Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography
When a team goes 3/3 on the penalty kill (not including empty net goals) and owns five on five play for at least around half of the game things typically go well right? Well for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks things went poorly tonight as they gave up three unanswered goals (the third goal was an empty net marker from Blake Lizotte as UND was trying to bounce back and tie things on the penalty kill late in the third period) to lose the series opener to the number one team in the nation, the St. Cloud State Huskies 3-1.
Micah Miller and Patrick Newell took away a 1-0 lead provided by Nick Jones on an interesting angle shot from below the goal line 11:21 into the first period and gave St. Cloud the lead it would not relinquish. Both St. Cloud goals came mere seconds after UND killed off penalties. Miller’s goal came 18 seconds after UND killed a Matt Kiersted penalty in the second period. He took a feed from Nolan Walker, walked into the UND zone in transition and rifled one past UND netminder Adam Scheel on his left side just above his pad.
In the third period, 17 seconds after the Fighting Hawks killed off a Jasper Weatherby penalty, the puck was fired down towards the UND end. It looked as if a UND defender was close enough to play the puck, and Scheel reached out to play it as well negating any chance of an icing call. Colton Poolman tried to play the puck behind the net but made a very rare mistake and turned the puck over to Nolan Walker. He then found one of the best goal scorers on the Huskies, Newell, in the slot and he did not miss the game-winning goal.
UND was out shot in the second and third periods combined 41-22. The Huskies utilized their strong transition game throughout the second and third period. If not for a very close goal review on a potential Nick Perbix goal, the margin could have better reflected the shots on goal disparity. UND took issue with a potential penalty on Jimmy Schuldt as a hip check on further review looked to result in knee-on-knee contact on Grant Mismash who required help to leave the ice. He will definitely not play in the finale. UND needs to improve in consistency. The result is different as the Huskies outplayed the Fighting Hawks in the final two frames, but the path was the same for UND. The Fighting Hawks started the game well, got chances and limited grade-a chances for the other team. Then the opponent got into their game and this time said opponent was not Omaha or Canisius but St. Cloud State.
These are not the same Huskies that lost to Air Force in the NCAA tournament last March. This is a team with all of the speed and skill of last year’s squad combined with a consistent commitment to team defense to further highlight their skills. For UND to salvage a split they need to play a perfect 60 minutes all the while knowing any mistake they make has a marginally decent chance of ending up in the back of their own net. Saturday night at the Ralph will be a fun one.