GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Saturday night’s North Dakota-Michigan Tech series finale wasn’t one to write home about.
North Dakota (17-11-3, 10-10-4 WCHA) and Michigan Tech (13-15-4, 10-10-4 WCHA) skated to an ugly, grinding 1-1 tie Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 12,065 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Michigan Tech rang three shots off the pipe, but a fluky goal that bounced off of the chest of Jordan Baker and in at 9:32 of the third period erased a one-goal deficit and the Huskies earned a point in Grand Forks for the first time since 2008.
Corban Knight provided the lone goal for the Fighting Sioux early in the third after 40 minutes of scoreless hockey.
There were chances in both directions in the first period. Michigan Tech did appear to have the better opportunities in the first, but three Huskies shots hit the pipe instead of the back of the net. Josh Robinson (31 saves) was also helped out by his own goal post, which denied Carter Rowney’s shot from the left slot late in the period to preserve the scoreless period.
“I just think that’s hockey,” Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “Some nights, you’re gonna hit the post.”
The pace of the second period provided even less entertainment for the fourth-largest announced crowd in Ralph Engelstad Arena history. In the second stanza, the teams combined for just 12 shots on goal and only six shot attempts from below the faceoff dots.
“Give Tech credit,” said Knight. “They definitely played a defensively sound game today. They weren’t really allowing us to do much in their defensive zone. We have to do a little more to make opportunities happen.”
But after a Tanner Kero hooking penalty five minutes into the third, the Fighting Sioux were able to score, but not in a conventional way. Knight’s centering pass from right at the goal line instead ricocheted off of Huskies’ defenseman Carl Nielsen and in for his 11th of the year at 6:04 of the third.
“I’d lie to you and tell you I meant to do that, but obviously that wasn’t true,” said Knight. “I saw [Brock Nelson] back door there and I thought a quick turnaround play would kind of catch them off guard. Luckily enough, it went off a skate and went in.”
Michigan Tech took another penalty (Dennis Rix for interference) at 8:46, but shorthanded pressure led to the Huskies getting the tying mark on another greasy goal. Brett Olson beat Danny Kristo in the neutral zone, then created a rush and put a quick shot on Eidsness. The puck bounced right off Eidsness’ chest, and the rebound bounced off of Baker, who was crashing the net, and across the goal line.
“[Olson] made a great shot on net, and I just tried crashing the net, just trying to get bodies to the net,” Baker said. “Eidsness put a rebound out, it hit me right in the chest and went right in off me.”
North Dakota had several opportunities to pull ahead to earn the sweep, but Robinson had 13 saves in the third – Eidsness had seven as well – to force overtime.
Shots were 3-2 in the extra frame, but neither team was able to get the deciding goal.
“We went in wanting to win this game; it’s a big two points in the standings,” Baker said. “We feel a little bit let down, but at the same time, we played a great game and came back in the third and got a big point. We’re not satisfied, but it’s a good point.”
“I think it’s just fitting that each team got a point,” Pearson said. “It was a hard-fought battle that could have went either way. We’re happy with a point on the road. We have to just continue getting points and see where we are at the end of the year.”
North Dakota moved into a tie for fourth in the WCHA and has reasons to stay positive, too.
“You don’t want to come into a Saturday night with a chance to sweep and tie a game and give up that point,” said Knight. “But we have to keep positive here, especially at this time of the year. We got some holes in our game that we have to patch up right now, but that’s what this week of practice is for.”