Grand Forks, ND — Going into this series, the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux had lost four games in a row to the Maine Black Bears and they were swept last October in Orono, Maine by a score of 7-3 and 4-2. This week, one could describe the theme for the Fighting Sioux as “looking for a little revenge against the Black Bears.”
On the other side of the ice, the Maine Black Bears knew that the Fighting Sioux were going to be looking to even the score and wouldn’t be looking past the Black Bears, especially after last season’s results. Tonight, the Fighting Sioux’s fortunes changed against the Black Bears; led by Corbin Knight and Ben Blood (a goal and an assist each) combined with a goaltending gem by Brad Eidsness, the Sioux gutted out a hard-fought 3-1 win.
The first period started out slowly for the Fighting Sioux, as they had to kill two Maine power plays in the early going. After killing the two Black Bears power plays the Fighting Sioux had trouble getting on track as the Black Bears did a good job of limiting the Fighting Sioux’s time and space. The Fighting Sioux were out-shot by the Black Bears 11-6 in the first period.
Goaltending coming into the week was one of the major question marks for the Fighting Sioux. Last year’s All-WCHA first-team goalie Aaron Dell was shaky last weekend in two games during the Ice Breaker Tourney against Air Force Academy and Boston College. Dell was pulled in the second period against the Boston College Eagles and senior goalie Eidsness relieved Dell in the second period and stopped the bleeding for the Fighting Sioux. Eidsness looked sharp against the Eagles stopping seven of eight shots; after the game against the B.C. Eagles, some questioned if there was a goaltending battle brewing in Grand Forks.
After tonight, it appears that some of those goaltending questions have been answered as Brad Eidsness stopped 30 of 31 shots, many of those shots were close in from the slot as the Maine Black Bears were all over the Fighting Sioux through two periods of hockey.
I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that Eidsness stopped at least five very difficult shots from close in during the first and second periods, keeping the Fighting Sioux in the game. If Eidsness had not been sharp the game could have easily gotten out of hand. In retrospect, this was probably one of Eidsness’ best games in a Fighting Sioux uniform.
The game was a scoreless tie until Fighting Sioux freshman winger Michael Parks was called for interference penalty at the 01:58 mark of the second period. The Maine Black Bears didn’t take long to capitalize on the power play as they scored five second later on a goal by Maine forward Spencer Abbot took a shot from the point that blew past Eidsness. That’s all the Black Bears would get past Eidsness who stoned the Black Bears the rest of the way.
The Fighting Sioux evened the score about three minutes later when Parks made up for his miscue and scored his first goal of his Fighting Sioux career at the 5:01 mark of the second period to tie the game.
The Sioux went into the third period being out shot 26 – 14 by the Black Bears, did manage to out shot the Black Bears 7-5 during the third period. Fighting Sioux goalie Brad Eidsness continued to stand tall in the early minutes of the third when he stopped Maine forward Abbott close in to keep the game at 1-1, that save by Eidsness would prove to be a game saver for the Fighting Sioux.
The Sioux finally started getting the better of the Black Bears and in the third period and took the game over. Black Bear forward Joey Diamond took three ill advised penalties in the third period and at the 14:32 mark planted Fighting Sioux defenseman Ben Blood into the boards.
Blood enjoyed the best revenge three seconds later when he took the feed from Corbin Knight off the face off and blasted the puck past Maine goalie Martin Ouellette. After the game Black Bears head coach Tim Whitehead said that Diamond would be watching tomorrow night’s game from the stands after taking three penalties in the third period.
The Fighting Sioux closed out the scoring at the 18:35 mark when Blood returned the favor and fed Corbin Knight a nice pass who was standing at the goal mouth and shot the puck past Ouellette who was out of position. The Sioux and the Black Bears play game two Saturday night at 7:07 pm.