DULUTH, Minn. — The largest crowd to ever watch a hockey game in Northeastern Minnesota enjoyed itself immensely Thursday night as the glittering $60 million Amsoil Arena opened to rave reviews before 6,732 fans.
The only drawback was No. 3-ranked North Dakota’s overwhelming performance in a 5-0 non-conference victory over No. 2 Minnesota Duluth in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game.
The Fighting Sioux (14-5-2) scored three goals in 74 seconds in the latter stages of the second period to extend its Division I-leading unbeaten streak to seven games (6-0-1), including five straight wins. North Dakota helped open Bemidji State’s new Sanford Arena in October, and swept a road series 5-2 and 5-2.
“We had tons of people in the stands and wanted to give them a show, and we just didn’t have it,” said UMD senior captain Mike Montgomery. “We just weren’t ready and we made mistakes. You have to take care of the puck against a good team.”
Winger Mike Connolly gave UMD one of its few highlights by smacking the Plexiglass, in trying to check North Dakota’s Corban Knight, with 6:25 left in the first period. Connolly missed Knight and obliterated the pane. Teams went to the locker room while the glass was cleaned up and the extra time was added to the second period.
The first of Brad Malone’s two goals, on a power play midway through the first period gave North Dakota a 1-0 lead. The Fighting Sioux then hit goal pipes three times without scoring, while their goalie, Aaron Dell, didn’t allow the Bulldogs to get into the game.
“That was the idea, to come in here and mess up their show,” Dell said of the opening-night party.
Carter Rowney, Danny Kristo and Matt Frattin scored in short order in the last three minutes of the second period to push a 1-0 lead to 4-0. Rowney’s goal, the second of his career, came at the crease on a rebound from good pressure. The next two goals came on UMD giveaways.
“When had a lot of life and enthusiasm on the bench at 1-0 and then in 1:14, North Dakota took that away from us,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin.
The Bulldogs (12-4-3) led in shots on goal 35-33, but were 0-of-7 on power plays and were shutout for the first time at home since Jean-Philippe Lamoureux won 2-0 on March 1, 1998, as North Dakota beat UMD 2-0.
Thursday’s loss was the worst for UMD since an 8-3 defeat at North Dakota on Nov. 23, 2007. The teams had split earlier this season in Grand Forks, N.D. The Bulldogs were 7-1 in the first half of the season at the DECC Arena, their home the previous 45 years.
“There’s no excuse for that performance at all,” said Connolly. “It was embarrassing and we can’t let it happen again in front of our fans. We didn’t even get a goal for our fans to celebrate. There’s no excuse.”
UMD starting goalie Aaron Crandall was replaced to start the third period by Kenny Reiter. North Dakota, the leader in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, finished with a Malone shorthanded goal.
UMD, 1-3-1 the last five games, heads to face Clarkson University in a series starting Monday in Potsdam, N.Y.