GRAND FORKS, N.D. — It wasn’t until halfway though the third period that North Dakota tallied its first goal and tied the game.
Nearly two minutes later, Minnesota Duluth’s quick response sent the home team searching for a way to climb out of a two-goal deficit.
Entering the new year with its best program start since the 1995-96 season, the Bulldogs found a way to break through North Dakota late in the game and clinch a 4-1 victory over top-ranked UND on Friday night in front of 10,898 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The NCHC battle featured conference foes that showed intensity right from the drop of the puck.
“Good road win,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “Obviously, it was what we expected – a tough game. I like how we responded after they got the goal, getting a couple goals back there and kind of building a little bigger lead. It was a battle right to the end and I thought our guys did a great job closing it out.”
Connor Gaarder tallied North Dakota’s lone goal after Kyle Osterberg opened scoring in the second frame. Tony Cameranesi, Carson Soucy and Alex Iafallo each notched goals in the third period to send Duluth ahead.
Despite the loss, Zane McIntyre finished with 33 saves and registered a solid performance against a tenacious Bulldog team.
“He was outstanding,” Hakstol said. “He has been great for us all year. He did a great job for us tonight. He gave us a chance to be in it down the stretch. Unfortunately, we didn’t do enough to take advantage of that.”
Kasimir Kaskisuo (23 saves) contributed to strong goaltending that froze the scoreboard for a majority of the first two frames – until an explosion of momentum triggered a string of Bulldog goals to jump out of a tie game.
“I just think it shows the character of the guys in the dressing room we’ve got there,” Soucy said. “We’ve done it numerous times coming back late. Whether it’s scoring a couple late or tying the game up late – we don’t show quit.”
A pair of disallowed goals in the first and second periods left both team searching for an edge in the scoreless battle.
It wasn’t long after, though, and the Bulldogs held the 1-0 lead after Cal Decowski’s pass bounced off Justin Crandall’s skate for a chance for Kyle Osterberg to shoot one in the net at 6:49 of the second period.
Gaarder erased the deficit halfway through the third period with a shot from the top of the circle that bounced off the post and in the net at 10:05, but that tie barely lasted a minute.
Duluth quickly settled back into the lead as Willie Raskob dangled a UND defender and fed Cameranesi for the goal from the left circle at 11:12.
“He made a great play there,” Sandelin said of Raskob. “I thought he had a strong game for us. He’s not a big, physical guy, but he got a couple situations where he won some battles down low and made a great play on that goal. Good timing.”
The Bulldogs created a two-goal margin when Soucy beat McIntyre on a two-on-one rush at 12:14.
UND put the extra attacker on the ice with minutes remaining in the final frame, but an empty-netter from Iafallo at 19:46 sealed the 4-1 victory for the Bulldogs.
For North Dakota, Friday’s game showcased areas of improvement.
“We’ll regroup and be a little better in all different areas for the 60 minutes,” Hakstol said. “We were uncharacteristically loose with the puck tonight. We weren’t hard enough on pucks. We just have to be better collectively.”
Despite the victory, Duluth knows it has to do better in Game 2 of the series against a hungry North Dakota team.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a totally different night,” Sandelin said. “Saturday night in this league, it’ll be a much harder game. So we’ve got to regroup and hopefully play a better game tomorrow night, because we’re going to need to.”