GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Minus its starting goaltender and a trio of key forwards, unranked North Dakota pulled off a 4-1 upset of third-ranked Minnesota Duluth on Friday, Feb. 22, in NCHC play before a crowd of 11,605 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The Fighting Hawks were forced to play sophomore backup goalie Peter Thome for the first time in almost three months with rookie Adam Scheel out for the foreseeable future due to injury.
North Dakota was also without senior forwards Nick Jones and Joel Janatuinen, and sophomore forward Grant Mismash due to injuries. The three combined for 30 goals a year ago, but just 11 this year after missing a combined 30 games.
So how did the Hawks (15-13-2 overall, 9-9-1 NCHC) take down a completely healthy Bulldogs team minus so many key players? According to UMD coach Scott Sandelin, North Dakota just competed harder. Simple as that.
“We weren’t ready from the start,” said Sandelin, whose Bulldogs close out their series with North Dakota at 7:07 p.m. today back in Grand Forks. “They wanted it more and it showed. We dug a hole and couldn’t get out of it.
“We didn’t support the puck, we didn’t establish anything. They did a good job defending.”
The last time Thome was in the Hawks’ crease, it was against the Bulldogs (18-9-2, 11-7-1) on Nov. 30 in Duluth. He gave up five goals on 23 shots and was yanked 13:45 into the second period. Thome wasn’t seen again until the third period of an exhibition win over the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad.
Coming back from injury himself Friday, Thome finished with 21 saves on 22 shots. He made 11 saves in the third to give the Hawks their 10th win of the season over a nationally ranked team.
UMD only put three shots on Thome in the second period, though, while attempting a mere eight.
Sophomore center Justin Richards, the team’s leader in points with 27, blamed the lack of shots on the team’s mindset. He said whenever UMD can get pucks and bodies to the net, they have to do it.
“We have to be more prepared. They wanted it more tonight. We have to bounce back tomorrow and compete harder,” Richards said. “We were not ready to play from the start. You could tell from how the first period went. We know that and we know we can be better.”
The Bulldogs fell behind 3-1 in the opening period with their lone goal coming from sophomore wing Nick Swaney, who scored his team-leading 13th goal of the season 1:25 into the game.
Freshman center Mark Senden already had struck for North Dakota by that point, however, scoring 44 seconds in following a UMD turnover in its own zone.
The Hawks retook the lead on a shorthanded rush just past the 12-minute mark of the first when senior center Rhett Gardner won a battle along the boards to set up senior defenseman Hayden Shaw. Hawks junior forward Casey Johnson then put UMD down by two 1:11 after Shaw’s score.
Junior wing Cole Smith scored an empty-netter for North Dakota with 90 seconds left.
“We know what kind of team they are, especially in their building. We expected them to come out hard and they did,” UMD senior wing Billy Exell said. “That first goal, I thought we did a good job responding with scoring right away, but they get another one and build momentum. That shut us down a little bit until we got going later in the game.”
Minn. Duluth 1-0-0—1
North Dakota 3-0-1—4
First period — 1. ND, Mark Senden 6 (Jordan Kawaguchi), 0:44; 2. UMD, Nick Swaney 13 (Nick Wolff), 1:25; 3. ND, Hayden Shaw 3 (Rhett Gardner, Mark Senden), 12:11 (sh); 4. ND, Casey Johnson 2 (Ludvig Hoff, Jacob Bernard-Docker), 13:22. Penalties — Bernard-Docker, ND (interference), 2:29; Peter Krieger, UMD (holding), 5:14; Collin Adams, ND (tripping), 10:17.
Second period — No scoring. Penalties — Bench minor, ND (interference), 4:41; Riley Tufte, UMD (goaltender interference), 5:35; Parker Mackay, UMD (tripping), 9:18; Cole Smith, ND (holding), 15:43.
Third period — 5. ND, Cole Smith, 18:30 (en). Penalties — Dylan Samberg, UMD (tripping), 10:33; Nick Wolff, UMD (roughing), 12:04; Gavin Hain, ND (roughing), 12:04.
Shots on goal — UMD 8-3-11—22; ND 11-4-7—22. Goalies — Hunter Shepard, UMD (21 shots-18 saves); Peter Thome, ND (22-21). Power plays — UMD 0-of-4; ND 0-of-4. Referees — Cameron Voss, Timm Walsh. Linesmen — Andy Dokken, Tyler Liffrig. Att. — 11,605.