BEMIDJI, Minn. – Freshman Jesse Wilkins was making plenty of headlines for his recent tear in net for Bemidji State. Friday night, Andrew Walsh raised the bar.
No. 20 North Dakota (11-7-3) threw everything it had at Walsh and the Beavers (7-11-7), but the junior goaltender put together a performance to remember, stopping 42 shots and forcing a 1-1 tie in front of 4,512 at Sanford Center Friday night.
Wilkins had started six of the last eight games for Bemidji State, but an injury forced Tom Serratore to put in Walsh, who hasn’t won a decision since Nov. 23 and who was 5-9-3 heading into Friday night’s matchup with the streaking UND squad. But there’s no second-guessing that decision now.
“He’s experienced,” Serratore said. “You know what? When you’re called upon, you got to be ready to play. And he played well. I wasn’t concerned at all.”
Walsh stopped 16 in the first, seven in the second, 14 in the third and five in the overtime to send UND home with a frustrating tie that snaps a seven-game winning streak — despite one of its most consistent offensive attacks all season.
“I thought we had good chances, got 43 pucks on net but couldn’t find one to put home,” said UND defenseman Jordan Schmaltz, who hit a pipe late in the third. “It’s a result-driven sport. Sometimes you have to find a way to put one in. We didn’t tonight, but hopefully we can tomorrow.”
North Dakota put together a consistent attack through the game’s first 20 minutes, pelting Walsh with 16 shots.
“We allowed them to play a 200-foot game in that first period and that’s the one thing you don’t want them to do,” said Serratore. “You have to play a half-court game with them. You have to manage the puck and you have to possess the puck down low. They obviously had territorial possession.”
Walsh held serve in the first, but UND’s hard work paid off 6:42 into the second when Drake Caggiula found Rocco Grimaldi alone in front of Walsh for a one-time goal.
The dam didn’t break though, and after Bemidji State reeled in some momentum of its own, Cory Ward blasted one over the shoulder of Zane Gothberg (14 saves) at 18:15 to tie it.
“It just turned into one of those games — you can see it, you can feel it on the bench, you can sense it — with the crowd, it just turned into one of those entertaining games for everybody,” said Serratore.
UND tilted the ice back its way in the third period, but it couldn’t capitalize on anything, despite 14 more shots and two power plays. Walsh held on when his defense could not, stopping multiple odd man rushes in the third period to keep the game tied.
“Guys made it easy,” Walsh said. “I saw pucks. UND was buzzing a bit, but we kept it to the outside.”
Despite outshooting the Beavers 5-1 in the extra frame, North Dakota never plugged in a winner. In fact, Radoslav Illo’s crossbar shot in the waning seconds was the closest either team got to a tiebreaker.
“We talked this week that it’s going to be an absolute war out there,” Walsh said. “Last year, we had an overtime game and one-goal game with those guys. We knew it was going to be a battle in every aspect.”
Serratore said after the game that Walsh will start the Saturday night rematch, which takes place in Grand Forks.
“I’ve been practicing since back from Christmas that if I hear my name, I’m ready to go,” said Walsh. “Wilkins is playing unreal, too. Either of us going like this, we can have a lot of success. Practice every day like you’re going in net. We have a good relationship going right now.”