Through five games, the University of North Dakota has given up the first goal of the game in four-of-five games. The only game that the Fighting Hawks scored first was their first game of the season when UND shutout the Canisius Golden Griffins 6-0.
On Friday night, UND head coach Brad Berry said that he would rather play with a lead than chase the game. On Saturday night, the Fighting Hawks didn’t heed their coach’s advice. True to form, the Fighting Hawks would give up the first goal of the game. At the 2:53 mark of the first period, Bemidji State forward Leo Fitzgerald gave the Beavers an early 1-0 lead.
This time, the Beavers lead would evaporate quickly. UND would answer quickly with a goal from UND forward Brock Boeser 50 seconds later, tie game. Boeser’s goal gave the Fighting Hawks some life and they started to take over the game.
The Fighting Hawks would score three more goals by Shane Gersich, Zach Yon, and Boeser. From there, it looked like UND was going to run away and hide. It appeared that this game was over.
After two periods of play, UND fans were already getting their cameras ready for the stick salute at center ice after the game was over. The series sweep looked inevitable as UND entered the third period with a 4-1 lead. The win looked even more inevitable after Rhett Gardner scored on the power play to give the Fighting Hawks a 5-1 lead.
Then something changed.
Apparently, the Beavers didn’t get the memo. They weren’t going to just roll over and give up. Game on. The scrappy Beavers had different plans. The Beavers pushed back and started to take over the game and mounted a furious comeback. The Beavers would score two power-play goals and a shorthanded goal to push the score to 5-4. The 11,898 fans started to get very antsy.
“We had a better start,” coach Berry said. “Obviously, I thought we played one of our better first periods. The second period was pretty good, too. Then we got into the third period and got the fifth goal and took a little bit of time off. That’s a team that works extremely hard for 60 minutes and plays with a lot of pride. They came at us. We have to commend them for the way they play.”
In the end, the Beavers comeback effort fell short and the Fighting Hawks would hold on and win the game 5-4 securing the series sweep. The win wasn’t pretty, but they were still able to secure the series win.
“I told our guys that it’s not the way we wanted to finish a game or close out a game, but you found a way to win,” Berry said. “Again, we have a long way to go to get where we want to go. It’s about realizing what it takes to win a game and it takes 60 minutes to win a game. Our guys realize it. In the locker room, there’s an attitude that they let this one slip away a bit.”
“Obviously, we’re a young team and it’s early in the year,” captain Gage Ausmus said. “You have a lead going into the third… obviously, it happened against Colorado College last year. I think every team goes through moments like this. We’re just fortunate to come out with the win and we can learn from this one.”
Ausmus expanded on this, “Years past this would have been a loss and we’re learning from a loss. These guys are learning from a win. So, that’s a plus when you come out with a win.”
Post game, the UND players realize the importance of getting the first goal of the game and weren’t happy with surrendering the first goal, of the game, again.
“We gave up the first goal again tonight and which is unacceptable in this building,” sophomore forward Shane Gersich said. “Once we get the momentum going we have to build through the whole game.”
Stats of Interest
Sweeps against the Beavers don’t happen very frequently. The last time UND swept the Beavers, UND was still named the Fighting Sioux. This weekend’s sweep of Bemidji State was the first time UND has swept the Beavers under the Fighting Hawks moniker. UND last swept the Beavers during the first round of the 2012 WCHA playoffs.
On the weekend, sophomore forward Brock Boeser scored five goals and five points. In five games, Boeser has scored (6g-6a—12pts) and is ranked second nationally in scoring.
With the win, UND is 5-0-0. Next weekend, UND travels to Duluth to open their National Collegiate Hockey Conference play against the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.