GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Two first period goals were almost enough for Holy Cross, but after holding the lead for the majority of the game, it was toppled by No. 7 North Dakota.
Although they didn’t come until late in the game, North Dakota’s (12-5-3) goals were enough to claim a 3-2 victory over the Holy Cross Crusaders (10-6-2) in front of 11,587 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
It wasn’t until after they were down by two goals that North Dakota established a way to work into the game, but its continuous shots on the net and a late third period goal by Danny Kristo led the team to its first home sweep of the season.
“We had to work our way into this game,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought we came out on our toes at the drop of the puck, but tonight we had to work our way into it and that took 10 minutes. We ended up two to nothing to that point in time in order to jolt ourselves into the game.”
While it was North Dakota that unveiled the edge Friday night, the Crusaders’ momentum was revealed early on Saturday.
After receiving a pass at the bottom of the circle, Brandon Nunn’s quick shot on net at 3:23 made it past Clarke Saunders (17 saves) to put Holy Cross on the board first.
“I just think last night we got caught up in where we were playing and who we were playing and tonight we just played and that’s a large difference,” Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl said. “[Even Zych] had his head up and made a good pass to Brandon [Nunn] and Brandon held it that extra split second and got the puck around Clarke [Saunders] and that was a really good shot.”
The Crusaders’ persistence continued as a puck battle along the wall allowed Kyle Fletcher’s rebound shot to be put in the net by Rob Linsmayer at 13:05 of the first period.
North Dakota was left scoreless until Conner Gaarder got a stick on a pass while skating down the slot and managed to shoot it in past Matt Ginn (34 saves).
Despite picking it up in the second period with 13 additional shots on the net, North Dakota couldn’t capitalize on its chances and failed to see the reflection on the scoreboard.
It kept the pressure on the Crusaders’ defense in the third period, as Corban Knight’s feed to Michael Parks in front of the net allowed Parks to tap in the rebound shot at 4:15 to tie the teams at two.
“They have a bunch of good players and they move the puck well,” Pearl said. “They do a good job with that and they did a nice job on that first one they got there to tie it. Their guy got position on our guy out front and it kind of bounced out so that was an unfortunate bounce for us but a great play by them.”
It was Danny Kristo who sealed a North Dakota victory at 14:37 on a power play on a snipe through traffic.
“The last one, it comes down to simple things in the game,” Hakstol said. “It was a good snap snot from just outside the top of the circle and it ended up being the game-winner. In our minds, that’s a pretty power play.”
Holy Cross’ five penalties in the third period left it short-handed, while North Dakota’s offense continued its shots on the net, scoring all three of its goals on the power play.
“I thought we played a pretty good game,” Pearl said. “Obviously getting to the third period with a lead is your goal when you’re playing teams like this and we did that. Unfortunately, in the third, we took a couple penalties and couldn’t kill them off.”
While it couldn’t kill the penalties, Holy Cross’ early start created quick competition right away and kept UND looking for rebounds.
“You’ve got to give some credit to Holy Cross — they played a lot harder tonight,” Kristo said. “They kind of boxed us up a little bit. We weren’t getting very many bounces out there and their goalie played extremely well.
“It was just one of those nights where we didn’t know if we were going to get the bounces but we just kept on, and kept on and kept pushing and finally got a couple bounces and got the win.”