Portland, Maine -- Fans at the Cross Arena on Friday night were treated to two games with typical ebbs and flows of early season contests.
North Dakota shook off a sluggish start to rebound and cruise past Lake Superior State, 5-2, in the opener. The nightcap featured a wild, special teams-laden affair that saw all but one goal in a 3-3 tie between Michigan State and Maine come while there was a difference in manpower.
UND's Speed Advantage
Despite that unforgettable first six minutes of the Brad Berry era, North Dakota territorially dominated the Lakers on Friday night. UND outshot LSSU, 32-13, through two periods and 44-26 for the game. The difference in the two teams' ability to skate, break the puck out of their own zone and push the puck in transition was evident.
"The guys stuck with it. They did a good job of staying with the game plan. I'm very proud of them," said Berry. "We had to push the puck up ice and use our speed to try to get odd man rushes. That's a tribute to the players we have in our locker room and adhering to the game plan, using the skills we have and one of them is speed."
North Dakota is a young team with plenty of freshmen and sophomores seeing lots of ice time and some upperclassmen who are getting accustomed to more responsibility. There likely won't be any shortage of youthful mistakes in the first few months, but UND is a team with plenty of skill and speed that will be in the hunt come March.
"We played a great opponent. They're a very good team. They're going to probably be in the top five throughout the season," said Lake Superior coach Damon Whitten.
No Quit in Lakers
Despite the obvious disadvantage in talent and a low preseason ranking in the WCHA, Whitten's team competed hard and played to the whistle each shift. There is some size and grit to like about this LSSU team.
Recap: North Dakota Speeds Past Lake Superior
North Dakota recovered from a tough first six minutes of the game to earn a 5-2 win over Lake Superior State in the first game of the 2015 IceBreaker at the Cross Arena.
"That's a good team over there. They played extremely hard. They pressured the puck wherever it was at. They came at you in waves," said Berry of his opposition.
Lake Superior, picked to finish last in the WCHA Preseason Poll, is a program looking to once again be considered within the elite of college hockey like it was in the 1980s and 1990s.
"I thought we learned a lot about our team. We like a lot of things about this year's edition of our program. There's a lot of steps forward. We had some chances to win that hockey game. It's going to be a little bit of a work in progress to learn to win hockey games," explained Whitten.
Black Bears Win 5x5
There were plenty of questions surrounding Maine entering the 2015-16 season, and one game certainly doesn't answer any or all of them. However, fans of the Black Bears had to like what they saw when their team was at even strength.
"We played a pretty good. We did some real good things five-on-five. We were a pretty good team five-on-five," said Gendron, whose team came out with a lot of intensity. His charges were flying all over the ice in the opening minutes, which led to a power play chance which they capitalized on.
Maine will lack a high-end player at both forward and defense due to the departure of Ben Hutton and Devin Shore, but it appears to have more depth and experience this season under the system.
"Our team really battled start to finish. These guys were jacked with their season starting," explained Gendron.
"We knew they'd be an inspired team to play on opening night. It was a pretty good crowd on hand," said Michigan State coach Tom Anastos.
Every Spartan that found the scoresheet on Friday night was either a freshman or junior, including rookie defenseman Zach Osburn who scored twice on the power play.
"We had a number of freshman who played meaningful minutes tonight," said Anastos.
Freshman Mason Appleton had five shots on goal while centering the Spartans' second line. His play was noted in the post-game press conference.
"I thought he played real well. He played with a lot of poise. He played meaningful minutes. He played in every situation. He killed some penalties, had a lot of power play time and five-on-five time. He had a few nice opportunities and things just didn't work out," said Anastos.
"It was nice to see some freshman get on the scoresheet with [Osburn] stepping up offensively to get us back in there at the end," added alternate captain Travis Walsh.
Homecoming for Walsh
Travis Walsh, playing the program his late father Shawn Walsh led to NCAA Championships in 1993 and 1999 for the first time, enjoyed a nice loud ovation from the home fans during the introduction of the starting lineups.
"It was a great environment. The crowd was really good. It was different. Obviously I had never played them before. I feel like we battled hard as a team," said Walsh, trying to deflect the attention away from himself.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.