Major Power Play Spurs North Dakota to Win, Split with Minnesota
by Virg Foss/Staff Writer
GRAND FORKS, N.D. Junior defenseman Christian Wolanin leads his team in goals this season with three after scoring two giant ones in North Dakota's 4-0 men's hockey shutout of the Minnesota Golden Gophers Saturday night.
But it turns out he's a bit of a prophet as well.
After North Dakota's 2-1 loss to the Gophers Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena, Wolanin left the media with a message in his post-game comments.
"That's what I said last night, I said I'd be back here (interview room) with a different result," Wolanin said.
Mission accomplished. The Fighting Hawks earned a split of the non-conference series with their long-time rivals by scoring three goals on a 5-minute major penalty on Minnesota's Jack Glover for checking from behind late in the first period.
With the Fighting Hawks leading 1-0 on Ohio State transfer Nick Jones' first goal for UND at 4:59 of the first period, the major call on Glover at 18:45 of the period set Wolanin and company into action.
"We didn't give ourselves a chance, and that's what's disappointing to me," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "We did some things better, but our speciality teams play was horrendous. ... I'm not sure (the penalty) was a 5, but you can't put yourself in that spot."
Wolanin first cranked in a slap shot from the top of the right faceoff circle to make it 2-0, his goal coming at 19:19 of the period. Defenseman Colton Poolman buried a wrist shot from the right point on the same major penalty on Glover at 2:12 of the second period to make it 3-0. Wolanin then capped the scoring at 3:43, scoring his second goal of the game to make it 4-0 at 3:43, with just two seconds left on the Glover major.
Senior goalie Cam Johnson posted a 22-save shutout, the 10th of his career, benefitting from two Gopher shots off posts in the third period.
"That one (shutout) probably feels better than any other one I've had," Johnson said. "Our group played unbelievable. My job, I don't think, was too hard tonight. When they needed me, I was able to make the save."
The victory snapped a seven-game winless streak (0-5-2) for UND against Minnesota and gladdened the hearts of a sellout crowd of 11,890.
UND, which outshot Minnesota 35-18 in Friday's 2-1 loss, was outshot by Minnesota 22-18 tonight. But the Fighting Hawks got quality shots through to the net after having 29 shots blocked by Minnesota on Friday. In contrast, the Gophers had just 11 blocks tonight while UND had 16.
Jones said UND tried a different strategy after Minnesota's shot-blocking performance on Friday. "They line up with 2-3 guys in the lane, so we wanted to find some guys off to the back side a little bit," Jones said. "They do a great job blocking shots, so that was a big focus coming into this game."
"We weren't rewarded last night for our effort, but our guys stuck with it," UND coach Brad Berry said. "They had the mentality of trying to get the win tonight, and they did."
Minnesota freshman forward Casey Mittelstadt sat out after taking a cross check Friday night. Another blue chip freshman, Scott Reedy, was also out.
"(Mittelstadt) wanted to play but he was sore," Lucia said. "It's a long season, and I'd rather see if we have a better chance of getting him back next week."
The teams haven't met every year since the Gophers bolted the WCHA for the Big Ten, and UND joined others then in forming the NCHC. But judging by the two sellouts and intensity of the players on the ice, it is a series that UND wants to continue.
"It's a rivalry that I think both sides will admit is something we have to keep doing," Berry said. "It's great for college hockey. I thought the atmosphere was electric."