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College Hockey:
Nelson scores late to lift North Dakota over Minnesota

— In the long emotional masterpiece that is the rivalry between Minnesota and North Dakota, it seems like every game has an endless supply of momentum changes and electricity.

And Friday night, in front of maybe the loudest crowd at Ralph Engelstad Arena in years, the two squads augmented this rivalry with yet another thriller.

Brock Nelson’s gritty goal with 3:35 left in the third period lifted North Dakota (12-8-2, 8-7-0 WCHA) to a 2-1 victory over the Golden Gophers (15-8-1, 11-4 WCHA) in front of a sellout crowd of 11,846.

Andrew MacWilliam also scored for UND, breaking through for his first career goal with nine seconds remaining in the second period.

“That was a fun game to be a part of,” Nelson said. “To come out on top – that was great to see.”

Seven power plays – including a major – kept the game wildly entertaining, with the momentum seemingly changing hands countless times.

North Dakota and Minnesota went through the first period scoreless, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Shots were 8-7 in a whirlwind first period. It began with junior forward Danny Kristo nearly putting UND up on his very first shift on the first of many quality scoring chances both directions.

Kristo was energetic and feisty throughout the first and looked poised to be a big factor for North Dakota. Instead, with just over a minute remaining, Kristo got himself an early shower after a dangerous hit from behind on Ben Marshall earned him a major penalty.

North Dakota was able to kill that penalty as it bled into the second period. That seemed to be the theme throughout the night, as neither team could capitalize on any of the man advantages Friday night.

“We didn’t have great rhythm on our power play tonight,” said Gophers’ coach Don Lucia. “Some of it is what they did and some of it was what we did. That’s an area that we have to do a better job of tomorrow.”

Nonetheless, the speedy Gophers kept pushing. They eventually drew first blood at 6:29 of the second, with Kyle Rau finishing a two-on-one breakout with Zach Budish for his 13th goal of the year.

From there, the emotion that so defines this rivalry took over. A pair of power plays for North Dakota failed to yield a tying goal and the Gophers appeared to be ready to head into the second intermission with a lead.

MacWilliam had better ideas.

After playing in his 101st career game, the junior defenseman took a clean slap shot from the point near the left boards and finally made one count in a big way, notching his first career goal at a perfect time for UND with nine seconds left in the second.

“It felt great,” MacWilliam said. “I always said that if I wanted to get my first, I wanted it to be at home. Even better, it was against the Gophers.”

There was no understating the importance of that goal from anywhere in the UND locker room. North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol liked the way his team played in the second period, but it would not have meant much had they returned to their lockers for the second intermission down a goal.

“We started [the second] with a good penalty kill for several minutes,” Hakstol said. “But you come out of that down 1-0, it takes a little wind out of your sails heading into the locker room. Obviously, that goal was probably the key play of the game from our perspective.”

The Gophers couldn’t manage a response to that and finally Nelson punctuated another crazy period when he picked up a loose puck given up by a Minnesota defender, then muscled his way to the middle and squirted a shot past the pad of Kent Patterson (23 saves) for the game winner.

North Dakota was able to clamp down and hold on for the narrow victory, as Aaron Dell turned away all ten shots he faced in the third to squelch any hope of a rally. Dell, now 9-7-2, finished with 25 saves.

MacWilliam earned first star honors for not only his goal, but for setting the tone physically. His players took note of that.

“He’s a warrior for us,” Hakstol said. “It’s not just one night – that’s how he plays night in and night out. His teammates recognize how valuable he is and how hard he is to play against. It was nice to see him scoring a big goal for our team tonight.”

That tone carried throughout both sides with a number of key hits both directions. That led to a different kind of game than the quick, up-tempo Gophers are accustomed to.

“There wasn’t much space on the rink tonight,” said Lucia. “Both teams battled hard. Both goaltenders played well and made some timely saves. There weren’t a lot of offensive chances because it became kind of a cautious game.”

Nelson said afterward he thought it was the loudest he had ever heard the “Ralph” in his two seasons playing home games there.

“The crowd was unbelievable tonight,” Nelson beamed. “Hopefully, they come back the same way tomorrow.”

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  • Ridingtimes

    Looks like the rodents are on there way down hill….

  • http://twitter.com/Butterz07 Aaron G.

    should have been 3 – 1  they missed an empty netter

    • Hockey10

      Actually it should have been 1-1, they missed an icing call

      • Captornado

        And there should have been a 5 minute major for X’ing from behind to end the game instead of the chicken sh*t boarding call.

        • UW Fan

          Not a chance on the check from behind he turned at the last second and was hardly hit.  I would hope that never gets called a major check from behind.  Even if you look at the replay the Gopher player was actually trying to hold the Sioux player up by his breezers….actaully nice to be able to watch some college hockey in Madison as the Badgers are never on.

      • Fighting_sioux

        Lots of missed calls last night. They let the boys play.

  • Sioux Ya Ya

    There definitely should have been a checking from behind with about a minute and a half to go. Blatant hit from behind with the ref standing right there and of course no call. Typical pro-gooph refs again. Don Adam has to be THE worst wcha official, followed closely by Anderson and Shepherd. Nice win Sioux!

    • Fan Man

      Ya Sioux Sioux! Big time win with gomer, I mean goofer refs!

    • poptart

      very true, i didnt see it when i was at the game last night but i watched the replay and it was a huge missed call

  • Suture

    All I can say about last night is this.  This Sioux team has to be one of, if not
    thee, weakest team to hit the ice in over 20 years.  If the Gophers cannot beat the Sioux this
    year (I mean beat them every time) it’s unlikely they will go anywhere come
    tournament time.  I think most Sioux fans
    will agree that last night’s starting lineup…..with injuries, committed
    players jumping to Major Juniors, National Team participation, etc…..was one
    of the least talented teams the Sioux have produced in many, many years.  The fact they beat a top-ten team like MN is
    really a major achievement.  North Dakota
    played true “Sioux Hockey” and I was very proud of how the boys fought for 60
    minutes.  With the talent the Goph’s have
    every year they should be winning far more than they do…I have not seen a
    college hockey program with less charisma and fight than I see the Goph’s play
    with….every year!  Anyway, I have no idea
    who will win tonight, but if the Goph’s lose it will be a major blow to their
    season, virtually ensuring post-season play will be a foregone conclusion, mark
    my words on this.

    • Phoenixfyre1313

      2001-2002 UND squad was way worse than this group.   Excellent goaltending can cover a lot of weaknesses.  Both Dell and Patterson are excellent goaltenders.

      • B.D.

        You might be right as I cannot even recall the 2001/2002 team.

  • Suture

    All I can say about last night is this.  This Sioux team has to be one of, if not
    thee, weakest team to hit the ice in over 20 years.  If the Gophers cannot beat the Sioux this
    year (I mean beat them every time) it’s unlikely they will go anywhere come
    tournament time.  I think most Sioux fans
    will agree that last night’s starting lineup…..with injuries, committed
    players jumping to Major Juniors, National Team participation, etc…..was one
    of the least talented teams the Sioux have produced in many, many years.  The fact they beat a top-ten team like MN is
    really a major achievement.  North Dakota
    played true “Sioux Hockey” and I was very proud of how the boys fought for 60
    minutes.  With the talent the Goph’s have
    every year they should be winning far more than they do…I have not seen a
    college hockey program with less charisma and fight than I see the Goph’s play
    with….every year!  Anyway, I have no idea
    who will win tonight, but if the Goph’s lose it will be a major blow to their
    season, virtually ensuring post-season play will be a foregone conclusion, mark
    my words on this.

    • B.D.

      Agree, North Dakota is going through a rebuilding year and a really tough one at that.  New recruits that should be shaping up more (Grimaldi) are on the sidelines and not building experience/training.

      Next year figures to be slightly better, but I do not think full recovery will come for at least two years.

  • Confused

    Things I find funny about North Dakota hockey:

    1.  There is only one kid from on the team North Dakota and he is a senior.  Will the Sioux actually have a kid from North Dakota on their team next year?

    2.  I find it funny how the crowd chants Gopher rejects to the other Minnesota schools.  What should those schools chant when the Sioux visit – Canadian rejects?

    3.  I don’t think the Sioux consider it a successful night unless an opponent goes to the hospital.

    4.  I don’t understand how Sioux fans put so much pride in their hockey team they import from Canada and Minnesota.  There are more kids from California (yes, California) than North Dakota.  Maybe there isn’t a lot to do in North Dakota?

    5.  I love how the Sioux fans think they’re so subjugated to officiating when they are the dirtiest, cheapest team in the WCHA – probably the whole country…

    • UofMGoldenChokers

      Hockey is supposed to be a rough game. You dont want any contact or injuries, go back to your mom’s basement.

      • Confused

        There’s a difference between rough hockey and cheap play.  I left my mom’s basement.  Let’s watch a game in your mom’s next weeknd – I bet it’s nice…

    • Anonymous

      Things I find funny about your post:

      1. Compare the respective populations of North Dakota and Minnesota. Basic math answers that one.

      2. They can chant whatever they’d like, it won’t bring down any of the championship banners hanging in the Ralph.

      3. Remind me, which Gopher was ejected Saturday night for a hit from behind?

      4. I don’t understand how Gopher fans can take their vaunted in state recruiting so seriously, when some of the best players to come out of Minnesota over the past decade have come to UND. 

      5. Refer to point three.

      • Confused

        Why do people from North Dakota put so much pride in an imported hockey team from Canada and Minnesota? The Sioux roster is 46% Canadian and 27% Minnesotan – that’s 73% of the team. North Dakota hockey is anything but North Dakota, so why this great sense of pride?

        Why would a public funded, higher learning institution (or anybody) support and embrace a Nazi sympathizer? Ralph Engelstad was a racist and it’s sad that his grip is still on the Sioux program. He went out of his way to make sure it would cost a fortune to remove the Sioux logos from the arena that he so proudly built while knowing the conflict it would create. If I were you, I would rather watch the Sioux play on a frozen pond than cheer so proudly in a building built by a man so flawed in his thinking. Google his name and read anything about him and you’ll find this true; Google his image and he appears with a picture of Hitler on the first page…

        Go Sioux!

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