Special teams failings put Rensselaer in a hole against North Dakota

The box score said 6-0 in favor of North Dakota. The Fighting Sioux also finished with an almost two-to-one lead in shots on goal.

But the number that Rensselaer might regret most is eight: As in eight missed chances to cut into the North Dakota lead.

RPI went 0-for-8 on the power play in its loss to UND and managed just seven shots on goal with the man advantage. And while the game ended up a lopsided UND victory, the Fighting Sioux led just 1-0 after the first period.

The Engineers had two power play opportunities in the first period and couldn’t register an official shot on goal — although they did hit a post and have a couple of opportunities around the net blocked. And while RPI got six more power plays, the best opportunities might have come in the first period.

“I thought we, in the first, had a couple of very good scoring chances,” RPI senior forward Chase Polacek said. “We hit a post, just missed an empty net in front. They adjusted a little bit and we just didn’t get control in the zone after the first, really. They pressured us pretty well and took all our lanes away from us.”

RPI entered the game converting on 18.3 percent of its power plays (36-for-197), against a UND unit that killed 85.1 percent of penalties (160-for-188). If anything, it seemed like the Sioux got stronger on the penalty kill as the game wore on.

The Engineers didn’t do themselves any favors, either, hurrying some passes once they had set up offensively and at times, losing the puck out of the zone due to unforced errors.

“Their penalty kill in the second and third period was suffocating,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “Certainly had a good game plan from Coach Hakstol, and they executed it well.”

North Dakota excelled in its special teams play, getting two power-play goals and a short-handed goal in its four-goal second period. UND finished 2-for-7 on the man advantage and fired 15 shots on goal while on the power play.

“Both those categories played a huge part in the victory today,” North Dakota center Corban Knight said. “Coming in, we knew RPI had a very dangerous power play, they had some very skilled players up there.”

Senior center Brad Malone got his second goal of the afternoon on a rebound to put the Sioux up 2-0. A shot off the post gave Jason Gregoire an easy rebound to tuck away to make the game 4-0 at 13:39 of the period.

They might not have been the prettiest power-play goals, but there are no style points in hockey.

RPI’s power play woes seemed to hit a low when Knight chased a puck cleared into the Rensselaer zone. Knight appeared in no hurry, but when the RPI players seemed content to let him coast to the puck, Knight made a move toward the net and tucked his own rebound past RPI goaltender Allen York for a 5-0 lead.

RPI may have to blame itself for letting the game get out of hand after a competitive first period. Appert admitted some individual lapses in discipline may have cost the Engineers during the second period.

Just 2:21 into the second, a scrum around York got John Kennedy called for roughing and Malone scored his power-play goal 1:37 later.

“They slash Allen York and we get a little haywire and take an undisciplined penalty and it ends up in the back of the net,” Appert said. “Those are the ones that hurt you.”

In the end, UND executed when it had the chances, while RPI might be stuck wondering how the game might have gone had the Engineers done the same.

Nelson injured

Early in the first period, North Dakota center Brock Nelson was caught with his head down and hit by Rensselaer’s Josh Rabbani. Nelson dropped to the ice and play was stopped while the trainer came out to check on him.

Nelson stayed laying on the ice for a few minutes before sitting up slowly and eventually being helped off the ice. He still seemed dazed and did not return to the game.

UND coach Dave Hakstol wouldn’t offer any details on the injury.

“I won’t comment on any injuries at this point in time,” he said. “We’ll leave that side of things to our medical staff.”