A four-game skid at perennial hockey powerhouse North Dakota is a rarity.
Losing five in a row — something the school avoided Sunday with a 3-2 road win against the University of Nebraska at Omaha — is darn near unthinkable.
North Dakota held off a third-period barrage by the Mavericks to post the victory in front of 6,963 at CenturyLink Center. The win allowed coach Dave Hakstol's squad to gain a split of the two-game series and avoid a fifth consecutive loss for the first time since 1995, when current UNO coach Dean Blais was head coach there.
Hakstol said he preferred to look ahead rather than back.
“We didn't talk about any of that,” he said. “We just talked about going out and playing hard, and we did that.”
North Dakota (3-4-1, 2-4-0 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) scored a soft goal off freshman goalie Kirk Thompson 2:26 into the game and never trailed. The loss snapped UNO's three-game winning streak and dropped Blais' squad to 5-5-0, 3-1-0 in the conference.
“This was a tough one to lose,” Blais said. “Our guys played hard, but we just didn't get the bounces.”
The Mavs cut their deficit to 3-2 with 12 seconds left in the second period when Josh Archibald scored on the power play. He took a nifty centering pass from Dominic Zombo and stuffed the puck past North Dakota goalie Clarke Saunders.
UNO had several scoring opportunities in the third period but was unable to tie the game. One of the best came with nine minutes left when the Mavs enjoyed a two-man advantage for 1:45 but came up empty.
Another came with 1:01 left after UNO had pulled its goalie for an extra attacker. After Saunders made a save, an official blew his whistle a split-second before Jake Guentzel rammed home the rebound.
“The ref said the goalie had it covered,” Blais said. “He was in position to see it and it was the right call.”
The final missed chance came with 10 seconds left when senior defenseman Michael Young rifled a shot off the crossbar. The puck caromed away and North Dakota killed off the final seconds to earn the victory.
“It couldn't have been any closer,” Young said. “Coach was preaching all week about how hard we were going to have to play, but their goalie was unbelievable.”
North Dakota had grabbed the early lead. A shot from center ice was stopped by Thompson, though he was unable to control it. Derek Rodwell raced in and tapped the puck into the net, his first goal of the season.
UNO tied it with 4:39 left in the first period when defenseman Ian Brady scored on the power play. He took a pass from Johnnie Searfoss and fired in a high shot from the slot.
North Dakota scored another odd goal while shorthanded to reclaim the lead with 13:49 left in the second period. Forwards Michael Parks and Luke Johnson broke free on a 2-on-1 and Parks put on the brakes near the net and jammed the puck past Thompson.
“The first goal was a fluke and the second one was a weak goal,” Blais said. “Those two were momentum killers.”
Thompson was replaced after that second goal by another freshman, Reed Peters. Junior goalie Ryan Massa, who made 28 saves in a 4-2 win over North Dakota on Saturday night, did not suit up for the game.
North Dakota made it 3-1 less than three minutes later when Drake Caggiula scored after the puck caromed off his skate. The play was reviewed by video replay official Joe Quartoroli and the two referees, and the goal stood.
Archibald's power-play goal late in the second period made it 3-2, but that's how the game would end.
“It was hectic, especially that third period,” Hakstol said. “Things haven't come easy for us this season, but it was nice to get this win.”
North Dakota's Saunders made 36 saves to earn his first victory this year. Peters, seeing his first action of the season, made 17 saves but surrendered what proved to be the winning goal and took the loss.
The Mavs will continue their six-game homestand Friday night with the first of two nonconference games against second-ranked Michigan.
North Dakota (3-4-1, 2-4-0) .......................................... 1 2 0—3
At UNO (5-5-0, 3-1-0) .................................................. 1 1 0—2
First period: 1, UND, Rodwell 1 (Sanderson, Pattyn), 2:26. 2, UNO, Brady 2 (Searfoss, Guentzel), 15:21 (pp).
Second period: 3, UND, Parks 5 (LaDue), 6:11 (sh). 4, UND, Caggiula 4 (Mattson, Grimaldi). 8:52. 5, UNO, Archibald 8 (Young, Zombo), 19:48 (pp).
Shots on goal:
North Dakota .......................................... 7 12 9—28
UNO .......................................... 15 12 11—38
Power plays: UND 0-4, UNO 2-6.
Penalties-minutes: UND 8-16, UNO 6-12.
Goalies: UND, Saunders, 1-0-0 (38 shots, 36 saves), 60:00. UNO, Thompson, 10 shots, 8 saves), 26:11; Peters 0-1-1 (18 shots, 17 saves), 32:25.