GRAND FORKS, N.D. – There is nothing haunting about Ralph Engelstad Arena to the No. 9 St. Cloud State Huskies anymore.
The Huskies’ suddenly-strong defense dominated a misfiring No. 5 North Dakota (2-3-1, 1-3 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) squad, and key second period goals created by senior Nic Dowd captured a 3-1 victory Saturday night and a series sweep in front of 11,882. St. Cloud State became the first team to sweep UND at the Ralph since Jan. 29-30, 2010 (Denver).
The chance to do that was in the back of the minds of everybody in the Huskies (5-0-1, 2-0 NCHC) locker room. “Coach let us know (that statistic) this morning,” Ryan Faragher said.
Faragher turned aside 16 shots, improving his record in Grand Forks to 4-1-1 with a stunning 1.50 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage, but it was a remarkably light workload for Faragher thanks to consistent play by the guys in front of him.
“They blocked shots and the way we are breaking out of our zone is really efficient,” Faragher said. “We’re getting pucks out right away, which limits their chances. It’s something that coaches have been going on for a while now, and it’s paying off.”
For the second night in a row, UND staked itself to a 1-0, lead only to see the momentum stamped out. Troy Stecher notched his first career goal at 18:40 of the first period on a power play to put UND out in front heading into the first intermission.
But lightning struck twice for the Huskies seven minutes into the second, allowing the Huskies to clamp down on the series sweep. Tim Daly picked up loose change for the tying goal at 6:59, then Jimmy Murray’s centering feed to Dowd caught the UND defense off guard 12 seconds later.
“The guys were hungry from the get-go tonight,” said Faragher. “We knew they were going to come out early and we had to weather a storm. They ended up getting a pretty crappy one in the first. We just hunkered down and stuck to what we did yesterday and eventually the goals came.”
The rest of the way, there were no more treats for North Dakota. The Huskies held together, blocking 13 shots and allowing just 10 to reach Faragher for the final 33 minutes. Few of those were second chances either.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Stecher. “You’ve got to produce more, and last night, there’s no excuse for that. Tonight, we have opportunities there to make the game closer and we don’t do that, so we’ve got work to do.”
Breaking the puck out “limits their chances,” Faragher said. “It’s something that coaches have been going on for a while now, and it’s paying off.”
The Huskies cruised down the stretch, rolling several potent lines to keep North Dakota from sustaining any pressure the rest of the way.
Kalle Kossila made a great move in front of Gothberg (26 saves) to cap the scoring at 9:35 of the third.
St Cloud State moves on as one of only two remaining unbeaten teams in the country, owing to a veteran team that coach Bob Motzko called “resilient.”
“We’ve been pretty consistent,” Motzko said. “We’ve just had a few moments. That’s what I’ve been most pleased with the start of our season, a lot of consistency. Four road games and guys have really stayed strong in this stretch right now. Good little run for us, that’s all it is.”