North Dakota earned a 2-1 victory over UNO on Friday night in a tight and tense opener of an important Western Collegiate Hockey Association series.
Danny Kristo scored the game-winning goal just past the midway point of the second period and also assisted on the first goal as No. 7 North Dakota (15-8-6 overall, 10-5-6 WCHA) overcame an early 1-0 deficit and jumped into a second-place tie with the Mavericks.
Nos. 14 and 15 UNO (16-11-2, 12-7-2) got an early goal from Hobey Baker Award candidate Ryan Walters and a strong performance from Dayn Belfour, the surprise starter in goal who made his season debut and played in an official game for the first time in more than a year.
UNO scored first, as Zahn Raubenheimer’s shot from the right wing hit the side of the net and bounced behind it, and then Josh Archibald took the puck and flipped it in front to Walters in front of the left post. Walters deposited his 17 th goal of the season into an open net before goalie Zane Gothberg could shift from post to post.
But the lead lasted just 1:07 as shifty Rocco Grimaldi worked along the right goal line and slipped a backhand past Belfour for his 10th goal of the season.
UNO avoided danger later in the period as a Belfour save slipped out of his glove and behind him and sat in the crease before defenseman Jaycob Megna swept it away.
Later the Mavs escaped 43 seconds of a 4-on-3 disadvantage as top penalty killers Brent Gwidt and Andrej Sustr both sat in the penalty box.
Belfour started for the first time in more than a year, dating to Jan. 21, 2012. Belfour was 2-1-2 with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage in six games last season. He had sat out the 2010-11 season as a redshirt.
UNO defenseman Tony Turgeon was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct and for contact to the head just two minutes into the second period, putting North Dakota on the power play for five minutes.
UNO weathered that situation, helped when a Grimaldi from close range deflected off the post.
But, later, with four North Dakota players seemingly circling the net and flicking shots on goal, North Dakota finally took a 2-1 lead as Kristo — the former Omaha Lancer — ultimately got credit for his 17 th goal with 8:26 left in the second period.
UNO generated a few odd-man rushes late in the period, but Gothberg denied Dominic Zombo from point blank range after Matt White’s blind feed from the corner to the net front with 430 left.
Then, a minute later, Raubenheimer couldn’t take control of the puck alone in front of the goal after Walters hit the brakes on a 2-on-1 and let a defenseman slide past him before making a pass.
North Dakota (15-8-6, 10-5-6) ................... 1 1 0—2
UNO (16-11-2, 12-7-2) .................... 1 0 0—1
First period: 1, UNO, Walters 17 (Raubenheimer, Archibald), 7:53. 2, ND, Grimaldi 10 (Gleason, Kristo), 9:00. Second period: 3, ND, Kristo 17 (Rowney), 11:34.
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