Grand Forks, ND – All In. That’s the theme now for the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team, which has been decimated by injuries this season.
Everyone who is healthy is in the lineup for the Fighting Sioux. There are no extra skaters, and barring any more injuries the rest of the season, there are only 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies they can dress. That’s it, there is no one else left.
Unfortunately, junior goalie Aaron Dell is the latest player to be bitten by the injury Ninja. Dell was a scratch for tonight’s game with an undisclosed injury and is listed as day-to-day.
With Dell out of the lineup, two time all-WCHA goalie Brad Eidsness would make a rare start, taking Dell’s spot in the starting lineup.
After starting the first period by giving up two soft goals, the senior goalie settled down and played well the rest of the way, leading the Fighting Sioux to a 4-2 conference win over the upstart Michigan Tech Huskies.
After being the backup goaltender for the better part of two seasons, the senior goalie from Chestermere, Alberta is making the coaching staff’s decisions more difficult, but is also giving them options between the pipes.
Eidsness is finishing his senior season strong and posting some pretty impressive numbers. The win tonight means Eidsness has 5-2-0 record with a 2.07 goals against average and a .922 save percentage, and was upbeat about his role after the game.
“I try to not to look at myself as a backup goalie the last couple of years,” Eidsness said. “I always had confidence in my abilities.
“Certainly it’s nice to get in there and play a little bit more and maybe prove to everybody else that I can still play and still help the team win.”
There has also been another re-occurring theme for the Fighting Sioux hockey team. Junior forward Carter Rowney has been red-hot lately and has scored nine goals in his last nine games.
The Sexsmith, Alberta native has had a shot at a hat-trick in three straight games, but has yet to score the needed third goal in any of those games.
“The boys in the locker room giving me a lot of heck on that one,” Rowney said of his inability to complete the hat-trick.
“I don’t know. . . I will just keep working hard and maybe it will come one day or maybe it won’t. I will just keep working my hardest.”
For the past three seasons the Michigan Tech University Huskies have been a very bad hockey team and went 15-85 during that time period.
Fast-forward to this year, and the Michigan Tech Huskies have been a much-improved hockey team, coming into tonight’s game had a record of 13-14-3 overall record – much better than the squad that went a dismal 4-30-4 last season.
And tonight, the Michigan Tech Huskies proved to be a hard team to play against. The Huskies gave the Fighting Sioux all they could handle, particularly in the third period, when they had the Sioux on their heels for pressure-filled three minute stretch.
In the end, the Fighting Sioux would prevail, securing the win with a pair of powerplay goals. It would be the 12th game in a row that the Fighting Sioux have won against the Huskies, their last loss coming at the Great Lakes Invitational on December 28, 2008.
“It was a hard fought game, obviously two desperate teams trying to get points in the standings,” MTU head coach Mel Pearson said after the game.
“I thought out goaltender Josh Robinson gave us a chance to win and he made some big saves at critical times.
“I thought their guy [Eidsness] made his best saves in the third period when we pressed a little bit.”
After the slow start in the first period, the Fighting Sioux adjusted and were able to overcome the 2-1 deficit by scoring three unanswered goals, two on the power play.
“We had an early power play earlier in the game we didn’t accomplish very much that is something that we have to improve on,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol, who stressed the importance of having two powerplay units clicking at this time of the year.
“Later in the game, the powerplay did come through with some big plays for us,” Hakstol added. “It’s important especially at this time of year. This is playoff hockey and specialty teams, goaltending and a lot of little things make big differences.”
With the win tonight, UND improves to 17-11-2, 13-10-0 in the WCHA and has won five out of the last six games. They sit in 5th place in the WCHA standings.
The Huskies drop to 13-15-3, 10-10-3 in the WCHA sit two places below UND the standings. MTU has now lost two straight games and have a poor February record of 1-3-1.
The two teams face-off again tomorrow night at 7:07 pm.