By Nate Tenopir, Senior Staff Writer
After a stretch that saw the Mavs win only three of ten games, the chances for success at No. 2 North Dakota looked bleak. Since the two teams last played in mid-November, the Mavs and Fighting Sioux had been moving in opposite directions.
UNO was swept by Bemidji St. And Quinnipiac, and scored only 23 goals in those ten games since the North Dakota game. The Fighting Sioux, on the other hand, had won nine of 11 games and were playing their best hockey of the season.
Imagine the surprise of UND fans as they left Ralph Engelstad Arena Friday night after watching their team give up eight goals in a losing effort. Though North Dakota recovered the next night for a 4-2 victory, the Mavs earning a road split is the bigger news of the weekend.
Many of the stories over the summer and leading up to both series between UNO and North Dakota focused on Mav head coach and former Sioux head coach Dean Blais.
What kind of emotions would Blais have returning to a school he served for 19 years? How would the Sioux fans receive his return? Could Blais’ history with both programs turn the fellow WCHA members into rivals?
If the first four games are any indication, the two teams are certainly on track to produce unforgettable games year after year.
Friday’s game mirroredthe first at Qwest Center where the two teams scored a combined 11 goals. Saturday took the same tone as a month and a half earlier, turning into a grind-it-out style of game with the winner not being decided until late in the third period.
After the weekend, the Mavs sit 13-9-2, 10-5-2 in the WCHA, good enough for fourth place. UNO is four points behind a tie for second place and two points ahead of fourth place Wisconsin.
The Mavs have yet to play two of the teams in front of them and have a matchup with Wisconsin in mid-February.
On Friday, the Mavs released a month of pent-up frustration during a memorable eight-minute span in the second period. With North Dakota parading to the penalty box, UNO had multiple power play chances and made the most of its opportunities.
From the 5:40 mark of the period to the 11:05 mark, the Fighting Sioux were whistled for five penalties, giving the Mavs three 5-on-3 advantages. UNO made good on its first power play opportunity of the period and increased its lead to 3-1 on Ryan Walter’s seventh goal of the season.
Minutes later, North Dakota was called for a hooking and roughing minor in the same sequence giving UNO its first 5-on-3 chance. Senior Joey Martin’s goal made the score 4-1 and discharged one of the two Sioux players from the penalty box.
North Dakota pulled starting goaltender Aaron Dell for backup Brad Eidsness, but could not stem the tide of the Maverick attack. With Derek Forbort still in the box, the Sioux were called for another hooking penalty and immediately paid the price.
On the delayed penalty call, the Mavs got an extra attacker on the ice and made it 5-1 when Rich Purslow snapped a wrist shot. A cross-check penalty gave the Mavs yet another 5-on-3 advantage and UNO capitalized once again on a bad angle shot from Matt White making the score 6-1.
Before the end of the period, UNO freshman forward Brock Montpetit increased the lead to 7-1, tapping a rebound into a wide-open net.
The second period saw the Mavs explode for five goals, 21 shots and score on four of five power play opportunities. Three Sioux goals in the third made the score closer at 7-4, but Mav captain Joey Martin ended the threat by making it 8-4 with just over six minutes remaining.
For Martin, the goal gave him a hat trick on the night and his team an important two points in the conference standings. The hat trick was the first for a UNO player this year and one of many firsts on the night.
Michael Young scored UNO’s first shorthanded goal of the year, the Fighting Sioux gave up eight goals for the first time in the history of Engelstad Arena and, for once, the Mavs made the other team pay for its numerous penalty minutes.
“(Friday’s) win kind of shows us that we are that team we thought we could be at the beginning of the season,” said UNO sophomore forward Terry Broadhurst. “We played pretty good hockey this weekend against a great team, so there’s a lot we can take away from this.”
Saturday, the penalty bug came back to bite UNO. The two teams played a physical first 40 minutes deadlocked at 0-0 until Terry Broadhurst opened the scoring with four minutes gone in the third.
Broadhurst stole the puck on a penalty kill and raced to the other end to snap a shot past Sioux goaltender Aaron Dell. North Dakota answered back when Evan Trupp blocked a shot, gobbled up the rebound and had his own break to the UNO net getting a shot past Mav goalie John Faulkner.
Before getting clear of the defense, Trupp was hooked on the play putting the Mavs down a man for the next two minutes. Danny Kristo converted the ensuing power play to give the Sioux their first lead of the weekend at 2-1.
When UND’s Jason Gregoire increased the lead to 3-1 with just under two minutes to play, UNO was whistled for another penalty on the play and ended the game on the penalty kill. However, freshman Michael Young was able to get the Mavs within a goal on his second shorthanded goal of the weekend.
Though the goal came just 31 seconds after the Sioux had taken a two-goal lead when Gregoire chipped in his second of the night on the power play to finish off the Mavs, 4-2.
It was North Dakota’s seventh straight power play chance of the game. UNO had not had a man advantage since early in the second period.
While the Mavs blew a late lead on crucial penalty kills, many positives can be taken from the series. UNO was able to use the penalty kill to their advantage scoring three shorthanded goals, their first such goals of the season.
The Mavs may have awoken a sleeping offense, scoring on long slap shots, close-in wrist shots and putting back several rebound opportunities. Plus, UNO also split the season series with North Dakota and held their own in four games with a top-five ranked opponent.
“You get up 1-0, then they tie it (on Saturday), there’s no panic,” said Blais. “But North Dakota has got a lot of skill, and you give them a little bit of a break, they’re going to put it in the net.
To come in here and play the way we did, we’ll take it as a real positive and build on it.”