Just a Taste
North Dakota, Notre Dame Split Intriguing Series
CHN Staff Report
It's not hard to envision the scene in South Bend this past weekend being replicated in Pittsburgh down the road.
Two teams with strong Frozen Four chances, and plenty of recent success, met for a two-game series — Notre Dame hosting North Dakota. The teams each won a game, but Notre Dame seemed to win a split decision of the judges. Friday's 2-1 game in favor of North Dakota included a tying goal that was waved off. Notre Dame avenged that loss with a 5-2 win Saturday.
The early Pairwise — for what it's worth — has Notre Dame No. 8 and North Dakota No. 11. North Dakota is now just 6-4-2, but that's pretty good considering the early adversity and the team's propensity for slow starts in recent years. Notre Dame, on the other hand, is 9-4 after a stretch of 11 straight games against ranked opponents.
“It’s been a tough, tough stretch of games, with travel and against teams that will be in the top-10 when the season is over,” said Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson.
“We came through it over .500., which is important. It helps us confidence-wise. That’s why we played the tough games — some were conference games — early in the season. It doesn’t get any easier, now we have five huge league games to finish the first half.”
Saturday showed off the Irish's big gun, in center Anders Lee. After an inconsistent sophomore season, Lee seems to have turned on the jets. He scored twice Saturday in the win — as did Jeff Costello — and helped put 41 shots on North Dakota goalie Zane Gothberg, who split time with Clarke Saunders.
“Anders has that ability to put the team on his back," Jackson said. "That’s the sign of a great captain. It’s partially who he is and partially the leadership aspect."
Jackson thought his team played just as well Friday despite the 2-1 loss. Friday, a potential game-tying goal in the final minute was waved off, with Notre Dame saying it was a quick whistle. A shot from the right faceoff circle found its way through a gathering of players in front of the UND goal. As the scramble ensued, the puck came free in the crease and Lee banged it in. But referee Keith Sergott signaled that Saunders had the puck frozen.
“The puck never stopped; it rolled along his leg and when it fell off his leg pad, I put it in,” Lee said. “That’s not the way the ref saw it though. It’s a fast game and stuff like this happens.”
Jackson was not happy.
“It was just an awful call, the puck was free between his legs. I could see it from the bench,” said Jackson.
Of course, North Dakota saw it differently.
"I had it — somewhere," said Saunders. "Not really sure where, but I had it."
Regardless, North Dakota was pleased to get Friday's win.
"It was a greasy road win," said North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol. "They're a good hockey team. They're good at what they do. They clog a lot of lanes and create turnovers in transition. I thought we had a decent first period. Second period we didn't take care of the puck very well and (that) cost us a lot of time in our own zone. I thought we had a very solid, sound third period."
And North Dakota wasn't fazed by Notre Dame's shot advantage Friday, especially since the Irish could only muster four shots in the third period.
"I think the first two periods I had a lot of shots, but I wouldn't say they had a lot of really good scoring chances, necessarily," Saunders said. "Our ‘D' did an awesome job keeping them to the outside, letting me see the puck. They did a great job clearing rebounds. In the third period I thought we controlled the play. We played a really strong third period to close out the game."
The shoe was on the other foot Saturday, with Steve Summerhays providing the big effort in the Notre Dame net, something that's become commonplace this season.
“Steven (Summerhays) was really good for us,” said Jackson. “He had to be, especially at the start of the third period when they threw everything at us. We were a little bit tired, especially on the blue line and he made some great saves throughout the game.”
The play that beat Summerhays for the game winner Friday was hardly one he could be blamed for. Credit goes to the skill of North Dakota forward Danny Kristo, as he scored on a power play early in the second period. Corban Knight found Kristo with a cross-ice pass in the offensive zone, and Kristo streaked in on Summerhays, going forehand to backhand before going top shelf for his fifth goal of the season.
"That's one of those that kind of leaves the whole building (wondering), 'Did I just see that?'" said Hakstol. "He's the guy we want in a situation like that, one on one with the goaltender."
While Kristo's goal held up as the game-winner, he was quick to credit Saunders for putting UND in position to win the game.
"First period, when we were getting it taken to us, he stepped up. It started with him. He kept us in it (in the first period) and we picked it up from there," said Kristo. "I thought we picked it up in the second period and the third was our best period."
With dazzling forwards, solid goaltending, and two battle-hardened teams, last weekend's hard-fought series between the Irish and North Dakota might have been just a taste of what's to come.