GRAND FORKS, N.D. — A UNO team with everything going against it picked itself up and earned a key 6-3 road victory Saturday night over No. 16 North Dakota.
UNO had lost Friday’s series opener and was playing on the road in one of the best home-ice venues in the country against one of the nation’s hottest teams. Coach Dean Blais was given a game misconduct late in the first period. And the Mavericks fell behind 3-1 when a save by goalie Kirk Thompson deflected off defenseman Brian O’Rourke and into the goal.
But UNO, sparked by a natural hat trick from Josh Archibald, turned it around.
“It was a testament to the kids’ character,” UNO assistant coach Troy Jutting said. “Down 3-1, North Dakota had it rolling, and for our guys to play the rest of the way like they did really shows what kind of kids we have on our team.”
Dominic Zombo’s career-best 13th goal got the Mavs within 3-2, then Archibald scored the next three goals to put the Mavs in front 5-3.
It was the second hat trick of the season for Archibald and marked the third consecutive series in which UNO had a Saturday night hat trick — Zombo did it against St. Cloud State last weekend.
“It always helps when one guy gets three goals for you,” Jutting said.
UNO (11-13-2 overall, 8-6-2-1 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) moved into a third-place tie with North Dakota (14-9-3, 9-7) in the league standings. Both have 27 points, three behind St. Cloud State, which beat Denver 4-2 on Saturday, and one behind Minnesota-Duluth, which defeated Colorado College. Western Michigan completed its sweep of Miami (Ohio) to move into a fifth-place tie with Denver at 26 points. Six of the NCHC’s eight teams are within four points of first place.
“It’s going to be this way the rest of the season,” Jutting said.
Archibald, now tied for third in the country with 21 goals, had been held to one shot on goal in Friday’s 4-2 loss. The junior from Brainerd, Minn., completed the hat trick with 17:09 left in the game with his signature move — speeding past a defenseman along the left wing boards and then cutting in front of the goal to shoot.
“His speed was a definite problem for them,” Jutting said. “I think he was a little disappointed about Friday’s game.”
Senior winger Zahn Raubenheimer clinched the win with his fifth goal of the season — and his third in four games — with 9:25 left. Raubenheimer’s line, UNO’s third unit which also includes senior winger Johnnie Searfoss and sophomore center Tanner Lane, produced UNO’s first goal. Lane scored his fourth of the season to give the Mavs a 1-0 lead at 12:24 of the opening period.
Blais was tossed at the 17:01 mark after UNO was whistled for a third consecutive penalty.
“He’s a competitive guy, and he was frustrated,” Jutting said.
UNO’s penalty-kill, once awful, continued its second-half-of-the-season resurgence, denying North Dakota on all six of its power-play chances.
Thompson (4-4-1), the freshman who split the weekend series with fellow freshman Reed Peters as junior Ryan Massa continues his comeback from a groin injury, made 23 saves.
“I thought Kirk played extremely well,” Jutting said.
The Mavs peppered nemesis Clarke Saunders, who made 29 saves.
Archibald added an assist for a four-point night, while Zombo had two assists for three points. O’Rourke and fellow defenseman Brian Cooper were both plus-3.