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Western Michigan shuts out UND in series opener

Goaltender Cameron Rowe stopped 25 shots to give the Broncos a 4-0 victory over the Fighting Hawks.

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UND forward Jake Schmaltz (8) tries to tap the puck past Western Michigan goalie Cameron Rowe (31) in the second period of an NCHC men's hockey game at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks on Friday, January 13, 2023.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — At each end of Ralph Engelstad Arena, about 10 fireworks hang from the catwalk.

They're used every time UND scores a goal or when the final buzzer sounds after a victory.

On Friday night, for the first time in just over four years, none were used.

Western Michigan goaltender Cameron Rowe turned aside all 25 UND shots as the Broncos beat the Fighting Hawks 4-0 in the series opener in front of 11,022 fans in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

UND, which entered the weekend ranked No. 12 nationally in offense with an average of 3.48 goals per game, couldn't get one past Rowe, a one-time UND commit who transferred from Wisconsin in the offseason.

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"We had our chances tonight," said UND forward Judd Caulfield, who has nine goals in 13 career games against the Broncos. "We just couldn't bury. They're going to come. We hit a couple posts. We had a couple breakaways. They were protecting the front of their net hard. We just have to be a little harder in those areas and bear down on those chances."

The last team to shut out UND: Western Michigan. Brandon Bussi, now an American Hockey League all-star, stopped 24 shots to blank the Fighting Hawks in Lawson Ice Arena last January.

The last team to shut out UND in Grand Forks: Western Michigan. Trevor Gorsuch did it on Nov. 16, 2018, stopping 32 shots.

"I thought we had some chances in the first period, but I thought he saw a lot of pucks," UND coach Brad Berry said. "He made some good saves — a couple of breakaways here and there — but once we were in the offensive zone, we have to make sure we get traffic in front of him so it makes it harder for him to see."

On the offensive side, the NCAA's leading goal-scorer, Jason Polin, scored on the power play in the third period and iced it with an empty-netter in the final minute. They were Nos. 20 and 21 on the year for the senior — and his eighth goal in the last three games.

Polin also had an assist for a three-point game, while linemates Max Sasson (two assists) and Ryan McAllister (one assist) also got on the scoresheet.

That trio — the nation's highest-scoring line — was held without a point when UND and Western Michigan met for two games in Kalamazoo, Mich., last month. But they left Friday's series opener with six.

"Tough outcome," UND captain Mark Senden said. "Give it to them. They came in hungry. I think we can be better in a few areas. I think we had a number of chances. We have to find a way to put it in the back of the net."

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A shot from Western Michigan forward Jason Polin (14) glides through the five-hole of UND goaltender Jakob Hellsten (32) in the third period of an NCHC men's hockey game at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks on Friday, January 13, 2023.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

The series finale is scheduled for 6:07 p.m. Saturday.

UND will wait for word on whether junior top-pair defenseman Tyler Kleven will be available.

Kleven was ejected in the second period for a cross-check to Polin's head — a penalty out of frustration after Kleven draw a power play after being sent into the boards. National Collegiate Hockey Conference director of officials Don Adam attended the game and was reviewing video of Kleven's major in the press box immediately after it.

Polin scored on the major power play to make it 3-0 and put the game out of reach.

"There were a lot of plays tonight. . . they let us play," Berry said. "If that's the way it is, that's the way it is. There can't be any frustration that gets into our game. Tyler got buried into the wall just before that. Then, he got held just before that. Then, it led to that penalty. There's no excuse for it. At the end of the day, especially when you're down 2-0, you have to bite your lip and keep playing the game. It's a situation tomorrow, however the game is called, we have to adjust our game and make sure we play the right way."

The major penalty marked Kleven's second game misconduct of the season. Any future ones will carry an automatic one-game suspension.

Last weekend in UND's sweep of Lindenwood, Kleven scored four goals — three on the power play.

Against Western Michigan, UND had an extended five-on-three power play in the second period when it was a one-goal game, but it didn't generate many Grade-A looks on it.

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"Not scoring on that five-on-three hurt a little bit," said Berry, whose team has the No. 2-ranked power play in the country. "It gave them some momentum."

UND also struggled to score at five-on-five.

"We have to funnel more pucks to the net and get better net-front — get in front of his eyes and make it harder for him to see the puck," Senden said. "We have to get the second man around the net and look for rebounds, because when we got a guy in his eyes, there were a few rebounds tonight in that slot area. We have to find a way to get those pucks in the back of the net. We need another guy there to pick up the garbage."

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Western Michigan's Zak Galambos (4) and Dylan Wendt (37) celebrate Broncos teammate Jack Perbix's first period goal against UND goaltender Jakob Hellsten during an NCHC men's hockey matchup at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks on Friday, January 13, 2023.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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