and set to attend UND next season, made it close when he notched an extra-attacker power play goal with 25 seconds left in the game. He probably didn’t endear himself to Eidsness or UND’s Andrew MacWilliam when he was called for charging the Sioux defenseman with 1 second left in the game.
“They definitely wouldn’t let me off the hook at all,” Miller said of the treatment he received from his future teammates. “I like that; I enjoy getting back at them. It shows the competitive nature out there on the ice.”
Although it may not have been the welcome Miller was expecting, UND junior forward Mario Lamoureux liked what he saw of the future Sioux freshman.
“It’s good to see that he’s got a little bit of an edge to him,” Lamoureux noted. “It’ll be exciting when he comes her next year.”
With the Sioux leading 2-0 off third period goals by Lamoureux and center Corban Knight, defenseman Joe Gleason was whistled for interference with 38 seconds remaining. The U.S. pulled McNeely for the extra attacker. At 19:35, Miller tipped a shot by forward Tyler Biggs between Eidsness’ pads to make it a 2-1 game. But the US team would get no closer, and although Eidsness didn’t get the shutout, he got the win.
Through two periods, UND outshot the US team 33-12, but McNeely made save after save to keep the game scoreless. Although Eidsness didn’t see as many shots, he stopped some quality scoring chances for UND.
In the second period with the Sioux on the power play, Eidsness stoned Biggs twice on partial shorthanded breakaways. He also robbed forward Reid Boucher, a Michigan State recruit and the U.S. team’s leading scorer, on a shorthanded 2-on-0 breakaway.
“Unfortunately in my career, I’ve been at that end of the ice a lot where I’ve watched us kind of pepper a guy, pepper a guy — not generate a ton of great opportunities, maybe — but get a lot of shots on net,” Eidsness said. “It seems like we’re really outplaying them and then they come out with one or two really quick, cheap opportunities. It’s kind of something I’ve gotten used to playing here.”
UND took a 1-0 lead 11:56 of the third period when Lamoureux drove home a shot from high in the slot off a pass from Danny Kristo. Knight tallied the insurance marker at 16:33 when he got around the U.S. defense and jammed the puck through McNeely’s pads to give UND a 2-0 lead.
After not seeing any action since Nov. 19 at Omaha, Eidsness admitted that he was rusty, but was satisfied with his overall play.
“It was a good, solid performance for the most part,” he said. “It hasn’t been a very good first half for me. And it’s kind of one of those things where it’s a step in the right direction, maybe going into the Christmas break with a little better mindset and coming back ready to play in the second half.”
After Eidsness went 1-1-1 in the first half of the season with an .805 save percentage and a 4.12 goals-against average, sophomore Aaron Dell took over as UND’s starter. But Sioux coach Dave Hakstol said Eidsness is doing what he needs to do to see more playing time during the second half of the season.
“He’s coming off a tough first half, but this isn’t the first step back; he’s already made that first step, kind of behind the scenes in practice,” he said. “This is another good step for him, positive and in the right direction.”
UND, 13-5-2 overall and 11-3-0 WCHA, is in action next on Dec. 30 when the team travels to Minnesota-Duluth for the opening of the Bulldogs’ new Amsoil Arena. It will be counted as a non-conference game.