Grand Forks, ND – The University of North Dakota hockey team entered Saturday’s game flirting with history, and not in a good way. UND didn’t want history to repeat itself. The Hawks entered the series finale against the Mavericks looking for their first win of the season.
Before Saturday’s game, I was chatting with former UND hockey beat writer Virg Foss, when he posed the question; when was the last time UND had gone four games without a win to start the season? Foss perused the UND hockey media guide, and found that UND started the 1994-95 season going 0-4-0. The Fighting Sioux would go 18-14-3 rest of the way. That was the first year of the Dean Blais era.
Fortunately, that streak will have to wait. UND ended their winless streak with an impressive 4-3 win over the high-flying Mavericks. Junior forward Cole Smith Brainerd, MN led the Hawks with (2g-1a—3pts). Smith scored the game-winning goal at the 11:35 mark of the third period to put away the Mavericks. The Hawks were able to hang on and get the win.
Smith’s game-winning goal was a thing of beauty. All weekend long, Smith had been watching the Mavericks goalie Dryden McKay. In the end, it paid off.
‘”I tried to fake like I was going to his backhand side and jumped to his forehand,” Smith said.” He kind of had some iffy plays with the puck under pressure this whole weekend. He happened to just leave that there for me.”
Special Teams Not So Special
While it was an exciting win for the hometown Hawks, there’s still a lot of work to do on special teams. For the weekend, UND went 3-8 (37.5 %) on the power play. On the flip side, UND went 5-9 on the penalty kill (55.5 %). That needs to improve moving forward.
“We gave up a couple of penalty kill goals early and we gave up a shorty. So, we didn’t win that battle. Our power play has been good this weekend. It was a step up from last weekend. Penalty kill, we have to shore up a few things on that. Annually, our penalty kill has been outstanding and we got make sure that we’re better at next weekend.”
UND Looking to Close Out Games
Last season, UND had a habit of letting leads in close games slip away. When the season was over, the Hawks finished 10 ties. If UND had closed out one of those win, they’d probably been in Sioux Falls. This time, UND left no doubt, they closed out a games with a win.
“Obviously, the past two weekends we’ve been working hard, but the results haven’t gone our way,” sophomore defenseman Gabe Bast said. “Tonight, we just stuck to the process and we got our balance and it turned out that we got the game winning goal.”
Entering the third period with the game tied at three, fans had to be nervous.
“That was kind of our demise last year, we couldn’t finish out games,” Bast said. “I think this year, we’ve playing the game the right way. Early, we we’re getting the bounces Finishing that game was huge, especially leading into the Gopher weekend.”
The work isn’t done, the Hawks travel to Las Vegas, NV, to play the Minnesota Gophers in an important non-conference matchup. Game time is 9:07 PM Central. The game will be available on Midco Sports Network and NCHC.TV.