GRAND FORKS, N.D. – No. 20 North Dakota drove through a blizzard to get to Bemidji Thursday, couldn’t solve Bemidji State’s goaltender in a 1-1 tie Friday night, then had to drive through a second winter storm to get home after.
Needless to say, the sledding wasn’t as tough Saturday night.
UND (12-7-3) solved Beavers goaltender Andrew Walsh (29 saves) early and got production from all over its lineup in a 4-2 victory over Bemidji State (7-12-7) in front of 11,908 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The Beavers stuck around, but couldn’t keep up with a relentless UND attack that nearly doubled up BSU in shots for the second straight night.
“It obviously started off tough,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. “It was kind of like yesterday’s game in the first period. We couldn’t get into the rhythm. They had a lot of offensive zone play.”
“We got a couple that found a hole early,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “We got a lot of pucks to the net again; this time, we had something to show for it.”
Outside of Michael Parks, who scored his sixth of the year, the other three scorers for North Dakota had combined for just five goals entering Saturday night. Connor Gaarder, Derek Rodwell and Andrew Panzarella (who notched the first of his college career) pitched in with goals to guide the UND victory.
The box score was surprising to many, but not to Hakstol.
“We’ve got some guys that obviously score a little more than others,” Hakstol said. “But any time we’ve had a good night, we’ve had guys chipping in from different areas. That’s not something that’s off the charts. That’s becoming the calling card for this team.”
For the line consisting of Rodwell, Gaarder and Stephane Pattyn, the uptick in offensive production has been the result of newfound chemistry and confidence. The now nine-game unbeaten streak for North Dakota dates back to Nov. 30 vs. St. Lawrence, the game this line debuted and set the tone the rest of the team has followed.
“I definitely think that we’re a team that was struggling for an identity early on in the season,” Panzarella said. “Somebody asked me last night what kind of team we are, and we’re not a team that’s just going to go out and outskill somebody. We got to be ready every single game and be hard to play against. These last nine games we’ve been doing that. It’s definitely a confidence boost to keep going like this.”
Rodwell’s goal was his fourth of the season and third of the unbeaten streak.
“I think it’s just starting from base line things,” said Rodwell. “We’re kind of going out there and doing the same thing every day. Going hard to the net and working and it’s starting to go in for us.”
All things considered, Bemidji State bent but didn’t break through two periods.
Gaarder broke open the scoring at 6:27, followed just 55 seconds later by a similar centering pass tip-in by Panzarella. The pair of gritty goals gave UND a solid footing that it never completely lost.
However, Cory Ward caught a puck at center ice, then walked in and beat Zane Gothberg (15 saves) top corner for his 14th of the year and second of the weekend.
UND built the lead further thanks to Rodwell’s shallow angle wrist shot at 1:13 and Parks’ wrap-around at 6:58 of the second.
Bemidji State responded once again at 13:09, though. Markus Gerbrandt poked in a loose puck that Gothberg lost track of after a rebound to keep the Beavers within striking distance.
But the Beavers got no closer. North Dakota’s depth kept the game under wraps, even through two key power plays down the stretch — one immediately following Gerbrandt’s power-play goal and another with under five minutes to play.
“We just had a hard time up ice,” Serratore said. “They kind of bottled us into the zone there with their penalty killer. We just had a hard time getting up ice.”
The well-documented second half surge is evident once again in Grand Forks, and as UND heads back into conference play, there’s optimism that the Kelly Green and White could find themselves surging up the National Collegiate Hockey Conference rankings too.
“We’ve had some great second-half teams here, and that gives us confidence that we’ve been able to do that in the past and we can going forward,” said Panzarella.