OXFORD, Ohio — The first-ever league game for the newly-formed NCHC was a matchup of the league’s preseason favorites that saw No. 6 North Dakota emerge victorious against top-ranked Miami by a 4-2 margin.
Each of UND’s top-line forwards tallied a goal and an assist, while sophomore goaltender Zane Gothberg made 35 saves to earn the victory.
North Dakota built up a two-goal lead in the opening period with junior Michael Parks netting the first goal at 7:55. He was ready in front of the net to clean up a rebound on a shot by classmate Mark MacMillan, who then himself lit the lamp at 18:03, slapping in a rebound after the initial shot sailed high over the net and bounced off the glass and right back over the cage to his stick.
MacMillan said that the offensive leadership of the upperclassmen helped to set the tone for a lineup full of freshmen and sophomores.
“We’ve got a good group of veterans, they’re the leaders on this team,” he said. “Obviously, the first period was probably the best period of the game for us. I think a good group of leaders led the way and all the young guys looked fine out there.”
The UND lead would be pushed to 3-0 just 14 seconds into the second period. The final junior on the top line, Brendan O’Donnell, took advantage of a puck misplayed behind the net by Miami sophomore goaltender Jay Williams for an easy put-in.
North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol liked seeing all the scoring by his juniors on the top line, crediting them for staying with plays to completion.
“That was a positive for them to come out, you know, and make some plays offensively,” Hakstol said. “More importantly, there was a couple good bounces there. We played good two-way hockey. That’s the most important thing from my perspective.”
Miami rallied to cut the deficit to one with goals at 8:25 and 18:18. The RedHawks’ offense seemed to gradually gain momentum, outshooting North Dakota 15-8 in the period. Sophomore Sean Kuraly was first to score for Miami and freshman Anthony Louis added the second after he carried the puck behind the net and slipped it through Gothberg.
The RedHawks kept the pressure on in the final period and outshot UND by a final margin of 37-25. However, they never found the back of the net again. UND junior defenseman Nick Mattson netted the only score of the period at 12:45 on a power play to put the game out of reach.
Miami coach Enrico Blasi said while he liked his team’s initial effort, it only took a few minutes before “it was North Dakota’s game.”
“Their power play came up big at the right time,” Blasi said. “Their penalty kill came up big at the right time. Their goaltender had a few good saves anyway. We had too many miscues and you can’t do that against a good team.”