Walk On's Breakthrough Lifts North Dakota
by Virg Foss/Staff Writer
GRAND FORKS, N.D. It took sophomore wing Dan Senkbeil 40 games to score a goal and his team 93 minutes, 22 seconds to finally grab a lead this weekend against Colorado College.
But Senkbeil's rebound goal — his first at UND — stood up as the game-winner as North Dakota toppled Colorado College 5-3, a big bounceback win after Friday's loss, keeping the team within one point of first place in the WCHA, tied with Minnesota. Those two teams play next weekend, their final regular-season meeting as members of the WCHA.
Another first goal by a UND player — that by junior wing Mitch MacMillian, a St. Cloud State transfer — at 13:22 of the second period gave UND lead, its first weekend lead after losing 4-3 on Friday.
A huge night by senior wing Danny Kristo keyed the victory. Kristo had a career best four-point game, with two goals, two assists and one loud clang off the pipe late in the second period.
UND coach Dave Hakstol made changes throughout his lineup after Friday's loss. He switched players around on all four lines, made one change on defense and gave freshman goalie Zane Gothberg his first start in 10 games.
After a sluggish first period in which UND was out 12-4 and outscored 2-1 with Kristo's 12th goal of the season the only highlight for UND, North Dakota turned it around in a major way in the second period.
UND outshot the Tigers 15-1 in the second period and used goals by fourth line right wing Joe Gleason and Mitch MacMillian to wrestle the lead away from the Tigers. Gleason, moved from defense to wing for this game, scored on a sharp angle below the faceoff dot on UND's only power play chance of the night to tie it at 2-2 8:02 into the period.
Just over five minutes later, MacMillan blasted on wrist shot just inside the far post after a cross-ice pass from Kristo for North Dakota's first lead.
After CC's Rylan Schwartz tied it with CC's second power play goal of the game at 5:13 of the final period, Senkbeil slammed in the puck from in front of the net after Sioux freshman defenseman Jordan Schmaltz hit the post seconds earlier.
Kristo's empty-netter from 110 feet away with 1:06 left in the game iced the victory for North Dakota, which improved to 8-3-3 in WCHA play and 13-6-3 overall.
Senkbeil somehow ended up on the ice with Kristo from UND's top line when his goal came. Kristo's backhand pass to the left wing also set up Mitch MacMillan's first UND goal.
"It's pretty exciting, it's been a while,'' Senkbeil said of his first goal. "My eyes kind of lit up when the puck was in the crease. I just tried to pound it, pound it home.''
That he did, which created a glow among the fans and his teammates who have appreciated the hard work from the California walk-on.
Senkbeil's feeling was shared by MacMillian, who had to sit out a transfer year, then scored in his fifth game in a UND jersey.
"Words can't describe it,'' he said. "It's good to get the first one out of the way.''
He was moved to the top line with Kristo and senior center Corban Knight for Saturday's game. "They're really special players,'' MacMillan said, "and you know you've got to take the most of the opportunity to play with them.''
UND bounced back strong after a lethargic first period in which UND managed just four shots, its season low for the opening period.
"Pretty much playing desperate hockey,'' is how Kristo described UND's bounce-back in the second period. "It was an unacceptable first period, four shots on net. Pretty much the guys said we've got to step up.''
He was just as happy for teammates as he was with the win and his four-point game. "Hats off to Lipper (Senkbeil),'' Kristo said. "Not always the prettiest guy out there, but I think everyone was pretty excited for him. Huge goal for our team. Congrats to both those guys (Senkbeil and MacMillan).''
Hakstol took note of Senkbeil's goal, too.
"Last night, the difference in the hockey game, their fourth line scored the game-winner in the third period,'' Hakstol said. "Tonight, one of our guys we don't normally count on to score a goal, went out and did that. He did it the old-fashioned way, he want to the top of the crease and found a way to jam one home.''
Hakstol said the turnaround from the first to second periods had a bit to do with new line chemistry coming into play, and a better performance by everyone.
"Maybe some of the chemistry was part of that,'' Hakstol said, "but I think it was the guys determination.''
Despite bone-chilling temperatures and slippery roads, the game drew a sellout of 11,915 fans who turned out to see a team that leads the nation in attendance.
"Amazing,'' Hakstol said. "We came to the rink Friday and the students were lined up a block long outside in the snowstorm and blizzard. Same thing today. We've got people traveling from 1, 2, 3, 4 hours away, finding a way to get here. It makes it worthwhile at the end of Saturday night when you have a satisfying win. Hopefully that's a nice payoff for those people and their dedication.''