Top-ranked UND wins in men's hockey
GRAND FORKS - For the first time in a month, the No. 1 ranking isn't going anywhere. It was an adventure at times, but the University of North Dakota men's hockey team managed to avoid the top-ranked jinx that befell the previous three teams atop...
GRAND FORKS – For the first time in a month, the No. 1 ranking isn’t going anywhere.
It was an adventure at times, but the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team managed to avoid the top-ranked jinx that befell the previous three teams atop the national polls by sweeping Lake Superior State in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
One night after rallying from down three goals for a wild victory, UND managed to finish the two-game sweep with a straight-forward 3-1 victory over the Lakers in front of 11,617 fans.
“It was a grind right from the drop of the puck,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s probably the best way I can describe it. I thought it was a grind for 60 minutes. I thought we had a lot of guys who stepped up and did a good job in their roles.”
Brendan O’Donnell, Luke Johnson and Jordan Schmaltz scored the goals, but Hakstol singled out players like Connor Gaarder, Trevor Olson and Austin Poganski – lower-line players – for setting the tone and doing the little things right in extending UND’s unbeaten streak to five games.
This sweep was a key one.
A loss to the 3-15 Lakers could have significantly damaged UND’s Pairwise Ranking later in the season, but instead, UND is staying ahead of the game with a 7-1-1 nonconference record. The only two nonconference games left are against Niagara in January.
“We wasted one,” Hakstol said of UND’s lone nonconference blemish against Bemidji State. “Other than that, we haven’t wasted any opportunities. We’ve had hard-fought battles. To this point, it has been positive.”
A season ago, UND’s NCAA tournament fate wasn’t in its own hands. It needed Wisconsin to win the Big Ten title in order to get in. The Badgers did that – in overtime – but UND is trying to avoid the same tense waiting game.
“Obviously, sitting in our hotel room when Wisconsin was playing Ohio State was a little nerve-racking,” said goaltender Zane McIntyre, who stopped 16 of 17 shots in the series finale. “I think a lot of guys have learned from that.”
A night after generating a large number of Grade A scoring chances and lighting up the scoreboard for seven goals, the Lakers tightened up defensively and made things a lot more difficult for UND.
FIRST PERIOD: No scoring.
SECOND PERIOD: 1, UND, O’Donnell (J. Schmaltz, Caggiula), 1:40 (pp).
THIRD PERIOD: 2, UND, Johnson (Thompson, N. Schmaltz), 8:16. 3, LSSU, Perfetto (Renz, Dommet), 14:50. 4, UND, J. Schmaltz (N. Schmaltz, Poolman), 16:59 (pp).
SAVES: UND, McIntyre 4-2-10-16. LSSU 6-11-9-26.