MacMillan and Parks lead North Dakota over Niagara

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North Dakota celebrates a goal in its victory over Niagara on Saturday (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota has grown accustomed to getting scoring from all over its lineup. Saturday night, that place just happened to be the top line.

Like Friday night, North Dakota (16-5-2) rode another strong second period and coasted to a 5-0 victory over the Niagara Purple Eagles in front of 11,586 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Mark MacMillan and Michael Parks each tallied a pair of goals and Tucker Poolman assisted twice. It made for a solid night for the three guys penciled in at the top of Dave Hakstol’s line chart, but that’s actually somewhat unconventional for a team that has thrived on getting contributions from everywhere.

“I don’t put a whole lot of stock into who scores for us,” Hakstol said. “Throughout the year, we’ve had different guys chipping in. Connor Gaarder’s line has been the group that’s had the most success over the last few games. Tonight, it shifted to another group. That’s what we expect.”

Stephane Pattyn also tallied a goal and Jordan Schmaltz picked up two assists as UND completed its nonconference schedule with a 9-1-1 record that will prove critical in the PairWise.

That nonconference slate began with a nightmare 5-1 loss at home against Bemidji State in October. However, reminded of how narrowly UND squeaked into the playoffs last year after a few missteps during nonconference play, UND didn’t lose again for the balance of the schedule.

“I think that’s just our class realizing that we don’t have a lot of time left here and this is a really special place,” said Parks. “We’re digging in every day, trying to get better every day and trying to accomplish something special here.”

The Purple Eagles (3-17-2) weathered the first period, not yielding many second chances and keeping the game scoreless despite allowing two power play opportunities.

“I thought we went toe-to-toe with them for the first 20 minutes,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said.

[photoshelter-gallery g_id=”G0000sbC2kyvdc2Y” g_name=”20150117-Niagara-University-North-Dakota-Bradley-K-Olson” f_show_caption=”t” f_show_slidenum=”t” img_title=”casc” pho_credit=”iptc” f_link=”t” f_bbar=”t” fsvis=”f” width=”500″ height=”375″ bgcolor=”#AAAAAA” bgtrans=”t” btype=”old” bcolor=”#CCCCCC” crop=”f” trans=”xfade” tbs=”4000″ f_ap=”t” linkdest=”c” f_fullscreen=”f” f_constrain=”f” twoup=”f” f_topbar=”f” f_bbarbig=”” f_htmllinks=”f” f_enable_embed_btn=”f” f_show_watermark=”f” f_send_to_friend_btn=”f” f_smooth=”f” f_mtrx=”f” f_up=”f” target=”_self” wmds=”llQ6QNgpeC.p1Ucz7U.f22ZPbVWYAULVTmIllGrPxFwnk6c.bIaNmwsSPPg2iTuYqdQ1JQ–” ]Much like it did Friday night, the dam burst midway through the second and UND coasted.

Parks broke it open, notching his first goal in seven games by zipping out of the penalty box and right by the Purple Eagles defense at 9:42.

Luke Johnson then set up the second goal when his point shot rebounded off Jackson Teichroeb’s pad and right to MacMillan’s feet on a power play. MacMillan roofed it for his 10th of the year at 13:12.

“I thought last night we caught Niagara a little bit flat,” Hakstol said. “Tonight, I think we saw a real, tenacious, hard-to-play-against team until we got the second goal and that changed the momentum.”

Stephane Pattyn added one more with 39 seconds left in the second when he deflected in a Keaton Thompson point shot.

North Dakota put it in cruise control from there, adding two more with MacMillan cleaning up another rebound at 1:10 of the third past a sprawled-out Teichroeb (34 saves). Parks slammed home a MacMillan centering pass at 13:22 to round out the scoring.

With North Dakota having won nine games this season by two goals or less, it certainly was a little bit relieving for the near-sellout Ralph crowd to watch a third period without much doubt in the final result.

“I think the reason that it wasn’t too interesting this weekend is the maturity of this team,” MacMillan said. “We’re growing as a team and we knew how important these games were and knew that we had to get on them as quick as we can.”

UND’s defense also made it an easy 15 save shutout for Zane McIntyre.

“We couldn’t muster up any offense really two nights in a row against their ‘D’ corps,” Burkholder said. “When they need to make plays, they made plays.”

The Purple Eagles finished their nonconference schedule with an 0-6 record, but they head back to conference play hoping to find confidence during a trying season.

“We’re just hoping that we’ll find some positives — the few that there were — on film and we’ll build on that when we get into league play, ” said Burkholder. “We have 12 games left in Atlantic Hockey.”