GRAND FORKS, N.D. — If North Dakota was rusty from a week off or missing captain Chay Genoway or distracted by forward Danny Kristo’s bout with frostbite, it didn’t show against Alaska Anchorage.
Behind goals from six different players and 21 saves by netminder Aaron Dell, the Fighting Sioux went up 3-0 in the opening stanza, and then cruised to 6-1 victory over the visiting Seawolves before 11,927 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“They came out hard, scored on their chances and we didn’t,” said UAA head coach Dave Shyiak. “The kid (Dell) made some good saves.”
For UND, it was the first time in the team’s last three series that the Sioux didn’t drop the Friday opener.
“I thought it was good to get the early lead,” said Sioux freshman defenseman Derek Forbort, who had a pair of assists. “We’ve haven’t been doing that on Friday nights.”
The win, combined with Minnesota-Duluth’s loss to St. Cloud State, moved UND (20-8-2 overall, 15-6-0 in the WCHA) into second place in the league, one point behind Denver. UAA, 10-14-3 overall and 9-12-2 in league play, remains tied for sixth with Colorado College.
The Sioux didn’t miss a beat without Genoway and Kristo in the lineup.
“We’ve had guys out of the lineup all year,” said UND head coach Dave Hakstol. “We’re not shorthanded. We had 20 guys in the lineup, and those 20 guys had to go out and do a job.”
UND jumped out to a big lead in the first period. Senior forward Matt Frattin got the Sioux started with his 22nd goal of the season at 5:54. After center Brad Malone won a faceoff in the UAA zone, Frattin fired a wrister from above the left dot that cleanly beat freshman goalie Chris Kamal.
Just 17 seconds later, senior defenseman Jake Marto made it a 2-0 game when he knocked in Frattin’s cross-ice pass. That caused Shyiak to take UAA’s timeout. But the Sioux struck again at 10:52 to make it 3-0. Junior forward Mario Lamoureux deflected Forbort’s shot past Kamal for his first goal in 11 games.
The Seawolves had opportunities to get back into the game in the second period. The difference was that UND buried its chances to go up 5-0 while Dell came up with some big saves for the Sioux.
UND junior forward Jason Gregoire made it a 4-0 game at the 3:50 mark when he tipped in Forbort’s centering pass. Sophomore center Corban Knight notched his 13th goal of the season, coming from behind the net and firing in a shallow-angle shot from the bottom of the left circle.
“It was important to get off to a good start, to be able to get a lead,” Hakstol said. “And most importantly, once we got it, we kept pushing the envelope and found a way to continue building the lead.”
UAA got the start it needed 2:49 into the third period as freshman forward Matt Bailey barely got the puck over the line after linemate Mitch Bruijsten created a turnover in front of UND’s net. If the Seawolves had any thoughts about repeating their performance from the first game of the season when they came back from a 5-1 deficit to tie the Sioux, those hopes were quickly dashed.
Twenty-six seconds after Bailey’s goal, UND capitalized on a 3-on-1 rush. Frattin fed senior forward Evan Trupp coming down the slot. He held the puck on his forehand, getting Kamal down, and then shoveled in a backhand to give UND a 6-1 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“We’re a completely different team than we were then,” Forbort said, comparing the current Sioux team with the one that gave up a four-goal lead in October. “We’re a much more mature team. We’ve got so many vets on the team and leadership, so that wasn’t going happen.”
With a goal and two assists, it was a different type of game for Frattin, one of the nation’s top goal scorers.
“It speaks volumes in terms of how unselfish he is,” Hakstol said. “He was in a couple of prime shooting positions, and he’s making plays and dishing the puck to his linemates.”
Shyiak was disappointed with the Seawolves’ effort.
“With us, it has to be a mindset of competing better,” he said. “I didn’t think we won any of the puck battles or the stick battles. They were a lot better in that area. They deserved to win; they were the better team tonight.”
UND and UAA meet Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Engelstad Arena for game two of the series.