GRAND FORKS, N.D. — In a top-10 matchup featuring No. 5 North Dakota and No. 9 St. Cloud State, it was the underdog that came out on top.
Despite a 1-0 deficit throughout two periods, St. Cloud State (4-0-1, 1-0-0-0 NCHC) rallied with three goals in the third period to claim a 3-2 victory over North Dakota (2-2-1, 1-2-0-0 NCHC) Friday evening in front of 11,750 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“I thought it was a great first game of the year,” SCSU coach Bob Motzko said. “To teach our young guys, and a good reminder to our older kids, how hard you have to battle. Every inch of the ice was being fought for and you just can’t let up. If you do, you’re in trouble and both teams fought extremely hard tonight.”
North Dakota struck first as Drake Caggiula maneuvered the puck between the legs of Nic Dowd before shooting it in the top of the net past Ryan Faragher (29 saves) at 3:10 of the first period.
The score remained 1-0 throughout the period.
“In the first 10 minutes, we got knocked around pretty good,” Motzko said. “Obviously, not a good goal on our part, [but] then we hunkered down. I thought that was the critical thing.”
A nearly even 20-18 shots on net in favor of North Dakota during the second period didn’t yield any goals for either team, just a loud clank of the pipes for St. Cloud.
SCSU quickly rallied its chances in the third as Kevin Gravel received a pass from Jimmy Murray at the top of the slot and snapped it in the corner of the net past Zane Gothberg (27 saves) at 2:36 of the third to tie the score, 1-1.
“We got going there for the first seven or eight minutes of the third period,” Motzko said. “They had their barrage on us and we kind of had ours at the starts or the third. And then it was a lot of good hard, hard hockey.”
Minutes later, Kalle Kossila found Ben Storm’s rebound in front of the net to award SCSU the 2-1 lead.
St. Cloud’s energy couldn’t be harnessed by North Dakota as the Huskies scored again at 12:36 when Andrew Proncho’s point shot went in past Gothberg.
Not seeing its score go up since the first period, North Dakota struggled to fight through St. Cloud’s defense.
“They didn’t really do a whole lot different than they did the first couple periods,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “We just didn’t sort things very well coming into our own zone. That freed up a couple opportunities.”
But North Dakota wasn’t through fighting as Troy Stetcher’s shot was deflected by Faragher and picked up by Mark MacMillan, who narrowed the margin to 3-2 with minutes left in the final frame.
With 30 shots on net — just under North Dakota’s 31 — in a back-and-forth game, St. Cloud’s strategy was to keep putting pucks in the net.
“All we were preaching was we had to get them over and get some traffic,” Motzko said. “It was only fitting they score. Let’s make it a game down to the wire.”
As the final buzzer sounded, St. Cloud’s first official NCHC game was written into history books as a victory.
“I thought it was a good hockey game — back and forth, a few different momentum swings,” Hakstol said. “I just thought we were back on our heals for five minutes. Credit to them for a little push.”