MINNEAPOLIS — After an overtime period that went scoreless, a draw is how the North Dakota/Minnesota rivalry ends as we know it.
Saturday’s game at Mariucci Arena ended in a 4-4 tie, and the teams won’t face each other in regular-season play until at least the 2016-17 season.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see each other down the line yet this year,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “Our seniors never lost to North Dakota in this building, and we have the tiebreaker on (UND) if it comes to that.”
After a 5-1 loss Friday, UND appeared to be in the driver’s seat going into the backstretch of the third period with a two-goal lead, but Nick Bjugstad scored and a Nate Condon goal tied it at four with 2:58 remaining in regulation.
With a St. Cloud State win, Minnesota is tied with the Huskies with 22 points atop the WCHA standings. UND is tied with three other teams at 20 points.
The atmosphere inside Mariucci was electric, with a standing-room-only crowd of 10,256 filled to the top with fans with rooting interests on both sides.
“It’s a hell of a rivalry and it’s fun to be part of,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “I’m not sure what tickets were going for tonight, but I know they paid a lot and they got their money’s worth.”
After the two Gophers’ goals that tied the game, UND didn’t unravel. UND certainly had better opportunities to score in overtime, despite failing to record a shot on goal.
Rocco Grimaldi hit the pipe on a snap shot from the left circle. Minutes later, Danny Kristo hit the right pipe on a wrister from the right circle.
“I got the puck, I didn’t have much time with it, I saw a hole up top, and I put it there but I happened to hit the post,” Grimaldi said. “There was nothing else I could really do about it.”
Added Hakstol, “We gave up a two-goal lead but going into overtime, we put our foot back on the gas.”
It was UND that started the scoring and never trailed in the game.
Kristo whacked a loose puck in front of Gophers goaltender Adam Wilcox into the net at the 11:39 mark to give UND a 1-0 lead, but Jake Parenteau tied the game 1:11 later when he backhanded a rebound past UND goalie Zane Gothberg.
It was Kristo’s 14th goal of the season.
UND took the first of two two-goal leads when Derek Rodwell grabbed a loose puck in the defensive zone and passed the puck ahead to Corban Knight coming off the bench. Knight beat Wilcox on the breakaway at the 9:34 mark of the second period.
Grimaldi sniped a wrist shot from the right dot past Wilcox a few minutes later.
Sam Warning cut the Minnesota deficit to one goal at the 13:48 mark of the second period when he wristed a shot from inside the right circle that popped over Zane Gothberg’s left shoulder and across the goal line.
Drake Caggiulia made it a two-goal game again at the 7:20 mark of the first period when he attempted a wraparound. Wilcox made the initial save, sprawling to his left, but the puck bounced back-and-forth and eventually over the goal line.
Just like the UND/Minnesota Saturday game last season at Mariucci, the Gophers trailed in the third period and came back.
“We’re trying to be more consistent in the first 10 minutes of the game,” Lucia said. “We gave up the first goal both nights, and tonight we found a way to come back and tie it.”
After Gothberg made the save on an Erik Haula shot, the puck sat still next to Gothberg in the crease until Nick Bjugstad came in to tap it in with 8:50 to play in regulation for his 13th goal.
Minnesota got the equalizer with just under three minutes remaining when Zach Budish threw a pass out front to Condon, who beat Zane Gothberg low.
“I just got the puck on my stick and ‘Condy’ was yelling for it and he was yelling for it,” Budish said. “He made no doubt about it and put it in the back of the net.”
Gothberg finished with 31 saves and Wilcox had 22 for Minnesota.
Minnesota (17-3-3 overall, 9-3-3 overall) plays a home-and-home series against Minnesota State starting Friday in Minneapolis.
UND (13-7-3, 8-4-3) hosts St. Cloud State next weekend.
“It’s disappointing (to end the UND/Minnesota series) because it’s such a huge rivalry,” Budish said. “It’s fun for the players, and I know the fans have a blast with it. Everyone associated with our program loves playing them, and I’m sure it’s the same for North Dakota.”
Of course, there’s a chance these teams will meet in the WCHA playoffs, but after that, the meetings will be in NCAA tournament play or nonconference after the 2015-16 season.
“I think the rivalry needs to continue and continue often,” Hakstol said.