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GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota has yet to lose a game this season when Brendan O’Donnell scores.
Saturday night, the senior made sure his team continued the trend with a hat trick that helped North Dakota extend its Saturday unbeaten streak to 10-0-1 this season with a victory over Minnesota Duluth.
A nearly 20-year drought of a UMD sweep over UND in its own building was held intact Saturday night when North Dakota claimed a 5-2 win over the Bulldogs in front of 11,777 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The NCHC rivals battled through intensity and a penalty-marred third period that saw O’Donnell tally his sixth goal in his last seven games.
“I couldn’t be happier for anybody in our room,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “And Brendan —- he was a good offensive player tonight. His line did a great job and it was nice to see Brendan finish because he has that ability.
“You look back last night, we had a rebound opportunity where he had the upper half of the net open and that one didn’t go for him, so maybe tonight was good payback.”
Payback it was after a fierce Bulldogs team defeated North Dakota 4-1 in its own building Friday night.
Saturday was a different story. Willie Raskob and Justin Crandall notched goals for Duluth, but a hat trick from O’Donnell and goals from Drake Caggiula and Mark MacMillan were enough to send the home team ahead.
“Kind of a reversal,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “They came out with good intensity and put us back on our heels. … They were the better team. I thought we still had a chance to win that game and get back in that game, even though I don’t think we were playing great. They executed better and capitalized on opportunities like we did last night.”
Duluth went on the board first when Raskob knocked in a Tony Cameranesi rebound five-hole past Zane McIntyre (41 saves) at 7:10 of the first period, but UND found the equalizer at 13:25 as O’Donnell snapped in a pass from Keaton Thompson.
North Dakota’s Mark MacMillan increased the margin when he skated around Carson Soucy and notched a goal at 6:11 to give the home team a lead it never relinquished.
Unlike game one of the series, North Dakota was able to generate more offense.
“No question,” Hakstol said. “It didn’t take much. … We generated a lot more tonight in the right way. We didn’t cheat on anything tonight, and that’s the way you have to play against this team. They’re outstanding. This is the best hockey team we’ve played against.”
O’Donnell never let off the gas as he buried his second goal of the night at 10:19 of the third when Gaarder stole the puck from Soucy in the slot and passed it up front to O’Donnell for the tip in past Kasimir Kaskisuo (28 saves).
North Dakota continued putting pressure on the Bulldogs when Nick Schmaltz set up Caggiula, whose shot bounced off Karson Kuhlman’s skate and into his own net at 12:47.
Duluth looked for a chance at redemption when Raskob fired a point shot that Kyle Osterberg tipped to Crandal for the power-play goal at 4:04, but the comeback mission was cut short when O’Donnell registered his third of the night on a one-timer from the top of the circle at 9:16 to send his team up 5-2 and hats flying to the ice.
Stephane Pattyn and Derik Johnson each were dealt two minors and game misconducts minutes later at 10:31 of the final frame that instigated a string of minors for multiple players.
A full penalty box and strong goaltending for both teams left the score at 5-2 as North Dakota skated away with the win.
Despite the comeback from Friday to clinch the split, UND knows it still has strides to take toward improvement.
“We know we have that resiliency,” Hakstol said. “The step we need to take is to hold this level of play. We haven’t done that consistently, so that’s the challenge in front of us as a hockey team. … We shouldn’t be a team that needs to have a bounce-back performance on Saturday from our Friday performance. We need to hold a level, and that’s what the second half dictates if we want to have success.”