GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It was a game of momentum shifts. One period belonged to North Dakota followed by one for Niagara.
Then the tides turned back to North Dakota.
2013 NCAA West Regional
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Trailing 1-0 entering the third period, North Dakota scored twice in the first three minutes to put things in its favor.
In between the second and third period, North Dakota’s locker room rose to the occasion with a passionate message between the teammates.
“The message between periods was to just leave everything out there. Everyone went out there and left everything on the ice,” UND senior Danny Kristo said. “I think when our team does that, we have success.”
The message resonated with the players as the third period was all North Dakota. It started with an even-strength goal from Andrew MacWilliam. He had a wide-open net and took the shot.
“I think the last few minutes of the second period our guys were having good shifts, which turned into a couple of good shifts where we were able to generate some pressure,” North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. “MacWilliam’s goal really energized our team.”
Less than a minute later, and only 2:53 into the third period, Kristo scored his 26th goal of the season. Derek Forbort and Rocco Grimaldi set up Kristo’s wrap-around tally.
The first period was nearly all North Dakota, too; it outshot Niagara 11-6. UND (22-12-7) had the most chances and forced Niagara’s junior goaltender, Carsen Chubak, to be the first-period hero for the Purple Eagles (23-10-5) and keep them in the game.
“They played exactly the way we thought they would,” Hakstol said. “They are a hard hockey team; they played that way for 60 minutes.”
The second period momentum shift went in favor of Niagara. The Purple Eagles outshot North Dakota 16-12 and had three power-play opportunities.
“They had a real good push in the second period,” Hakstol said. “I thought that we deterred a bit there.”
At the 6:27 mark of the second period Niagara capitalized on its energy with a goal from Jason Beattie, his third of the season.
But the Purple Eagles weren’t able to take further advantage of their second-period momentum, and it cost them.
“We need to make it 2-0, 3-0 on some of the Grade-A [chances] we had,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “If we make it 2-0 even, I think the third period’s different. But we didn’t. We kept a really good team — a really good offensive team — in the game.”
North Dakota will face Yale on Saturday, and the two teams have some NCAA tournament history.
In 2010, when the current seniors were freshmen, Yale beat North Dakota 3-2. Yale lost to Boston College in the Northeast Regional championship game that year.
“Obviously, losing to Yale was an early lesson for us as freshmen,” North Dakota’s Andrew MacWilliam said. “And with that we can instill lessons to our young guys this year.”
Hakstol said he’s confident in his team.
“We’ve put all our energy and focus this week in coming here for our team to play well,” he said. “I know they pressure pucks, they make plays with speed.”