MINNEAPOLIS – In one of college hockey’s most intense and storied rivalries, you have to expect the unexpected and be prepared for anything. Especially in front of an electric crowd that loves seeing games like those.
After dropping an overtime heartbreaker on Friday night, #7 North Dakota returned the favor Saturday night at 3M Arena at Mariucci with a 5-4 overtime victory over top-ranked Minnesota, splitting the nonconference series in front of a very loud sold-out crowd.
Mark Senden scored twice for the Fighting Hawks, who used a four-goal rally over a span of 3:54 in the second period to overcome a two-goal deficit and take control of the momentum after the Gophers jumped ahead in the first nine minutes of the middle frame.
“Just happened to stay mentally focused,” said Senden, who also scored the game-winning goal about halfway through overtime.
Four different players lit the lamp for Minnesota, but they were done in by some untimely second-period penalties in a game they otherwise dominated offensively.
“We absolutely dominated for 55 minutes,” said Gophers head coach Bob Motzko. “Then we took penalties after whistles. After whistles. And we let them back in the game.
“Outside of that little window, our guys battled tonight.”
The first period was an intense display of physical hockey, reminiscent of how these two successful programs and longtime archrivals have battled over the years. Minnesota outshot North Dakota 15-6 in the opening 20 minutes, but UND played with a tough backcheck and didn’t allow many quality chances in front of goaltender Drew DeRidder.
With just 16 seconds left in the first, Fighting Hawks defenseman Tyler Kleven was assessed a major and game misconduct after hitting Brody Lamb up high with his elbow in the neutral zone.
Matthew Knies, who had Friday’s overtime winner, scored the only Minnesota goal on the major penalty 48 seconds into the second period as a Jackson LaCombe shot from the right point rebounded to him on the doorstep. Rhett Pitlick doubled the lead exactly eight minutes later on a low wrister, but that’s when the real craziness began. In a moment of celebration, Pitlick tossed his hockey stick into the crowd after the goal, and the refs sent him to the penalty box for a ten-minute misconduct.
It was that moment that seemed to light a fire under the Fighting Hawks, who had been outshot 27-6 by the Gophers at that point and hadn’t had a shot on goal in about 20 minutes, and they went to work shortly after. Cal Thomas was called for boarding halfway through the second period, and 40 seconds later Jackson Blake beat Owen Bartoszkiewicz five-hole for a big goal, cutting the UND deficit to 2-1.Then after Ryan Chesley was called for hooking, it took 28 seconds to tie the game as Riese Gaber scored the equalizer.
“Let’s keep our foot on the gas,” Fighting Hawks head coach Brad Berry responded when he was asked about what he told his team after the game was tied.
Senden scored his first goal just 18 seconds after Gaber’s tally, and just like that, North Dakota was in the lead. Then the special teams nightmare continued for Minnesota as Logan Cooley was assessed a major and a misconduct for facemasking. The ensuing long power play saw Jackson Kunz join the scoring party, completing a scoring barrage of four goals in a span of three minutes and 54 seconds and making it a 4-2 Fighting Hawks lead. Bartoszkiewicz was relieved in favor of Justen Close after that.
“We kinda hung him out to dry there. I feel bad for him,” Motzko said. “We did some things in front of him you shouldn’t do.”
The Gophers weren’t done, however. Connor Kurth got one past DeRidder out front in the dying seconds of the second period to make it 4-3, and Jimmy Snuggerud tied it early in the third after a lengthy offensive zone shift of nearly two minutes. Momentum was back on the Minnesota side, but they couldn’t find a way to get another puck past DeRidder.
“He was composed,” Berry said of his senior goalie transfer from Michigan State. “Drew made some huge saves tonight.”
Senden finally ended what turned out to be a tremendous hockey game by scoring on a rebound of a Gaber shot, giving UND a gigantic series split against their archrivals in front of an announced crowd of 10,193.
“It’s really special,” Senden, a native of nearby Medina, said of his winning goal. “Being a Cities guy, it’s something I’ll definitely remember.”
What’s also special is how the Fighting Hawks were able to respond after a tough series at home against Quinnipiac a week ago.
“I felt that this weekend our group [had] grown exponentially over the course of these two games,” Berry said.
DeRidder made 37 saves for North Dakota, and Bartoszkiewicz had 10 for Minnesota. Close made five in relief of him.
North Dakota will take on Arizona State next Saturday night in Las Vegas in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game while Minnesota begins Big Ten play next weekend by visiting Ohio State.
MINN power-play goal at :48: Matthew Knies (4). Assisted by Jackson LaCombe (5) and Jaxon Nelson (3).
MINN goal at 8:48: Rhett Pitlick (1). Assisted by LaCombe (6).
UND power-play goal at 10:57: Jackson Blake (4). Assisted by Chris Jandric (8).
UND power-play goal at 11:51: Riese Gaber (5). Assiseted by Jandric (9) and Blake (4).
UND goal at 12:09: Mark Senden (2). Assisted by Gavin Hain (1) and Cooper Moore (3).
UND power-play goal at 14:51: Jackson Kunz (1). Assisted by Moore (4) and Ethan Frisch (2).
MINN goal at 19:26: Connor Kurth (3). Assisted by Mike Koster (3) and Luke Mittelstadt (2).
MINN goal at 6:30: Jimmy Snuggerud (5). Assisted by Brock Faber (4).
UND goal at 2:21: Senden (3). Assisted by Gaber (2) and Frisch (3).
Power plays: UND 3-5, MINN 1-3.
Shots on goal: UND 20, MINN 41.