GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Ryan Faragher knew he was going into a tough environment in a tough way.
The St Cloud State freshman goaltender was tasked with replacing senior Mike Lee, who suffered an injury in practice Monday. His first test as the number one goaltender, and second career game in net for the Huskies, was at a sold-out Ralph Engelstad Arena Friday night against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
So how did Faragher prepare for 11,743 screaming Sioux fans? Heavy metal, of course.
“I listen to heavy metal music, so noise is not a factor when I’m out there,” Faragher said. “It was a fun game.”
North Dakota’s electric offense rocked Faragher with 44 shots, but Faragher turned away every single one as St Cloud State (3-3-1, 1-0 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) rolled to a 4-0 victory over North Dakota (2-4-1, 0-3).
For the second game in a row, the Fighting Sioux found themselves with a huge margin in the shot count, but with no points to show for it in the WCHA standings. North Dakota outshot Wisconsin 42-15 in last Saturday’s 5-4 loss, and followed that up with a 44-23 differential Friday night, but somehow didn’t come out the victor in either game.
It’s the first time UND has begun their WCHA schedule with three losses since an 0-3-1 record to start their 1989-90 campaign.
“We just can’t catch a break right now,” said North Dakota forward Danny Kristo.
UND tested Faragher (1-1-0) early and often, with 15 and 24 shots in the first and second periods, respectively. That seemed to get Faragher on his beat, not off it.
“That definitely helps to get the first couple of shots out of the way,” he said. “I think the way the guys played allowed me to see the puck when I needed to. Bad penalties aside, I think we really outplayed them.”
Jared Festler knocked home his fifth goal of the season at 7:16 of the first to give the Huskies that key early lead.
St Cloud State certainly gave North Dakota big opportunities to even the game. Nick Oliver pounded UND’s Mark MacMillan hard into the boards from behind and was given a five-minute major and a game disqualification at 7:35 — also barring him from Saturday night’s lineup. Ben Hanowski also got the early shower, taking a contact to the head major and game misconduct 1:44 into the second.
But North Dakota squandered both of those opportunities, and despite getting 20 shots just on power plays Friday night — many right down into the crease — they couldn’t get one across the goal line.
“It’s frustrating, especially when you’re given two gifts,” said junior forward Corban Knight. “It’s something we have to capitalize on. We’re getting shots and making stuff happen, but we weren’t able to bury.”
North Dakota amplified the second period shot chart especially, as the team combined for 45 shot attempts, but of those, 14 shots were blocked by the defense, seven missed the net, and the remaining 24 were stopped by Faragher.
The Huskies defense kept holding, and the equalizer never came. Instead, defenseman Andrew Prochno buried a hard shot from the point, and Sam Zabkowicz beat goaltender Aaron Dell (19 saves) for his first career goal to make it a 3-0 game.
St Cloud’s Travis Novak got his fourth goal of the season on a late empty-net goal to round out the scoring.
Friday night was Faragher’s night, but once again North Dakota found themselves overwhelmingly frustrated with losing an otherwise well-played game.
“Everyone’s frustrated, starting with the goalies all the way on out to the coaching staff,” Kristo said. “There was a lot of good tonight. I thought we dominated down low. We can’t get away from the things that are working. You can’t try and cheat through other things. When you’re going through tough times, you just have to stick together and keep going at it.”