FARGO, N.D. — After a slow start in the first six minutes against upset-minded American International, North Dakota scored four times inside an eight-minute span to cruise to a 4-0 lead and an eventual 5-1 win from Scheels Arena.
Jasper Weatherby and Collin Adams each scored twice to pace the offense while Adam Scheel made 24 saves to send the Fighting Hawks into the Midwest regional final against Minnesota Duluth on Saturday.
AIC took an early advantage in play thwarting the Fighting Hawks in the neutral zone while creating some early chances that Scheel handled easily. At 6:52, AIC’s Parker Revering took a minor penalty for interference and UND went to work on the power play. Shane Pinto had two excellent chances stopped by goaltender Stefano Durante, but the offensive momentum carried over for Weatherby’s first goal of the night on a rebound off the back boards at the far post just six seconds after the penalty expired.
Less than three minutes later, Weatherby stripped a pirouetting and off-balance Nico Somerville at the AIC blueline and fired a wrist shot past Durante on the blocker side for a 2-0 lead.
After Louis Jamernik failed to knock a bouncing puck into the open net behind Durante off a shot from Brendan Budy at 12:43, Grant Mismash took advantage of a great screen from Pinto in front of Durante and rifled the puck past the AIC goaltender for a 3-0 lead.
The first period siege was complete when Collin Adams drove the net and took a pass from Riese Gaber before firing the puck past Durante high on the blocker side for the 4-0 lead after the first period of play.
“They move the puck so well as a team,” said AIC captain Brennan Kapcheck. “They got some momentum going and the crowd was going and that affected us in the first period.”
The second period saw Jake Kucharski relieve Durante in goal for AIC and he was tested early. The period saw three power plays as a result of UND penalties but Scheel and the penalty kill unit kept AIC off the board to maintain their 4-0 lead after two periods of play.
North Dakota coach Brad Berry noted after the second period that he wasn’t pleased with the number of penalties and was looking for his team to finish out the game strong.
“We have to look at the final period in five-minute increments,” said Berry. “We need to take each five minutes and build momentum and dominate the third period to close it out”
The third period saw AIC with a great opportunity to get on the board but a scramble in the crease around a fallen Scheel saw the puck dribble away to the right and cleared by North Dakota.
The Fighting Hawks did as their coach outlined between periods as they built momentum as the period progressed including some great offensive zone time and quality chances that Kucharski managed to keep out of the net.
Late in the period, a UND penalty on defenseman Tyler Kleven led to a power-play goal from Tobias Fladeby, who fired the puck from the slot from a heavily screened Scheel to get the Yellow Jackets on the board at 17:47 of the third period
Just 28 seconds later the margin was restored to four as Adams cashed in from the top of the crease off a perfect goal-line feed from Jordan Kawaguchi for the 5-1 final score.
“We did a pretty good job managing the 60 minutes,” said Berry. “I liked our energy. I liked our short pass support. I liked that all four lines and all six defensemen were going. We were fortunate enough to get a few goals in the first period. I thought we played the game we wanted in the first period through our identity.”
“Tonight, we are going to enjoy the night and rest up and relax and have all our energy saved up for tomorrow. We are look forward to the opportunity to play tomorrow and playing our game.”