GRAND FORKS, N.D. — It’s hard to knock off a team seven times in a row and three times in eight days. Just ask North Dakota.
In a game Dave Shyiak called the best his Alaska-Anchorage team has played in this young season, a goal from UND’s Derek Forbort with 1:08 to play avoided a big upset at a raucous Ralph Engelstad Arena, which saw a rather hectic overtime period end fruitlessly in a 3-3 tie Saturday night.
It wasn’t fruitless for the Seawolves though. Not after goals from Scott Allen, Tyler Currier, and Jordan Kwas put the Seawolves a seeing-eye point shot away from their first victory in Grand Forks since 2008.
“What we learned as a hockey team tonight is how we have to play,” Shyiak said. “I thought we pressured the puck well. I thought we executed our game plan. We got good goaltending. We got contributions from everyone tonight.”
“They were tenacious tonight throughout the 60 minutes,” Hakstol said of the Seawolves. “We obviously gave away the lead in the third period, which put us in a pretty tough spot, but we found a way to come back and salvage a point.”
After a definitive 4-1 defeat Friday night, Alaska-Anchorage (2-2-2, 0-1-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) went toe-to-toe with North Dakota (2-1-1, 1-0-1 WCHA) throughout and gave UND’s high-flying offense trouble at times. It was Alaska-Anchorage’s top line that hit paydirt against UND’s first when Allen redirected an Austin Sevalrud point shot past Clarke Saunders (27 saves) at 4:05.
UND’s top line responded 10 minutes later on a backhand, top-shelf goal from Corban Knight in the left slot at 13:39. Knight’s goal finished off a slick play sparked by a no-look pass from Brendan O’Donnell.
The Seawolves kept grinding, not faltering like they had Friday night. UAA had significantly more pressure in the series finale, and even though Rocco Grimaldi crashed the net and coaxed a rebound past a sprawled-out Rob Gunderson (30 saves) at 12:55 of the second for a 2-1 lead, the Seawolves didn’t back down.
Alaska-Anchorage kept the forecheck going and froze UND’s offense for over 20 minutes while tilting the ice its own direction. Its efforts paid off big when Tyler Currier made a brilliant individual effort to score a short-handed goal at 3:19 of the third, escaping the guise of freshman defenseman Jordan Schmaltz for his fourth career goal and first of the year.
Jordan Kwas’ point shot then made it 3-2 at 11:25, rendering a crowd of 11,581 speechless. UND’s predicament got more and more dire with each waning second, but with 68 seconds left, Forbort’s desperation shot from the left point deflected off of a defenseman in front and found twine.
There was some question as to whether the puck had hit a defenseman or Knight’s raised stick in front of the net, which may have been cause for waving the goal off, but it stood, and the crowd went berserk for the game-saving goal.
“Things weren’t going real smoothly throughout the hockey game, but I really wanted to allow our guys to work through it and find a way,” Hakstol said. “I thought we had done that through two periods, but all of a sudden you find yourself down getting late in a hockey game — time to try and spark some things and make sure we give ourselves every chance to score the tying goal. As, I guess, luck would have it, we made some good plays and got a good bounce.”
A frenzy of an overtime period ensued. Grimaldi was stuffed by Gunderson on one rush, then Kristo hit one off the crossbar a series later, but that was as close as North Dakota got to getting the sweep and its first overtime victory in Grand Forks since 2009.
It was all for naught, and for the second week in a row, UND couldn’t finish off a weekend sweep.
“We just have to get better on Saturday nights,” he said. “That’s two nights in a row where we haven’t gotten two points. We just have to work on our endurance and work on our focus coming into Saturday, especially after a win.”
As for the Seawolves, they’ll return to Anchorage happy, but focused for a grueling schedule that will require the same urgency that was evident Saturday night.
“The lesson is we have to continue to do that no matter who we’re playing,” Shyiak said. “If we even that all out, over the course of the year you’re going to win more than you lose.”