GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Senior Night is always a night to remember, but the result on the ice won’t be so memorable for North Dakota.
Bemidji State’s pesky style of play swallowed up UND’s potent offense, and only a Jordan Schmaltz goal with 11:23 to play prevented disaster for North Dakota (18-9-7, 13-6-7 Western Collegiate Hockey Association), which had to settle for a extremely frustrating 2-2 tie with the Beavers (6-18-8, 5-14-7 WCHA) in front of 12,117 at Ralph Engelstad Arena Saturday night.
A win would have clinched home ice and put pressure on first-place St Cloud State in the MacNaughton Cup race, but a solid defensive effort from the blue collar Beavers stood in UND’s way.
UND fired 80 shots on Bemidji State, but the Beavers’ ability to dam up the offensive zone left North Dakota with just two goals. Andrew Walsh had 28 saves, and the Beavers defense also picked up 28 shot blocks.
“You got to block shots,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. “That’s hockey. To me, that’s never a ‘key,’ that’s automatic. It’s non-negotiable; it’s part of being a hockey player. It’s about sacrifice.”
North Dakota never led, instead needing goals from Mitch MacMillan and Schmaltz in the second and third periods to keep the Beavers from escaping with a win. Just like it had Friday night, the North Dakota top line went scoreless.
Serratore said his team knew what it was in for with that line, and he was pleased with how his team responded. “We tried like heck to keep them to the outside. I think we did a pretty good job of doing that. But again, they still had a lot of in-zone possession time. But again, we kept them on the perimeter. We tried to clog up the neutral zone.”
Dave Hakstol said it was a good effort from his team nonetheless.
“[The Beavers] do a great job,” he said. “They were in a lot of shooting lanes. Probably the difference early on in this game was that we missed a couple of real good opportunities. And the last half of the game, their guy in the pipes did a real good job, and we just couldn’t find one of those greasy tips or rebounds.”
Bemidji State jumped out to a lead early. Right after Rocco Grimaldi missed an open net one way, Phil Brewer chipped a puck over Zane Gothberg’s head for the quick 1-0 lead 3:23 into the game.
MacMillan tied it for a brief while at 4:10 of the second frame, but Danny Mattson’s tip of a point shot from the blue line fooled Gothberg and gave the Beavers yet another lead at 12:27.
That put North Dakota, and the second-largest crowd in Ralph Engelstad Arena history, in an urgent and frustrated mood. That certainly wasn’t the way Hakstol and North Dakota wanted to celebrate Senior Night, but Jordan Schmaltz stepped up and notched a top corner, game-tying, power-play goal with 11:23 remaining in regulation.
Despite a 14-shot effort, North Dakota couldn’t put the winning goal past Walsh in the third period. Dillon Simpson hit a pipe and Drake Caggiula had a goal waved off because of a high stick in the waning minutes of regulation.
Bemidji State had its opportunities to win it too, nearly winning it with 25 seconds left in the third on a Ben Kinne breakaway opportunity. The Beavers also swam around the North Dakota zone for nearly the first three minutes of overtime, but neither squad could put in the winning goal.
“To me, it was an exciting game,” Serratore said. “The fans got their money’s worth.”
The tie stuck North Dakota into a tie for second place with Minnesota with two games left for everybody in the jumbled WCHA standings. Mathematically, North Dakota can still win the MacNaughton outright, or it may be tasked with being on the road for the playoffs should all the chips fall the wrong way.
“It’s close,” Hakstol said. “Let’s sum it up; it’s a tight race. Let’s go play next weekend.”
The six seniors on UND’s 2012-2013 roster — Joe Gleason, Corban Knight, Danny Kristo, Andrew MacWilliam, Tate Maris, and Carter Rowney – were commemorated with a post-game video, parading around the ice in appreciation to the crowd. And while this Senior Night didn’t end with a win, Hakstol looked beyond the result in praising his team, especially his seniors.
“I thought we played hard in a lot of respects,” Hakstol said. “We executed well. The only thing that stings is not being able to get the two points, especially on Senior Night. But that’s not going to take away from any of the things that come with Senior Night and our ability to honor those guys.
“One point, great performance, and a high level of pride for our senior class.”