(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee from Violent Turtle Photography)
In front of 11,742 fans at the Ralph Englestad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks used four unanswered goals from Nick Jones, Cole Smith,Hayden Shaw,and Grant Mismash to propel this team to its first home NCHC sweep of the season.
With UND dealing with significant injuries throughout its lineup, the job that the line of Johnny Simonson, Josh Rieger, and Cole Smith did tonight turned out to produce the game winning goal and tie a record a mere seven seconds into the third period.
Simonson won the faceoff, then Josh Rieger, playing his fourth game ever at forward , made a pass to Cole Smith who drove the net hard and fired the game-winning goal past Western Michigan netminder Ben Blacker.
The record for fastest goal to start a third period is now shared between UND legend Ben Cherski, and Cole Smith.
Early on, in the first ten minutes of the game, UND controlled the pace and generated multiple chances. UND held Western Michigan without a shot on goal for the first 8:28 of the game. Western Michigan would rebound and end up putting eight shots on net for the remainder of the period. The Fighting Hawks finished the first frame with five shots on goal. Both teams had similar stats after the first with a penalty each, 13 shot attempts, and three blocked shots per side.
The game opened up a bit in the second period as Austin Rueschhoff took a feed from Brett Van Os, walked into the slot, and used some slick deking to help him find the back of the net 8:33 into the second period.He fired the puck passed the glove side shoulder of Cam Johnson, UND netminder. The goal provided Western Michigan with their first lead of the series.
That lead would not last the entire period. Although Western Michigan kept UND’s offense at bay for most of the second frame, until Shane Gersich rushed into the zone late into the period. He found Grant Mismash who fired a strong shot on Ben Blacker. The rebound went to Nick Jones who found the back of the net 19:37 into the second period. Jones’ sixth goal of the season tied things at one heading into the second intermission.
The third period not only saw the Smith goal, it featured crucial insurance markers from Hayden Shaw and Grant Mismash. Shaw’s tally came on the power play as he fired a puck off of a Bronco skater’s skate and past Blacker 11:59 into the third.
Mismash’s fifth tally of the season provided the final margin of the evening 14:26 into the third frame. Shane Gersich and Nick Jones contributed to this tally, and helped ensure UND got its first home NCHC sweep of the year.
Next week, the Fighting Hawks travel to St. Cloud for a crucial series to wrap up the first half.