GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota’s lineup was upgraded from 15 skaters to 18 and the venue switched from Fairbanks’ nearly-empty Carlson Center to Grand Forks’ nearly-full (11,446) Ralph Engelstad Arena, but the result of North Dakota’s second matchup with Alaska-Anchorage in a week was no different.
UND skated out a full lineup this time around and dominated all the same, using a four-goal barrage in the second to down the Seawolves 4-1 in the WCHA opener for both teams.
North Dakota (2-1-0, 1-0-0 WCHA) defeated UAA (2-2-1, 0-1-0 WCHA) 5-0 in the Alaska Goal Rush a week ago without its captains, who were all serving suspensions. UND followed up with another rock-solid performance Friday night, dressing 18 skaters for the first time since February of last season.
“Tonight was probably our best 60 minutes we played as a team,” said UND forward Danny Kristo. “I thought we played well in all three zones in all three periods. I thought we won all three periods and made some good decisions with the puck.”
Kristo tallied three assists in the win, but eight other players notched points in the game, which lasted just two hours and 12 minutes.
“We had everybody chipping in tonight,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “I didn’t think there was one or two guys that really carried the load. I thought we had a lot of guys that were chipping in and that added up to a good win.”
North Dakota came out hard, peppering Chris Kamal (30 saves) and the Seawolves’ defense with 23 shot attempts in the first period. But despite getting 14 of those on Kamal, UND couldn’t solve him in the first 20 minutes.
UND finally broke it open early in the second, however. Corban Knight banked in a shot from behind the net off the skate of Blake Leask at 1:10 of the period. Then Rocco Grimaldi picked up a puck at neutral ice, skirted through the Seawolves defense and found freshman Drake Caggiula, who slammed in the cross-crease feed for his first career goal at 4:46.
“When you keep doing the small things like that, eventually it’s going to pay off for us,” said Kristo. “I think once we got one, the floodgates just opened there for us.”
UND added a power-play tally two minutes later. Just 22 seconds into an Austin Coldwell penalty, Carter Rowney tipped a Dillon Simpson point shot to make it 3-0 at 6:58.
The Seawolves thought they had stopped the bleeding, slowing down UND for five minutes and putting pressure the other way. They finally got on the board thanks to Alex Gellert scoring on a scramble in the crease at 15:39, but 22 seconds later, Derek Forbort’s point shot made it 4-1, punctuating the victory.
“I thought that was an important goal for us to get back in the game,” said Seawolves’ coach Dave Shyiak. “I thought we got some momentum off that, but they responded right back. We have to show a better ability to make some plays. I thought some guys tonight were just kind of passengers. There’s time and space to make some plays and we were a little sloppy with the puck. They had some chances to make some plays and they deserved to win tonight.”
In his collegiate debut, Zane Gothberg didn’t see much action, but made the most of it, stopping 16 shots for his first win. He played in a share of each of UND’s two exhibition games, but looked far more comfortable in net Friday.
“I liked what he did tonight,” Hakstol said. “You can see growth in him even over the last month. I thought he looked comfortable tonight.”
With the suspensions behind them, Kristo and the rest of the Kelly green and white now look to build consistency in Saturday night’s series finale at 7:07 p.m.
“It was frustrating going to Alaska and having to sit out both games,” Kristo said. “I thought I felt like I had motivation, some stuff to prove tonight. I’m glad it’s over with. I think the team’s moving on and we’re just trying to look forward now.”