HOUGHON, Mich. — Despite a better start for the host Michigan Tech Huskies, it was No. 8 North Dakota who struck twice in the opening frame en route to a 4-1 victory at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena Saturday night. The win marked the first sweep for North Dakota this season.
With the game tied at 1-1 after just two minutes of action, things settled down for the next several minutes until a critical faceoff in the offensive zone went the way North Dakota needed it to. Defenseman Nick Mattson fed the puck to center Corban Knight, who found winger Danny Kristo moving toward open ice. Kristo took the pass and beat Kevin Genoe with a wrist shot low on the glove side at 6:47 for the game-winner.
North Dakota’s top line of winger Mark MacMillan, Knight, and Kristo combined for six points in the game.
“They did a good job in a lot of situations, not just offensively,” said North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol. “They did what we asked them to do. Obviously they made a lot of plays this weekend, and a couple of game-changing plays again tonight.”
The Huskies forced the puck deep off the opening faceoff and seemed poised to push the visitors harder than they had Friday night. However, on their first attempted breakout, things went horribly wrong.
A turnover by a Huskies’ defender allowed North Dakota defenseman Joe Gleason to find winger Colten St. Clair in the slot. St. Clair wasted little time in beating Genoe at 1:30.
“I give a lot of credit to North Dakota,” said Huskies coach Mel Pearson. “They are a good team. They are a championship team. You can see why. That’s where we’re trying to get our program to, but it’s going to take some time. Their top players were their top players. They played well.”
During the goal celebration, North Dakota (10-5-3 overall, 7-2-3 WCHA) center Connor Gaarder took a penalty for dumping a Huskies’ skater, giving the Huskies a chance to even the game. It wouldn’t take them long to do just that.
Winger Ryan Furne blasted a shot from the high slot that North Dakota goaltender Clarke Saunders had trouble handling. The rebound dropped to Saunders’ right, and Huskies winger David Johnstone deposited the loose puck in the net at 1:58.
“I think we competed pretty well,” said Johnstone. “We just came out and started to set a tone to let them know we were going to go to war tonight. We just came out hard [to] let them know they were in for a battle.”
The Huskies (4-10-3 overall, 3-8-3 WCHA) took control of play after the Kristo goal and nearly tied it a minute later when Johnstone attempted a wraparound. Saunders made that save and five more over the next 10 minutes.
“I thought maybe [Saunders] got lost in the shuffle a little bit last night,” said Hakstol. “My belief is that it’s about making key saves at key time, and he definitely did that for us tonight.”
Opening the second period with a power play, the Huskies nearly tied the game when winger Blake Pietila slid one along the ice from the right boards just a minute and a half in. The shot slid all the way to the goal line, but Saunders kept it from crossing. He finished the night with 31 saves.
With Huskies’ winger Chad Pietila and North Dakota winger Brendan O’Donnell both off for slashing, the visitors took advantage of the open ice late in the four-on-four situation as Kristo found Knight in the low slot. Knight beat Genoe for the goal at 6:20.
Knight had a golden opportunity to stretch the lead to three when he found himself alone in front of Genoe. The netminder stopped all three chances Knight mustered. He finished the night with 40 saves.
After the goal, North Dakota began beating the Huskies to loose pucks, as well in one-on-one battles along the boards more consistently. All that hard work eventually led to a two-on-one with Kristo and winger Mark MacMillan. Kristo waited out Genoe before feeding MacMillan for the tap in at 16:12.
The Huskies were awarded a late second period penalty shot after winger C.J. Eick was hauled down while driving to the net. Center Dennis Rix took the shot, the first for the Huskies since Oct. 27, 1997, but his shot was stopped.
North Dakota had five power plays in the final frame. The advantages gave them the opportunity to test Genoe 16 times over the course of that 20 minutes, but the senior was equal to the task every time.