GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Mario Lamoureux didn’t bother wrapping Stephane Pattyn’s 21st birthday present Friday night, but Pattyn probably didn’t mind.
Lamoureux’s cross-crease pass scooted past a diving Joel Rumpel (20 saves) right to the freshman forward, who tapped in the gift for his first career goal, which also stood as the game-winner for North Dakota (14-10-2, 10-9 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) in a 5-3 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers (12-11-2, 7-10-2 WCHA) in front of 11,769 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“That was quite the feeling,” Pattyn said. “My best present for sure.”
Pattyn’s goal punctuated a quirky WCHA affair that saw North Dakota blow leads in each of the first two periods before pulling away at the end to pick up a crucial conference victory.
“I think both teams just played a tight game close to the vest,” said North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol. “We were looking for a power-play opportunity or a power-play goal or one opportunity to win it. Fortunately, we came up with that opportunity.”
North Dakota got on the board early in this one, building its first lead on just the second shift of the game. Michael Parks picked up a loose puck right off a faceoff and wristed one off the left post and in just 31 seconds in to make it 1-0.
Then Danny Kristo tipped a Brock Nelson shot on a power play to put UND up 2-0.
However, Wisconsin capitalized on North Dakota’s mistakes and evened the game before the first intermission. Michael Mersch tipped a Tyler Barnes’ shot from the left slot for his ninth of the year at 6:37. Then at 13:34, Keegan Meuer scored on a weak shot from in tight that Aaron Dell (14 saves) didn’t appear to be ready for.
A similar sort of story played out in the second period, with North Dakota powering ahead for another lead before faltering again. After a Frankie Simonelli penalty, Danny Kristo set up Dillon Simpson for a shot from the point that found nothing but net to give North Dakota another brief lead at 13:27 of the second.
Another strange bounce of the puck allowed the Badgers to pull even once again at 16:45. Mersch scored his second of the night after Mark MacMillan’s clearing attempt deflected straight up in the air and landed right in front of Dell. Mersch fired a quick shot through Dell’s pads to tie it at three heading into the third.
“It was a good push back by us to come back and tie the game and create some scoring chances,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said.
Hakstol knew his team needed to put those fluky goals behind them and tweak their mindset in order to get back in control in the third.
“I felt like through the first 40 minutes we were almost playing not to make a mistake instead of playing the game we need to — to make plays and make a positive impact shift in and shift out. We just wanted to wipe the slate clean. It was a 3-3 hockey game; it comes down to a 20 minute game. At that point in time, you just have to have a short memory and go out and do the things we need to do to win the hockey game.”
North Dakota controlled the tempo in that third period, outshooting the Badgers 9-3 in the final frame. Finally, a UND rush created by Joe Gleason led to the winning tally at 18:06.
Gleason rushed in and fired a shot, which slid off a Wisconsin defender’s stick towards Lamoureux’s direction. The senior captain saw Rumpel get knocked out of the play by his own defenseman, then fed the puck across the crease to the waiting Pattyn.
“Mario made an unbelievable play. It started with Joe [Gleason] using his speed. Mario just saw me back door and I was wide open — the goalie was nowhere to be seen and all I had to do was tap it in.
“It just shows what a hard worker Mario and just his leadership and his poise in that play.”
Nelson rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal at 19:59.
Wisconsin’s young team drops to 1-7-1 on the road this season, but their ability to come back from deficits in a hostile atmosphere gave Eaves some hope.
“There were some victories tonight,” Eaves said, but he added: “The win didn’t count because we didn’t do enough things in the third period to make it happen.”
The two teams return to action Saturday night at 7:07 p.m.