GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Redemption was the name of the game for North Dakota Friday night.
The Fighting Sioux rode two late third period goals to defeat Maine, 3-1, in front of 11,399 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
To an extent, the Sioux redeemed themselves in taking one step towards avenging two frustrating losses at the hands of the Black Bears last season.
They did so with the help of senior Brad Eidsness (30 saves).
Eidsness gave up three goals on five shots before getting pulled 9:37 into last year’s 7-3 loss to the Black Bears, but he looked like his old self backstopping the Sioux defense to his first victory of the year.
“Certainly it’s nice to play well against them,” Eidsness said. “Last year wasn’t an enjoyable trip.”
Eidsness rode some puck luck, but also exhibited some of the same skills that UND rode in Eidsness’ solid first two seasons for North Dakota.
“Before the game, I thought we’d be able to give him the first ten minutes to get him into the game,” said North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol. “But he was really good in the first and second and he had to be.”
The two teams remained scoreless throughout the first period, but both sides had several chances. Maine outshot North Dakota, 11-6, in the first, but couldn’t get anything to go.
Maine didn’t get much of anything going on their first two power plays in the first period, but the third one, an interference minor to Michael Parks early in the second, was the charm.
Spencer Abbott’s rocket shot from the point just five seconds into that power play at 2:03 cracked open the scoring, thanks to a faceoff win and pass from Will O’Neill.
Abbott said it was a simple designed play that worked to perfection that time.
“If we can win the puck back to O’Neill, he tries to look for me on the weak side for a one-timer and vice versa,” Abbott explained. “That’s really a set play for us.”
The Sioux did not flinch, stringing together several good shifts in a row as the second period wore on. North Dakota finally evened the score thanks to Parks. Just two shifts after his penalty allowed the Black Bears to take the lead, he brought a rush down the ice, and after being denied on his first attempt, circled around the net and squeezed in the tying goal between the skate of Maine goaltender Martin Oullette (18 saves) and the right post.
“Kinda lucky, but it’s the first goal, so I’ll take it,” said Parks.
The penalty was a lesson learned for the freshman, but he got his own redemption in the form of his first career goal.
“It wasn’t the smartest penalty to take, but it definitely felt good to score after that,” said Parks.
The game remained tied until late in the third period, when a wild sequence of events led to the tiebreaking goal.
North Dakota’s Andrew MacWilliam took an interference penalty at 14:26, but just six seconds later, Maine’s Joey Diamond erased that man-advantage with his fourth penalty of the game – and third penalty of the period – checking Ben Blood hard into the boards. Referees discussed giving Diamond a major for checking from behind before sending him to the penalty box with a boarding minor.
On the ensuing faceoff, Corban Knight, who won 16 of 22 faceoffs, passed to Blood, who fired a quick shot through traffic to score what would prove to be the game winner at 14:35.
Maine head coach Tim Whitehead said after the game that Diamond will not play in Saturday’s game after those big penalties Friday.
“Obviously, Diamond’s penalty changed the game,” Whitehead said. “It’s a shame when you beat yourself like that. That can be really frustrating.”
Abbott was also frustrated with the play.
“You really can’t take those penalties at that time of the game, especially when you’re a man up,” said Abbott.
Knight rounded out the scoring with a tap-in, back door goal at 18:35 on a pass from Blood at the top of the circles.
For North Dakota, Hakstol saw it as a big character win despite getting outshot, 31-21.
“We ground it out,” Hakstol said. “We weren’t pretty through the first 40 minutes, but we did what we had to do to go into the third period in a 1-1 tie. I thought we made some plays in the last 10 minutes. We created some opportunities. Mentally, we were not only disciplined in the way we were playing, but we were staying out of the box and got the job done.”