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Brendan Budy comes through with winner as UND grabs series split

Playing without star defenseman Jake Sanderson for the second night in a row, the Fighting Hawks beat Minnesota Duluth 2-1

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UND's Brendan Budy pokes the puck past Bulldogs goaltender Ryan Fanti (39) for a third period goal to boost the Fighting Hawks to a 2-1 lead at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday, November 20, 2021. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

It hasn't been an easy fall for Brendan Budy.

The UND junior forward sustained an injury this summer and started fall practices standing on the bench with a boot on his foot, watching his teammates prepare for the season.

By the time he fully healed, most spots in the lineup were already accounted for, and the Langley, B.C., product had a tough time consistently cracking it.

But with four players out of the lineup this weekend — three with a non-COVID illness they contracted late in the week — UND needed Budy, and he came through in a big way Saturday night.

Budy buried a centering pass from Ashton Calder at 5:05 of the third period to break a 1-1 deadlock and lift UND to a 2-1 victory over Minnesota Duluth in front of 11,858 fans in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

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"That goal was a pretty big relief," Budy said. "Obviously, coming in, I got a little dinged up in the summer and it took a while to come back. Being out for so long, it's kind of hard. I've been chipping away at it, trying to get my confidence back and trying to get back to my old self and I think that kind of helped a lot. Obviously, it was a great pass from Calds."

The victory gave UND a series split and moved the No. 6 Fighting Hawks to 9-4 overall and 5-1 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, where they sit alone in first.

UND improved to 34-4 in its last 38 home games and prevented the No. 4 Bulldogs (8-3-1, 3-2-1) from becoming the first opponent to sweep in Ralph Engelstad Arena since November 2018.

For the second-straight night, UND was forced to play without star defenseman Jake Sanderson, who came down with an illness that also kept second-line winger Matteo Costantini and Grand Forks native Dane Montgomery out of the lineup.

On Friday, UND compounded its issues by getting into penalty trouble, and it lost 4-1.

On Saturday, the Fighting Hawks took only two minor penalties all game, killed them off and used a 22-save performance by goalie Zach Driscoll to rebound for a win.

"We were a little too worried about the refs, a little too worried about who was in our lineup the first night," said Ethan Frisch, who scored UND's first goal of the game. "The second night, it was like, 'You know what? Throw that out the window. Let's worry about who we've got in this room.' And the boys came to battle today."

That was true for Budy, who scored his fifth goal at UND and first since the NCHC quarterfinals last season.

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Right before the winning play, UND iced the puck three times in 40 seconds, getting stuck with an unusual line on the ice. But Connor Ford won a faceoff and UND carried it the other way and scored on a rush. Calder dipped past a Bulldog defenseman at the bottom of the right circle and made a diving centering feed to Budy, who tapped it five-hole on goalie Ryan Fanti (21 saves).

"I'm so happy for Brendan," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Things haven't been coming easy for him."

Driscoll added: "That guy. . . he's come to work with the injury there earlier in the year, keeping his attitude positive and grinding one out. That was obviously a huge goal for us. Everyone in the rooms is really happy for Budes there, and it came at a great time."

UND also got several other key contributions.

Defenseman Cooper Moore played significant minutes with Sanderson out of the lineup and had his best weekend of the season.

"Cooper Moore. . . talk about a guy who really stepped up," Frisch said. "Obviously, missing Sanderson and some other guys, we had to ask some other guys to step up. Both nights, even when we weren't playing well yesterday, he was a guy we could count on. He was playing really well, really reliable back there. I'm super proud of the way he played."

Driscoll made several key saves, including a pad stop on Minnesota Duluth's goal-scorer, Blake Biondi, who had a point-blank chance on a third-period power play. The Bulldogs moved the puck from the circle to below the goal line to Biondi in the slot for that chance.

"That was a play we definitely watched on our penalty kill video there, because they ran that a few times Friday night," Driscoll said. "When that guy went below the goal line, you need to get that shoulder check there to make sure you know where that guy is, and I got a pad on it."

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Berry also admitted forward Riese Gaber, the team's most dynamic forward threat, was under the weather this weekend. He still played both games.

"I'm just so proud of him," Berry said. "He didn't want to take a night off. It was out of his mouth: 'I don't know how much I've got, but I'm going to give it.' I thought he did a heck of a job for how he felt."

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