October 18, 2008 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Early-Season Opposites

Minnesota State Makes a Statement, While North Dakota Keeps Swooning

by Dan Myers/CHN Staff

MANKATO, Minn. — North Dakota has a history of starting slowly and finishing on big rolls on the way to the Frozen Four. But after an 0-3 start — and bad losses at that — the concern is growing. This time, it was victim of a "statement" performance.

It's not often North Dakota gets beaten the way it did Friday night at the Alltel Center. Minnesota State scored goals every way possible — including the incredibly rare shorthanded hat trick by the Mavericks’ Zach Harrison — in a 5-1 drubbing in front of 5,004 rowdy Maverick fans.

But this wasn’t just any MSU team. The Mavericks stepped on the ice against North Dakota Friday night with a clear purpose and confidence. UND scored the game’s first goal 4:36 seconds in. Three minutes later, the Mavericks led 2-1 and never look back.

In the locker room after the game, MSU head coach Troy Jutting stopped short of calling the win a statement game.

Sorry coach, but sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Consider special teams. Not only did the Fighting Sioux go 0-for-8 on the power play, they gave up three shorthanded goals. So unprecedented is the feat, nobody associated with the team knew how long it's been since it happened last.

The Mavericks also scored an even-strength goal and a power-play marker in the first period.

“This whole team, we have a chip on our shoulder,” Harrison said. “We want it this year.”

The chip on the Mavericks’ shoulders comes from being the nation’s 17th best team the day the 16-team NCAA tournament was announced in March. Last year is often something teams like to avoid. But for the Mavericks, last year is never far from their minds.

“We remember last year, there’s no question,” Jutting said. “We don’t want to put ourselves in that position again.

“People can say what they want to say about, we should’ve been in or we shouldn’t have been in. My whole thing since then is, hey, don’t put yourself on the bubble and you don’t have to worry about it.”

Rarely Friday was a Maverick beaten to a loose puck. When UND made a mistake, MSU made them pay. When there was a crashing against the boards, it was usually a Maverick doing the hitting. Minnesota State looked like a different team; they looked almost like North Dakota.

Harrison’s shorthanded triple play was just the sixth in NCAA history and the first since 1998.

“It was a little lucky,” Harrison said. “But I’ll take the win any day.”

The Fighting Sioux are not ready to push the panic button quite yet.

“I think we’re doing some good things,” said UND forward Ryan Duncan. “We have a long way to go, but it’s still a long season.”

Despite that, it’s been 15 years since a North Dakota team has started 0-3. It finished that season 18-18-3 and in a tie for fifth. More importantly, the Fighting Sioux have now been beaten 5-1 twice already this season. The cumulative goals this season: UND three, opponents 18.

If the Sioux harbor any hope of reaching the Frozen Four for the fifth consecutive season, they better find out what ails them. And they better find it quickly.

It didn't help that defenseman Joe Finley was kept home for the weekend for an undisclosed reason.

Of the two teams on the ice Friday night at the Alltel Center, only one looked like the traditionally skilled, speedy and stout Fighting Sioux teams of the past — on this night, it was the team wearing purple and gold.

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