I expected UND to struggle last night, and they did. There was too much space in front of North Dakota’s net, and senior goaltender Brad Eidsness made 25 of 26 saves over the first two periods to keep the Fighting Sioux in the game.
Splitting UND’s top three forwards across two lines proved effective. I particularly like Mark MacMillan with Danny Kristo and Corban Knight and expect to see that forward group quite a bit going forward. In my opinion, Brock Nelson is more effective centering the second line.
The fourth Sioux forward line (Brendan O’Donnell, Stephane Pattyn, and Connor Gaarder) did not see the ice very much, as Hakstol wasn’t rolling all four lines as often as he’d like to. On the back end, I like Andrew MacWilliam and Nick Mattson together, as the two complement each other’s skill sets.
North Dakota’s Malcolm Parks, whose penalty resulted in a power play goal for the visiting Black Bears, tied it up less than three minutes later and played his best game as a Fighting Sioux.
UND survived two goal reviews – a Maine “no goal” held up under review and Parks’ goal was upheld by replay. Those won’t always go North Dakota’s way but they were key to the game last night.
The two Sioux penalties that I felt were unnecessary were the two interference calls in the offensive zone – 200 feet from the UND net. North Dakota needs to cut down on the needless infractions and play five on five hockey to be successful.
An overlooked area of the game – faceoffs – continues to be a bright spot for UND; particularly Corban Knight. His clean draw led directly to North Dakota’s second goal.
I was looking forward to seeing Joey Diamond (#39 for the Black Bears) and Ben Blood (#24 for the Fighting Sioux) go at it again this evening, but it is not to be. Diamond will be benched by his coaching staff after taking four penalties in the opener.
All credit to Maine – they played a great road game and could easily have been up by two goals if Brad Eidsness hadn’t been rock-solid between the pipes. Eidsness earned another start with his play last night.
North Dakota played a good final five minutes; they controlled the play with the lead and extended it with a third goal.
Last night’s Ralph Engelstad Arena band, Downtown Horns, energized the crowd before the game and between periods. The Fighting Sioux are now 8-1-1 when the nine-piece horn band play in the REA concourse. Check out the “black jerseys” of arena bands at facebook.com/downtownhorns.