GRAND FORKS, N.D. – The last time Miami lost by seven goals was in 1997.
After watching two of its attempts in the net waved off in the first period, North Dakota (16-9-3, 11-7-0 NCHC) rallied back to capture a 9-2 victory and series sweep over the RedHawks (10-15-3, 4-13-1 NCHC) in front of 11,665 on Saturday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“Didn’t seem to matter,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “We were ready to play and we had a great start. A couple disallowed goals through the first period, but it really didn’t seem to matter what had happened in the last shift —- we were ready to play the next shift and I thought that was the real key to that period.”
Just 47 seconds into the first frame, Mark MacMillan rushed toward the net and fired the puck past Ryan McKay (13 saves), but the goaltender’s helmet came off before the goal could be signaled, allowing Jordan Schmaltz to respond minutes later to the pass he caught up front with North Dakota’s first point at 3:35.
In a similar story to UND’s first goal last night, McKay went behind the net early in the first to get the puck and passed it to a Miami skater who tried to clear it, but Colten St. Clair took advantage of the RedHawks’ mistake and put the puck into the net to notch his first goal since North Dakota played Miami on Oct. 19.
MacMillan tried once again to slide the puck in the net in the first, but was again denied, as it didn’t cross the line.
“We were playing so well, we didn’t think it would take away our momentum,” UND defenseman Nick Mattson said.
With goals from Rocco Grimaldi and Keaton Thompson to clinch a 4-0 lead and the most goals scored in a period by North Dakota this season, McKay’s spot between the pipes was taken over by Ryan Williams (nine saves).
For Miami, the challenge became pushing back against a team that build a solid lead.
“There were a lot of things that didn’t go our way tonight,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “They deserved to win from the moment the puck dropped and they didn’t let off the gas.”
UND wasn’t able to solve Williams as the clocked ticked down in the first, but Sean Kuraly put the pieces together for the RedHawks as he beat UND’s defense and put it underneath Gothberg (27 saves) and into the back of the net to erase the deficit on the scoreboard.
Yet the goal proved no setback for North Dakota.
“I thought we had great jump from the start all the way through the first period,” Grimaldi said. “Every line was building momentum every time they were on the ice. Things were going our way. It was just one of those games.”
Grimaldi continued UND’s momentum into the second period as he brought the puck behind the net and passed it up front to Drake Caggiula, who notched goal No. 5 for North Dakota.
Simpson secured a shot in a scramble in front of the net to send in another at 2:28.
With a pair of goals from UND’s Nick Mattson to send North Dakota up 8-1, Miami responded with a double goalie change as McKay skated back to the net.
“I thought it was the right way to play that period,” Hakstol said. “We had short shifts. We didn’t get fancy with any pucks. We stayed disciplined and we were able to build the lead.”
A nearly quiet third period was interrupted by a goal from Riley Barber at 17:19 to add a second goal to an 8-2 margin that Miami couldn’t close.
Instead, Brendan O’Donnell snapped one from the point on the power play to claim the 9-2 win for North Dakota.
“They played great tonight,” Blasi said. “That was it.”
Despite much less action, North Dakota’s final 20 minutes provided a critical setup for the remainder of the game.
“We haven’t had many third periods when we’ve been able to go out and just be able to play and have fun, and still play the game the right way,” Hakstol said. “I thought our start was critical to put us in that position.”
However, UND’s position for the remainder of the season remains one to be focused on.
“Obviously it’s nice when you can get eight or nine [goals],” Hakstol said. “That doesn’t happen too often, we know that … The score doesn’t matter. It’s three critical points for us. Now we have to move on from this and get ready to go on the road. Four of our remaining six are on the road.”