GRAND FORKS, N.D. — There’s obviously no significant reptilian presence in the arctic North Dakota landscape, but all the same, the lack of scoring by UND’s second, third and fourth line was widely attributed to several players being “snakebitten.”
Whatever the term, the antidote was finally found Saturday night.
Second-line right wing Michael Parks’ pair of goals paced North Dakota (14-8-6, 9-5-6 WCHA) to its first win since Jan. 5, defeating Wisconsin (11-9-6, 8-6-6 WCHA) in front of 11,962 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The last meeting between these two schools as conference foes was about as close to a must-win as it gets in early February for the Green and White. But UND’s forwards – the ones not named Danny Kristo, Rocco Grimaldi or Corban Knight for a change – answered the call early and often throughout the first 40 minutes, allowing UND to cruise to a 4-1 win and a three point weekend that was welcomed, if not long overdue.
“Two games ago was a must-win game for us,” UND forward Carter Rowney said. “But to get that win tonight was definitely good for our team and we can take a step forward.”
Parks’ night punctuated what the team hopes will be a more balanced offensive attack. Parks hasn’t regained his step after a leg injury sidelined him for the first few months of this, his sophomore year. His team, and especially his linemates, hope Parks has wiggled free of that slump.
“I was really excited for Parks to get a couple goals tonight,” said Rowney. “I know since we’ve been playing together we’ve been a little snakebitten. We’ve had our opportunities; it just wasn’t coming. I think we just tried and stick with it and try and stay loose around the net and it’s coming now.”
Rowney didn’t have a goal, but broke his own scoring drought, per se, by assisting on both Parks goals.
“I think tonight is definitely a relief,” Parks said. “Me and him were kind of squeezing the stick a little bit, pretty frustrated.”
Both Parks goals came in the second period of a physical, penalty-infused game (106 combined penalty minutes) that was never really in question. Only 45 seconds into the contest, UND’s Mark MacMillan tipped in a Grimaldi point shot to make it 1-0, then Joe Gleason knocked in a centering pass from Knight to make it 2-0 on another power play goal at 13:24.
Wisconsin had no answer to that and Parks’ two goals were more than enough to dispatch the Badgers.
Parks scored his first on a forehand-to-backhand wrister that fooled Landon Peterson (25 saves) at 8:17 and added a wraparound at 16:18 to make it 4-0.
“I think we just wanted to come out and have a really good baseline game and let our hard work get us the goals,” Parks said. “I thought all four lines did that.”
Freshman Zane Gothberg was foiled in his shutout attempt thanks to a Mark Zengerle goal at 13:30 of the third, but Wisconsin took care of torpedoing its own momentum by taking two consecutive penalties not long after and never getting any closer.
Gothberg had 21 saves in his third consecutive start and was helped by a defense that allowed just 22 shots and just five shots for the Badgers on five power-play opportunites given them.
“It’s nice to get in the winning column, but it’s nice to earn one,” said North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol. “It’s been three weeks since we last won a hockey game, but most importantly, it’s good to get a good win against a very good hockey team.”
That very good hockey team was sent reeling back to Madison nursing just its second loss in 12 games. Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves hopes his squad makes the quick recovery in time for next weekend’s series at home against Bemidji State.
“It was just an old-fashioned butt kicking,” Eaves said. “We haven’t had too many this year. I hope we don’t have any more.
“At this time of the year, you’d think that we’ve been through some storms already, that we’re going to be resilient and come to work on Monday and Tuesday and get her going again.”
Hakstol, meanwhile, saw the tremendous value of having scoring depth on display Saturday night.
“It’s very important,” Hakstol said. “We have to get scoring from throughout our lineup and that’s something that hasn’t happened in the last three weeks. For Michael Parks to get a couple tonight, for Carter [Rowney] to get a couple assists, it was important.”