Sometimes North Dakota’s Jordan Kawaguchi makes things look too easy.
Tied at 3 at the start of overtime, Kawaguchi took the opening faceoff from center ice, skated around a player or two, made a little move and then fired a shot into the top corner of the net to give fourth-ranked North Dakota a 4-3 victory over No. 9 St. Cloud State in an instant thriller in the NCHC pod.
— UND Insider (@UNDinsider) December 17, 2020
It is the second time Kawaguchi has been the overtime hero since the NCHC pod began 15 days ago, the first coming against Denver, also a 4-3 win.
“From day one when he came on campus here, he’s an impact player for us,” said coach Brad Berry of Kawaguchi. “He loves when the puck’s on his tape in those situations. You love to see him have individual success which gives us some teams success. But he’s an unbelievable leader.”
Despite needing the extra session, it was a game the Fighting Hawks might have felt could’ve been won in regulation given they held a 3-1 lead with less than a minute remaining in the middle period.
But Nick Perbix’s goal with 58 seconds remaining in the second and Veeti Miettinen’s tally at 4:43 pulled the Huskies even.
Forty-five seconds after the equalizer, the Huskies had their best chance to take the lead. North Dakota’s Josh Rieger was whistled for a major penalty giving St. Cloud the extended power play with the hopes of grabbing their first lead. Not scoring, says coach Brett Larson, was a major disappointment.
“That was the turning point of the game,” Larson said. “We didn’t get it done on the power play. We gave ourselves the opportunity there and weren’t able to capitalize.
“We got a few good opportunities, but you’ve got to come through.”
North Dakota finished the game 1-for-4 with the man advantage. St. Cloud was 0-for-2.
The Fighting Hawks opened the scoring at 2:15 of the first on a goal by Mark Senden. St. Cloud’s Easton Brodzinski evened the game at 16:08.
The second period was trending all North Dakota as Shane Pinto scored on the power play at 7:54 and Collin Adams struck again at 17:34.
Control had moved to the Fighting Hawks but St. Cloud State had plenty to fight back.
Until, of course, Jordan Kawaguchi did what he does best and gave North Dakota its second-straight win.
“Our emotions are pretty high,” said Berry when asked how his team has handled the emotions of a long bubble, particularly missing players to both World Juniors and injury. “We’re a pretty positive group here. We know how tight the NCHC is. Anybody can beat anybody.
“We’re getting a lot of growth from our group. When these guys come back, we’ll be a stronger group for it.
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