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North Dakota Shuts Out St. Cloud State for Second Straight Night

2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships - Semifinals Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

An incredible defensive performance, led by goalie Cam Johnson’s 36 saves, helped North Dakota to a 3-0 victory over St. Cloud State. The shutout was the second in as many nights for the Fighting Hawks against the Huskies, and gave North Dakota their first series sweep in St. Cloud since 1998.

North Dakota junior Tucker Poolman logged heavy minutes for North Dakota all night, providing a steady defensive presence that eased Johnson’s workload and also provided some much-needed offense. Poolman got the scoring started when his blast from the point on the power play in the first period was tipped in by Rhett Gardner for the game’s first goal.

In the second period, St. Cloud State answered back with some heavy pressure, but it was Poolman from the point again, blasting a shot through traffic and into the net for the game’s second goal.

North Dakota started the third period with a full power play, and after an incredible short-handed breakaway save by Johnson, Shane Gersich fired home a one-timer to give North Dakota a much-needed insurance goal.

The second straight shutout brings St. Cloud State’s scoreless streak to 145:09, dating back to last Saturday’s second period against Western Michigan. The two straight shutouts emphatically put North Dakota’s six-game winless streak behind them, and moves them to 7-4-2 on the season.

Notes and Thoughts

-I can’t say enough about how well North Dakota played defensively tonight. In terms of time spent in the offensive zone, it felt about equal between the two teams. But North Dakota’s time spent in the offensive zone was of a much higher quality. St. Cloud State really struggled to get anything established in the offensive zone because the North Dakota defense was suffocating.

They had great back pressure from forwards getting back in the zone, the defensemen were excellent in picking up guys in front of the net, and Cam Johnson looked really confident all night in directing rebounds away from trouble. The penalty kill was extremely on point too. St. Cloud State never seriously threatened with the man advantage all night.

I don’t think North Dakota quite has the offense to blow teams away this year, but this defense, led by veterans Tucker Poolman and Gage Ausmus, may be what allows them to compete at the top of the NCHC standings again this year.

-Even though they lost, I think Zach Driscoll took another step towards establishing himself as St. Cloud State’s #1 goalie. The difference in confidence he’s showing between now and the start of the season is night-and-day. He played aggressive and confident and didn’t give anything away tonight. That’s the slightest bit of good news for the Huskies, who are starting to look like they’ll need a strong goalie to help bail out a struggling offense.

-Tonight’s effort didn’t seem as flat for St. Cloud State as last night, even if the end result was the same. They had some really strong stretches of play, especially early in the second period, but were just never able to put something up on the board. Again, give North Dakota a lot of credit for that. St. Cloud State generated a lot of shots, but too many were from the perimeter with little to no traffic in front of the net, making work easy for Johnson.

-One Cam Johnson save that wasn’t easy was his incredible breakaway save on Judd Peterson early in the third period. The difference between 2-1 and 3-0 like it was after Shane Gersich scored on the man advantage was huge. That’s as big of a swing as you’ll see in a hockey game.

Fancy Stats

Shots on goal: SCSU: 9-15-12-36 UND: 15-13-8-36

Even strength shot attempts: SCSU: 13-23-15-51 UND: 13-12-11-36

Prime scoring area attempts: SCSU: 7-7-6-20 UND: 9-4-7-20

What do the numbers tell us?

St. Cloud State was pretty even with North Dakota at 5-on-5. The Huskies generated more shots overall, but in terms of quality opportunities, it was about equal. North Dakota was able to capitalize twice on the man advantage which made a huge difference.

Final Scoring

First Period

10:35 Rhett Gardner from Tucker Poolman and Brock Boeser (power play) 1-0 North Dakota

Poolman took a shot from the top of the point that was tipped by Gardner and leaked through Driscoll into the net.

Second Period

16:59 Tucker Poolman from Brock Boeser 2-0 North Dakota

Boeser made a pass from the left halfboards to Poolman at the left-center point. Poolman unleashed a huge slap shot into traffic that found its’ way to the back of the net.

Third Period

1:12 Shane Gersich from Hayden Shaw and Christian Wolanin (power play) 3-0 North Dakota

Shaw fed a pass across the box to Gersich at the right face-off dot and he one-timed a shot past Driscoll before Driscoll could slide across to cover the short side of the net.