GRAND FORKS, N.D. — After a disappointing Friday night loss to the top team in the WCHA, all North Dakota needed to do Saturday was play a better hockey game.
That was certainly the case, as it managed 15 shots on the net in the first period alone —- five times more shots than it had in last night’s opening period. But a continued strong performance by St. Cloud State (15-10-1, 12-5-1, WCHA) left North Dakota (13-8-5, 8-5-5 WCHA) skating away with a 2-2 tie at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
North Dakota’s increased speed and rearranged lines triggered a spark of momentum early on, as St. Cloud’s Ryan Faragher (34 saves) allowed two pucks in the net in the first period to grant North Dakota the early lead.
“They came out real hard tonight and fought like mad,” SCSU coach Bob Motzko said. “We made some critical mistakes early, and they capitalized on them. But bad penalties again, that characteristic —- we let the heat of the moment get to us.”
It wasn’t simply the new line combinations that showed a turnaround; a whole new level of play led to a more intense game.
“The biggest chance was our intensity and effort for the entire 65 minutes,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “And if you play the game that hard, regardless of what line combos or ‘D’ pairs are —- if you play that hard night in and night out, you’re going to win the majority of hockey games that we play.”
A victory seemed near, but with a continued persistence, the Huskies were ready to take it all on Saturday.
The first strike came at 3:08 of the first period, as the puck bounced off the end wall for an easy snipe from the corner by Ben Hanowski past Clarke Saunders (16 saves).
“We were ready,” Motzko said. “We saw some thunder there, and we had to adjust. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot with a couple turnovers and penalties. If we wouldn’t have done that, I would have liked our first period a little bit better. But we hunkered down as the game wore on and we had a good weekend.”
North Dakota responded with a rush down the ice, short-handed, as Corban Knight succeeded in stealing the puck from behind the net. While skating down the slot, Danny Kristo received Knight’s pass at the top of the crease at 5:02 to tie the game, 1-1.
It wasn’t finished yet. After a St. Cloud penalty created a five-on-four advantage for UND, the puck was kept inside North Dakota’s offensive zone for the entirety of the penalty, resulting in a worn-out St. Cloud penalty kill.
North Dakota capitalized on Corban Knight’s 12th goal of the season. Knight handled the puck at the top of the circle and shot in a clean shot past Faragher at 15:45 to steal the lead.
“I thought we were good tonight; I thought we played hard,” Kristo said. “With a little adjustment, I went to the left side, but I think we’re just a bounce away right now. Obviously, last night was unacceptable; I wish we played like we did tonight.”
With a one-goal deficit separating it from a chance at a victory, St. Cloud was close to claiming all four points for the weekend.
A delayed penalty to start the second period gave the Huskies an extra skater in their offensive zone. However, despite several opportunities to touch the puck, UND instead witnessed Hanowski tip the puck in past Clarke Saunders at 1:59 for his second goal of the night to tie the score once again.
“Ben Hanowski, there’s one of our captains taking over again,” Motzko said. “Got the first one, got the second one —- it was all determination in the second period there. We lost it for about six minutes in the second, but then I thought we hunkered back down and our goalie had to make a couple big saves, their goalie had to make a couple. We got the one off the pipe. It was one of those classic WCHA battles.”
With no time left on the clock, the teams were sent to overtime —- only to end in a brutal tie.
“It was pretty embarrassing after what we had last night,” Kristo said. “Throughout the whole lineup, I thought we played hard tonight. I thought we did all the right things that we needed to win, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”