A quick start and hot goaltending propelled UND past St. Cloud Friday night.
A truly interesting anecdote was brought to our attention this week as it was noted that North Dakota hadn't won a road game at St. Cloud on a Friday night since 1998. A quirky stat for sure, but it gives you an indication of the often intimating type of building the National Hockey Center can be for opposing teams.
One way to break that trend? Score goals in the first minute of the first two periods of the game and have your goaltender throw up a zero.
North Dakota was able to do that Friday night at the NHC in front of an announced crowd of 4,738.
Sophomore Brendan O'Donell started things off for North Dakota just 48 seconds into the first period, and senior Carter Rowney was able to duplicate that success 43 seconds into the second.
North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol spoke about what kind of building the NHC can be if your team doesn't get off to a solid start.
"It's a momentum building. They have a great student section and it's a loud building when things get rolling," Hakstol said after the game. "Fortunately for us we were able to keep the lid on it."
O'Donnell was one of North Dakota's best players all night, as the speedy left winger was all over the ice making plays. The goal was his first of the season, and came off a nice feed from sophomore Connor Gaarder who's been a point machine for UND lately.
Gaarder brought the puck into the zone down the right wing side and spied O'Donnell cutting down the center of the ice to the net. Gaarder threw a perfect feed to O'Donnell who was able to angle the puck through the legs of St. Cloud goaltender Ryan Faragher.
UND was able to extend their lead to two based on the play of their top line of Danny Kristo, Corban Knight, and Carter Rowney early in the second period.
Knight was able to free the puck on the left side boards in the offensive zone and feed it to Rowney out in front of the net. A dangerous scorer, Rowney simply doesn't miss from there.
UND was able to break things open late in the third period while short handed.
Captain Andrew MacWilliam took a hooking call with just over three minutes to play, but UND sophomore Mark MacMillian was able to break free from the pack and bury a break-away attempt to ice the game for North Dakota.
UND was also able to ride the play of transfer junior goaltender Clarke Saunders who came to North Dakota after two seasons with Alabama-Huntsville.
A native of Brockville, Ontario, Saunders weathered the early storm for UND as St. Cloud put up 14 shots in the first period. Saunders finished the night with 32 saves, many of the spectacular variety.
Saunders noted the quick goals were big for UND Friday night.
"Every team wants a good start, and all three periods we came out and did that."
St. Cloud State's Faragher finished the night with 23 saves on 26 shots.
MacNaughton Cup championships aren't won in November, but it's always nice to take a road game from a top WCHA team.
Hakstol seemed satisfied in the result, and was looking forward to the series finale Saturday night.
"Good road win, that's the bottom line."
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