Minnesota came into tonight’s game with North Dakota boasting and holding a 2-0 win at Mariucci Arena from last evening. Minnesota couldn’t rest on their laurels knowing Dave Hakstol’s bunch would come out swinging from the opening faceoff. In the nets, Minnesota’s Kent Patterson and North Dakota’s Aaron Dell would get the start again tonight. Who was the better team on this night?
No shots were fired in the first minute of play, but each team was making their physical presence known with hits up and down the rink. Shots were dead even at two apiece at the two minute mark, and neither team had a penalty at the three minute mark but that was sure to change as the first period would wane on. The game would reach its 4:50 mark before its first penalty on a borderline tripping call (according to the Minnesota students) which gave North Dakota a power play. Textbook penalties will come, retaliatory or otherwise, folks. That’s the cold, hard truth. North Dakota’s power play struggled in the first minute, losing possession in the offensive zone and giving Minnesota the “advantage.” North Dakota couldn’t sustain any chances in the offensive zone afterwards, and Minnesota’s penalty kill came out smelling rosy. Moments after the kill was over at 7:09, Nick Bjugstad would put in the game’s opening goal on a clean snipe in front of Aaron Dell with Zach Budish and Justin Holl assisting on the even strength goal. North Dakota would also get a two-minute minor when Ben Blood would go to hockey jail for slashing, giving Minnesota a power play to work with. The two minute power play was held for naught by North Dakota, and it was worth noting that Minnesota got the drop on North Dakota both last night and this evening. Seth Ambroz would shoot the Gophers in the foot at 9:38 when he was ticketed for an interference sentence in the claustrophobiac-inducing penalty box. There were eleven penalties called at one point last evening (11:47 in second), thus the analogy. On the North Dakota power play nine seconds later, at 9:46, Brock Nelson put in a tying goal from the left side with assists on the power play going to Dillon Simpson and Corban Knight. The first period was looking like penalties (and stupid ones at that) would tell the story of the game overall in terms of who would take advantage. Shots at 11:40 were 8-4 to Minnesota and yet each goaltender was already bloodied with a goal to their name on the sheet. Down the stretch in the first, each team was trying to find an advantage to go back into the warming houses with, and the defenses were working on keeping the game close as twenty minutes slowly came to an end. Over the course of the final seven minutes, each team was skating up and down the Olympic ice sheet with play focused primarily on the outside of the rink. At 14:33, North Dakota was going to take a trip to claustrophobic heaven when Stephane Pattyn would be called for boarding in one of the four corners. Midway through the Minnesota power play advantage, play from both sides was dead even though you could see evidence of an umbrella style power play at work. However you slice it, Minnesota couldn’t get results on the power play even with the better ice position. At 16:47, North Dakota would gift Minnesota with another power play when Derek Forbort would go to claustrophobic heaven (the penalty box) for interference. The main idea one could infer from the Minnesota power play was that the home team was quickly rushing and not keeping the puck in the offensive zone. As a result, the game was still deadlocked at one with sixty-nine seconds in the period despite Minnesota’s 17-5 shot advantage. Shots at the end of the period were 19-5 in favor of the home team, and power plays had Minnesota at 0-3 while North Dakota was 1-2.
The first ninety seconds of period number two went without a shot but the game was still slow stemming from the last few minutes of the first period. Both teams were trying to find offensive momentum for that one shot on goal which would take the lead. That shot was not there after three minutes of play. Shots were 1-0 at four minutes into the period to Minnesota, and that’s not accounting the attempts which were blocked on their way to the net. At nearly six minutes played, the game was still locked in a giant struggle between two opposite forces, and shots were 2-1 to the first TV timeout of the period in favor of North Dakota. At 6:25, North Dakota’s Danny Kristo would take the first penalty of the second period which derailed a Minnesota scoring chance. On the Minnesota power play, Minnesota couldn’t run the shot clock down even with possession, and Minnesota was given a two-man advantage at 7:31 when North Dakota sent Andrew MacWilliam for cross checking to the claustrophobic sin bin. The Minnesota two-man advantage would stop at 8:18 when Jake Hansen committed a sheepish interference penalty at the net. That penalty would eventually give North Dakota a forty-seven second advantage, but UND went up 2-1 on a goal at 8:39 when Rocco Grimaldi scored a cracker on even strength with an assist going to Nick Mattson on even strength. North Dakota still had a forty-seven second power play coming and at 9:30 into the second period, UND was down a total of sixteen in the shots department. North Dakota would play patient hockey on the man-up but Minnesota was still down a goal after the penalty kill put the teams back on level strength. To the 31:00 mark overall, eight penalties resulted in power plays combined, which was the same number as we saw at 11:47 of the second period last evening on one exchange. Remember that. At 13:30, Minnesota was given a charging minor when Sam Warning committed the infraction. That was the ninth overall power play chance for either team at that point, Minnesota’s penalty kill would get the better of North Dakota’s power play unit during the Warning penalty, and as the sand in the second period hourglass expired and became wet instead of dry, the home team was down a goal. At 17:35, North Dakota’s Ben Blood would go to the claustrophobic sin bin for interference giving Minnesota yet another power play with which to tie the game. The Minnesota power play couldn’t do much with the puck, and at the end of two periods, Minnesota’s power play was 0-6 while North Dakota was 1-4. Shots at the end of the second were 32-11 in favor of Minnesota, meaning Minnesota outshot North Dakota 13-6.
The first minute of the third period in tonight’s game seemed to favor North Dakota in terms of ice position, and UND was up a rung on the ladder of success (the scoreboard). The first three minutes of the period ticked off without a penalty or a shot on goal, and Minnesota was still trying to find a way to even the score. Shots were 2-0 in favor of Minnesota at 5:45 into the third period, and they were still trying to find a way to score. At 6:59, a small fracas broke out at the Minnesota net just after Minnesota’s Mark Alt was called for hooking in front of his own net. That gave North Dakota their fifth power play of the evening to add insurance to their slim one goal lead. North Dakota would get a lot of time on the puck with their power play and the officials would let them play but the Minnesota penalty kill came out on top with eleven minutes to play in the first half of the four game series with these teams. At 10:30 into the third period, shots favored Minnesota by a count of only 3-2 yet late in the game, play was end to end like we all expect with UND-Minnesota games past and present. Finally, at 15:56 of the third period, Minnesota tied the game on even strength when Nick Larson put the puck home on an assist from line mate Travis Boyd. At 16:20, North Dakota’s Ben Blood would go to the claustrophobic bin for tripping, which gave Minnesota their seventh power play on the night. On the Minnesota power play, the home team had their chances but came up empty. Shots at 17:30 in the third period had Minnesota up 7-5, and both teams were hungry to win in regulation. With ninety-one seconds left in regulation, shots favored Minnesota by twenty, 39-19 (8-7 to UND in the period). At 19:14, Minnesota took the initiative and Kyle Rau scored an even strength goal on an assist from Nick Bjugstad on a play that easily had the look of a hand pass into the net. Shots ended up 42-19 to Minnesota and power plays had UND at 1-5 and Minnesota at 0-7.
Minnesota and North Dakota won’t play again until January, and the home team is next in action when they take on Wisconsin in a road series at Kohl Center set for next weekend with one game on Big Ten Network (Saturday) and FS North (Friday).
Geoff Discher is lodeplus.com’s Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey Examiner as well as the National College Hockey Examiner. Leave a comment below, or feel free to reach him at Disch61@hotmail.com with comments, story ideas, or any general talk surrounding college hockey. You can find him on Facebook as well by clicking here as well as here and joining the conversation from the social media side as well. He’s always chock full of fact and opinion. I’m also on Twitter @GophHkyExmnr. Check it out!
Until next time, I’ll see you at the rink!