GRAND FORKS, ND– After a disappointing showing on Friday, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks looked to come out of the weekend with a split against Minnesota State-Mankato on Saturday. With some line-up shake-up that saw junior defenseman Andrew Peski become a scratch, Jackson Keane get the 19th skater role and Adam Scheel starting his second game of the season, which ended up being his first NCAA win, as the Fighting Hawks avenged Friday’s loss with a 4-3 win on Saturday.
It took to the middle of the first frame for UND to get on the board, with Grant Mismash getting his second of the season on the power play after Gabe Bast set him up for a one-timer off a crucial Nick Jones face-off win. Cole Smith got into the act 38 seconds later, ripping a wrister from the top of the circle, getting a tip from Mankato’s Riese Zmolek, and potting it over the shoulder of Dryden McKay to make it a quick 2-0 lead for the Hawks. After a Joel Janatuinen cross-checking call, Mankato struck on their own power play as Julian Napravnik got open down the far side, Max Coatta led a pass to him, and Napravnik put it glove side past Scheel to cut the UND lead to 2-1. After a Nick Jones slashing call, Max Coatta made short work of the power play, putting up his four goal of the weekend after getting a pass from Jared Spooner to tie the game up.
It was just under two minutes into the second when, on a delayed boarding call to Coatta; Smith drove to the net to create havoc on McKay and with Mark Senden hacking at it, Gabe Bast got a stick on it to put UND up 3-2. A minute after that, Ludvig Hoff got a breakaway and was hauled down to create a penalty shot, but was unable to convert on the one-on-one with the goalie. While Coatta got a tripping call late in the second frame, Mankato took advantage of a UND power play mishandle, as Marc Michaelis got a semi-breakaway and put it past Scheel with 00.4 left on the clock to end the period tied.
It took midway through the methodical third for UND to get the next goal, as Smith hustled on a dump-in, which Dryden McKay bobbled the puck behind the net and Smith got his second of the night to put UND up 4-3. Makato kept pressing, as they made some shifts late in the third look like they were on the power play.
“I tried to fake like I was going to his backhand side and went to his forehand side,” Cole Smith described of his winning goal after the game. “He’s had some iffy plays under pressure this whole weekend and he happened to just leave one there for me. It’s something we picked up on the whole weekend and I almost picked one off Friday. We knew we had to put pressure on the goalie.”
Try as they might, Mankato couldn’t get the equalizer, even with get some extra time on the clock at the end due to a quick whistle by the referees.
“Big relief. It’s one of those things where you try to do all the things and you finally get rewarded for it,” said Brad Berry postgame. “I thought our guys had a lot of resolve, especially after giving up the shorty at the end of the second and coming out in the third and checked tightly. It’s one step and we gotta keep moving.”
“That one was special,” defenseman Gabe Bast mentioned. “The past two weeks we’ve been working hard and the result haven’t gone our way. Tonight we stuck to the process and we got our bounces.”
“That was our demise last year, we couldn’t finish out games,” Bast continued. “This year we’ve been playing the right way and finishing that game was huge heading into Gopher weekend.”
And that’s where UND heads next, as the Fighting Hawks take on their blood rivals in the Minnesota Golden Gophers for the one-off US Hockey Hall of Fame game in Las Vegas on Saturday night. Minnesota played two exhibition games this past weekend, winning 7-1 in each, while they are 1-0-1 on the year after their first week’s set against Minnesota-Duluth.