DULUTH, Minn. – North Dakota players and staff mentioned one term so frequently following their game against Minnesota Duluth on Friday night that members of the media scrum interviewing the team will probably whip out their recorders, pens and paper whenever the phrase is uttered in the next month.
That term: mentality.
In very Sioux-like fashion, the boys in black wheeled around the rink, pressured the puck, finished checks and locked up the defensive zone on their way to a 3-1 WCHA win before 6,760 at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
After the bye last weekend, that’s exactly what North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol was looking for.
“Sometimes there’s a bit of a concern that you’re going to lose some of the edge [when you have the week off],” Hakstol said. “But I thought we picked up, played with good focus, played with a real good mentality, and we were rewarded for it.”
Besides JT Brown’s late goal and a few good chances by the Bulldogs from the slot in the opening minutes, that focus and mentality from the Sioux was impeccable.
When there was a battle along the wall, North Dakota dug the puck out. When Minnesota Duluth tried to break out, the Sioux forced them into hurried plays. If UMD got into the offensive zone, UND got sticks in passing lanes and got the Bulldogs to make poor decisions with the puck.
The result was a trio of goals coming directly after lapses in the UMD defense caused by pressure, and a near perfect defensive showing.
“I don’t think there was a lot of time or space either way,” Hakstol said. “It was tight-checking hockey. We got rewarded for playing a hard, greasy road game.”
Carter Rowney scored late in the first period when a turnover allowed the Sioux to get the puck towards the goal. After a couple of North Dakota players failed to beat UMD goalie Kenny Reiter, Rowney swooped behind the net, grabbed a loose puck and buried it when he beat Reiter to the far post.
Twenty minutes later, a forechecking North Dakota player forced UMD’s Chris Casto to pass right to Rowney at the top of the left circle. Rowney gathered the puck on his stick, took a few strides and popped one in through Reiter’s five-hole.
Michael Parks added a power play marker early in the third when a failed clearing attempt gave the North Dakota man-advantage extra zonetime.
From there, the Sioux kept guys away from Aaron Dell’s crease, chipped pucks out of the zone and made life difficult on Minnesota Duluth’s potent offense.
North Dakota blocked 17 shots in the contest and killed four of the five power plays UMD had. Dell stopped 26 shots, but many of them were from the perimeter.
“We had a good team game, stuck to our game plan, went out there and executed,” said Rowney, who also had an assist to go along with his pair of goals.
With the Sioux currently sitting in a tie for fourth place in the conference, the team knows a similar effort tomorrow night will go a long way in the standings.
“It’s just coming in with the right mentality,” Rowney said. “It’s a new game tomorrow, and we have to come out strong.”