GRAND FORKS, N.D. — It was a battle right from the start.
In a heated affair, with hopes of pulling ahead from a third place tie in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, Wisconsin (11-8-6, 8-5-6 WCHA) was forced to settle for a 1-1 tie with North Dakota (13-8-6, 8-5-6 WCHA) in front of 11,864 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“Well, we talk about solving riddles,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “That was a wild one. I didn’t know how that riddle was going to be solved tonight. There was great energy in the building, lots of wild and crazy things going on there on the ice. Entertaining game for the fans.”
With 99 total minutes of penalties, both teams found ample opportunities to create attempts with one-man advantages.
On a power play, North Dakota scored its first goal of the game just 25 seconds into the second period on Danny Kristo’s blast from the point that trickled behind Landon Peterson (21 saves).
Wisconsin responded only eight seconds later after Michael Mersch stole the puck from behind the net and brought it around front to snap it in past Zane Gothberg (29 saves) to tie the teams, 1-1.
What began as a style of play comfortable for North Dakota was altered by Wisconsin’s alternative approach.
“They like to slow the game down, Kristo said. “If you watch them, I think their ‘D’ likes to do a lot of hinges. They come up the ice slow, they play really good structure in their game. They’re probably one of the best-structured teams we’ve played, and really well coached. It’s frustrating. They’re one of the most frustrating teams to play, but it was a pretty good game tonight. I thought it was back and forth and got a little exciting with a couple little scrums there.”
Goaltending quickly became a key for both teams, as the action yielded continuous opportunities on the net, yet the score remained the same.
“Both guys were good,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “Obviously in a 1-1 game, I thought both guys did their job for their team. That’s the bottom line.”
For Gothberg, voted No. 2 star of the game, the intensity displayed from both teams retained its presence for the entirety of the match-up.
“I think it was a back-and-forth game,” Gothberg said “We had some momentum off some big kills, especially off the penalty kill, and both teams had good chances. I know (Kristo) hit the post in the overtime, so there’s chances and it’s the team that capitalizes and I felt both teams played a fast, quick game, and overall it was pretty even.”
The scoreboard remained identical for the duration of the period, yet a tight hockey game created undeniable tension between the two teams. With two seconds remaining in the period, Frankie Simonelli’s take down of Rocco Grimaldi behind the net resulted in a roughing double minor for both of them.
It would only continue in what became an eruption of penalties.
While North Dakota continued pressing on Wisconsin’s defense, Peterson stood firm in between the pipes.
“He complemented the people in front of him,” Eaves said. “Got a couple of big blocks form Jake McCabe and in the penalty kill at the end, but he was sharp when he needed to be. And sometimes those games where you don’t get a lot of work are mentally tough, but in a building like this where the game always seems to be around you, it isn’t as tough.”
Both teams began the third period with three men each in the box due to a series of penalties occurring after the end of the second period. With 6:30 left on the clock, UND found itself on a five-on-four disadvantage, but was able to successfully kill the penalty.
As the final horn sounded —- the teams were sent to overtime. Kristo managed a shot off the pipe, but despite a strong effort from both sides, the battle was concluded with a bitter tie.
The contention ended the way it began as the teams skated off the ice, both wishing they had attained more.
“That’s how North Dakota and Wisconsin should be, I think,” Kristo said. “A big rivalry and both teams are tied in the standings right now. Everyone’s doing what they can to get wins and to get points, and both teams fought hard. It should be a good game tomorrow.”