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College Hockey:
Saunders stops 32 in North Dakota shutout of St. Cloud State

— Good starts to the weekend have been the theme for North Dakota so far this season.

UND won three previous series-opening games, and in Friday’s 3-0 win at St. Cloud State, UND opened the first minute of the first two periods with goals.

Brendan O’Donnell scored 48 seconds into the game, Carter Rowney made it 2-0 43 seconds into the second period, and Clarke Saunders recorded 32 saves in his second shutout of the season.

UND is 4-0 on Friday nights.

“It was a good road win and that’s the bottom line,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “The (beginning of periods) are key times of the game. It’s nice to get off to a good start.

“(Saunders) was the busier of the two goalies, for sure. There were a couple of flurries around him that he did a great job on.”

Right in the opening minute, Mark MacMillan intercepted a pass on Tim Daly’s attempt to play the puck down low and passed it across the neutral zone to Connor Gaarder who carried it down the right wing. Gaarder centered for Brendan O’Donnell, who tipped the puck between Ryan Faragher’s pads.

“To get that first one gives ‘Clarkie’ a lot of confidence that he’s got a team playing in front of him,” said MacMillan. “That first goal, in any game, is the most important goal for sure.”

UND may have scored early, but they didn’t exactly set the tone. SCSU had all the momentum following O’Donnell’s goal, applied a ton of pressure, and made Saunders work.

The junior transfer from Alabama-Huntsville embraced the Huskies’ challenge. The 14 shots he stopped in the first period were the most saves he made in a period in seven games.

“I looked up at the scoreboard and I noticed I had a few saves,” Saunders said. “It’s kind of nice to get me into the game and settle my nerves a little bit.”

Saunders got a little help from a Nick Oliver shot that clanked off the cross bar 3:30 into the game. The UND penalty kill also held the Huskies to one shot on two power plays in the first period.

The Huskies had a 10-3 shots advantage by the 10-minute mark.

“We knew that one goal would’ve lit up the whole building, and we knew we’d keep rolling from there, but unfortunately we didn’t,” said SCSU defenseman Nick Jensen, who recorded two shots on goal. “(Saunders) wasn’t unbeatable, but he definitely played good.”

UND opened the second period with more instant offense, but didn’t let SCSU get the edge in offensive pressure.

On UND’s first trip into the SCSU zone, Carter Rowney took a pass from Corban Knight from behind the net to the top of the crease and Faragher blocked the initial shot. The rebound came right back to Rowney, who shot it over a sprawled-out Faragher at the 43-second mark.

MacMillan added a late goal when he stole the puck in the SCSU blue line and took it in to seal the game with 2:27 left.

UND improves to 4-2-1 overall and 1-1-1 in the WCHA, and is looking for its first win on a Saturday when the teams meet at 7:07 p.m. Saturday at the National Hockey and Event Center.

Faragher made 23 saves for the Huskies (5-4-0, 3-2-0) who dropped their first game at home.

“It’s all about how we answer tomorrow and come out on fire,” Jensen said.

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