Western Michigan skates past UND

Freshman North Dakota goaltender Adam Scheel watches as a Western Michigan shot hits the back of the net in the second period of Saturday's hockey game at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
Freshman North Dakota goaltender Adam Scheel watches as a Western Michigan shot hits the back of the net in the second period of Saturday's hockey game at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks HeraldNick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS - Colton Poolman took a deep breath before trying to come up with words for UND’s 6-2 home loss to Western Michigan on Saturday night.

It was the team’s worst loss in Ralph Engelstad Arena in two years.

If not for Rhett Gardner’s power-play tip with 10.2 seconds left, it would have been the program’s worst home loss in more than a decade.

The captain paused and gave a frank assessment about a lopsided home loss that sent many of the 11,262 fans for the exits by the midway point of the third period.

“I think we lost our cool,” Poolman said. “There’s no resolve. There’s no urgency. We turned on each other for a little bit. It’s hard to say but that’s the truth. We just didn’t play well.

“They played a lot better game. We just started trying to do things by ourselves. Got a little selfish. Got a little individualistic. Some guys tried to do too much. Some guys weren’t going enough. That’s what happens. That’s pretty embarrassing. I’m pretty embarrassed to be sitting here after that kind of game and that kind of series. That’s not Sioux hockey. That’s not what we do as a family, but we call a spade a spade when we put performances like that. We’re embarrassed. That’s not good enough for the caliber of program we should be.”

UND, which received power-play goals from Jasper Weatherby (first-career) and Gardner, dropped to 5-5-1. It was the first opponent sweep in The Ralph since Minnesota Duluth won a pair in January 2017.

Western Michigan (6-6), meanwhile, had big games from its veterans. Senior Colt Conrad had a five-point game (one goal, four assists). It was the first five-point game against UND since Denver’s Danton Heinen did it in 2016.

Forward Josh Passolt had two goals, defenseman Corey Schueneman had a goal and two assists and star forward Wade Allison had a goal and an assist in his second game of the season.

UND had been one of the country’s best defensive and possession teams entering the series finale. UND hadn’t allowed more than 25 shots on goal in a game this season and had only allowed more than three goals once in a game.

But that strong defensive play disappeared Saturday night.

Western Michigan constantly had open looks and buried them with high-end shots or plays.

“We went a little bit all-or-nothing,” Poolman said. “When we started getting frustrated, we tried to do it ourselves, jumping up on outs, not tracking back, not playing team defense. That’s not one guy. It’s everyone. It’s not one or two guys to blame. There was selfishness among all of us, I think, whether it was trying to do too much, not doing enough, not doing your job. That’s being selfish to your teammates. That’s something we have to pull out the root right now.”

UND’s defensive play bothered coach Brad Berry.

“Tip your hat, that’s a good team over there,” Berry said. “But from our standpoint, we didn’t play as a team. We had guys doing things that we normally don’t do. Over the course of our first 10 games, our play away from the puck has been impeccable, giving up less than probably 10 scoring chances per game.

“Tonight, it seemed everyone was on a different page as far as D-men stepping up and out of the neutral zone, forwards not coming back through the neutral zone. We weren’t crisp in our team play and that resulted in what you saw.”

Offensively, UND wasn’t able to muster a single five-on-five goal against a Western Michigan team that entered the weekend ranking 56th of 60 college hockey teams in goals allowed.

UND hosts Alaska Anchorage next weekend before taking on No. 1 Minnesota Duluth and No. 7 Denver to close the first half of the season.

What does UND need to do?

“Be honest with each other,” Poolman said. “Start practicing harder. We have to start getting on each other, holding each other accountable. It’s tough when things happen like this to hold each other accountable and tell guys where they messed up, where you messed up. You have to be honest with yourself if you’re going to be honest with other people. That’s where we have to start. We’ve got to start building again, one brick at a time, to get back to where we need to be.”

Gardner said: “I think we’ve just got to get back to work Monday. How we practice throughout the week carries into weekends. I think we’ve got to realize that’s unacceptable and that’s embarrassing. You’ve got to forget about it and move on, but you’ve also got to learn from it.”