GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota excelled in all phases of the game in an 8-0 drubbing of nonconference opponent Robert Morris University before 11,074 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Sophomore goalie Aaron Dell delivered his second consecutive shutout, UND’s special teams tallied four goals and the Fighting Sioux picked up three goals from two forwards who just returned to the lineup.
Freshman center Brock Nelson got his third and fourth goals of the season after returning from the IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., where helped Team USA earn a bronze medal. Junior forward Brett Hextall tallied the first shorthanded goal against the Colonials this season after missing several games because of an injury.
Second-ranked UND, improved to 15-5-2 overall (11-3-0 WCHA), stretching its unbeaten streak to 7-0-1. Robert Morris falls to 12-6-2 overall, 7-5-2 in the AHA.
A little luck didn’t hurt the Sioux, either, as they jumped out two a quick 2-0 lead in the opening stanza and never looked back.
“I don’t think we’ve gotten two bounces like that against us the whole year, and then we get two in the first five minutes of the game,” said Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley. “They (UND) had two goals on zero shots. It’s tough when you put yourself behind the eight ball with just some bad luck.”
The opening period proved a nightmare start for Robert Morris. UND sophomore center Corban Knight got credit for the first goal of the game just 1:26 in, but it was actually Colonials freshman forward Colin South who scored it. Knight’s centering pass from the bottom of the left circle went in off South’s stick as he stood all alone in front of the crease.
“There’s nothing much you can say about that one,” Knight said. “I just turned around and kind of threw it in front of the net. I’ll take it, but I’m pretty fortunate that one went in.”
UND’s second tally, a power play goal at 6:24, went in off the skate of Nelson as he crashed the net while tied up by Colonials center Brandon Blandina. The goal was allowed after review, a ruling with which Schooley strongly disagreed.
Knight put UND up 3-0 in a more conventional manner with a power play goal at 16:12. From just above the left dot, he took a feed from Jake Marto and blasted a slapshot past junior goalie Ostergard, giving him the second three-point game of his career.
Although Robert Morris outshot UND 14 to 8 in the second period, the Sioux notched three goals to extend their lead to 6-0. UND sophomore goalie Aaron Dell had to be sharp, killing three Colonials power plays and stoning leading scorer Nathan Longpre on a breakaway.
“They had a couple good chances, but we did a real good job of giving them just perimeter shots and blocking everything else,” Dell said. “They got a few through, but I guess I owe the guys a few (saves) for the effort tonight.”
Hextall scored shorthanded at the 5:43 mark when caught up with the puck on a clear from UND’s zone in the Colonials’ zone and sniped a wrister past Ostergard from the left circle. Fifty seconds later, Marto made it 5-0 when his wrister from the left dot beat Ostergard.
Freshman goalie Eric Levine then replaced Ostergard in net and was quickly introduced to UND forward Matt Frattin, the nation’s leading goal scorer. Evan Trupp fed Frattin a pass from along the right boards that he whistled past Levine to put UND up 6-0 with his 19th tally of the season.
UND tallied two more goals in the third period and Dell remained perfect to make the final score 8-0. Trupp scored on the power play at 9:22 and Nelson knocked in a rebound at 10:14 to close out the scoring.
Knight said that there’s more than luck involved in the Sioux outscoring their last two opponents 13-0.
“I don’t think it’s just a pure fluke that those (goals) started coming,” he explained. “I think that’s a credit to hard work from our team.”
Schooley said the Colonials need to put the outcome of Friday’s game behind them.
“We have to move on,” he said. “If we dwell on it, the next thing you know, we’re already down going into tomorrow. We’re going to watch some video and we’re going to make some adjustments.”
The Sioux went 3-4 on the power play while the Colonials were 0-5. Dell stopped all 32 shots he faced. For Robert Morris, Ostergard had 17 saves on 22 shots and Levine had 13 saves on 16 shots.
The Sioux and the Colonials meet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Engelstad Arena for the second game of the series.