Last night’s series opener against Minnesota was without question the best, most complete game North Dakota has played this season. The Fighting Sioux dominated throughout and upended the Gophers 6-3.
I’ve always taken issue with the phrase “one team wanted it more”, because I don’t think it is possible to measure “want” or “desire”. But there are certainly things that added up on the Fighting Sioux side of the ledger that translated into a lopsided victory.
Shots and scoring chances: North Dakota could have easily been up by two or more goals in the first period, outshooting Minnesota 18-2 and attempting 40 shots to Minnesota’s 7. Gopher sophomore goaltender Alex Kangas (10-4-5) gave his team a chance to regroup at the first intermission, but to North Dakota’s credit, they did not let first period scoring struggles get in the way of an explosive middle frame. Shot attempts through two periods were 68-25 in favor of the Fighting Sioux.
Special teams play: Minnesota came into the weekend with the WCHA’s best power play and penalty kill, but the Fighting Sioux had the better of all special teams situations. UND’s Evan Trupp tallied a shorthanded marker early in the second period, and less than four minutes later, Trupp assisted on Jason Gregoire’s power play goal and the rout was on. For the game, North Dakota went 1 for 4 with the man advantage, held Minnesota scoreless on three man-advantage opportunities, scored a shorthanded goal, and generated scoring chances while the teams skated four on four. More to the point, the Fighting Sioux generated 10 shots on goal during its 7:40 of power play time and held the Gophers to one shot in six minutes with the man advantage.
Timely scoring: After Minnesota pulled to within one on Ryan Stoa’s first of the game, Ryan Duncan gave the Sioux a two-goal cushion less than four minutes later. After Stoa scored to make it 4-2 with more than 15 minutes remaining in the game, Andrew Kozek relaxed the fans with a goal less than five minutes later. It is key in games like this to continue to dictate play and create offense, and North Dakota never let the Gophers find any momentum last night.
Goaltending: Sioux freshman netminder Brad Eidsness wasn’t tested early, but by the end of the game, he had been tested often. Eidsness stopped 21 of 24 Minnesota shots and collected his twelfth victory of the season. Oftentimes a goaltender can be overlooked in an offensive outburst like this one, but Eidsness is and will continue to be key to North Dakota’s success.
There were some bright spots for Minnesota. Kangas gave them a chance to win early, Ryan Stoa collected two goals and added one assist, and Jordan Schroeder looks like the real deal. Stoa appeared to suffer an injury late in the game, and there are conflicting reports about his availability for tonight’s rematch.
The first half of the White-Out Weekend was a rousing success. Fans are encouraged to wear white to tonight’s series finale. The puck drops at 7:07 p.m. With a victory tonight, North Dakota would pull even with Minnesota in the WCHA standings.