GRAND FORKS, N.D. — With a level of compete that Colorado College coach Scott Owens deemed the highest it’s had in months, the Tigers gave up a 2-2 tie in the third on a lucky bounce.
Rocco Grimaldi’s shot in the third period was enough to claim the sweep for North Dakota (11-7-2, 7-5-0 NCHC) over the Tigers (2-15-3, 2-7-3 NCHC) in a 3-2 battle Saturday evening in front of 11,147 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“That was a nice bounce,” Grimaldi said. “It happen to just hit me in the chest and kind of was in my feet and I didn’t know where it was. I finally found it and thankfully the goalie had no idea where it was. I just turned and shot and it was an empty net, so it was a big goal for us —- but obviously a lucky one.”
As North Dakota searched for a victory in a game it controlled from the start, Grimaldi’s game-winning goal didn’t come until 8:20 of the third after a Gustav Olofsson turnover.
“I think it’s the first bounce that we got maybe all weekend after putting a lot of rubber to the net and having a lot of opportunities, and I think for Rocco in particular,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “Nothing would go in, so it’s maybe fitting it’s a game-winning goal.”
Mark MacMillan put UND on the board first on a hard drive toward the net before moving to the backside and scoring on the far side past Josh Thorimbert (22 saves) at 11:09 of the first frame.
The second period remained scoreless until Colorado College secured a boost before heading to the locker room when Alexander Krushelnyski picked up Charlie Taft’s rebound and dished it in the top shelf of the net on a backhander.
However, it was Jaccob Slavin’s backdoor snipe in the net past Zane Gothberg (21 saves) to begin the final frame with a 2-1 advantage that left the Tigers with a chance to carry the momentum.
“I thought it was a pretty gutsy effort for our guys to score on the last minute on the road,” Owens said. “I thought it was pretty gutsy to get out when we all knew they were going to come out hard in the third, and to get on top of them.”
The advantage lasted five minutes before Keaton Thompson fired a point shot for a goal, and Grimaldi finished the job with his unassisted goal at 8:20 of the third.
“They got us pinned in a couple times and ended up getting a goal,” Owens said. “It’s been the case a lot for us this year. We give up goals in spurts. Gave up a couple goals there, couple mistakes, young people mistakes, and they capitalized on it. … I wouldn’t use the word letdown on anything other than the fact that we feel let down that we didn’t come out with the points tonight.”
In a season with uncommon victories, the Tigers faded to a single win in the past 19 games.
“It’s been four months of this,” Owens said. “It’s frustrating, but there’s pieces tonight that are encouraging.”
For North Dakota, there wasn’t any frustration, despite its three goals in 66 shot attempts.
“I’m pretty sure both nights, they probably blocked 20-plus shots,” Hakstol said. “We had a lot of shot attempts, we did a good job of controlling pucks and cycling pucks. There was no frustration. I only saw one time when we really turned down a shooting opportunity and we maybe should have just pounded it to the net.”
Now riding a seven-game winning streak, UND’s former struggle has turned into finding and controlling the right bounces.
“We’re finding good ways to win games,” Hakstol said. “We’re playing games and we’re doing enough good things every night that we’re deserving to win. Usually if you’re going to consistently win one- or two-goal hockey games, you have to play good hockey every night. … We did enough other good things through 60 minutes that gave us a chance.”