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UND's penalty kill up to the task in tie with Denver

As you looked at the matchup leading up to the weekend, the UND and Denver series was expected to feature one glaring mismatch.

The Fighting Hawks haven't been able to kill a penalty lately and the Pioneers have one of the most skilled power plays in the country.

On Friday night, the Fighting Hawks' maligned penalty killers were up to the task.

UND killed 4 of 5 penalties, as well as another during the 3-on-3 overtime, to spark the Fighting Hawks to a 3-3 tie with Denver at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The only time the Pioneers scored with the man advantage was on Cole Smith's five-minute major for contact to the head on Denver defenseman Adam Plant.

UND gave up a power-play goal to Troy Terry to give Denver the lead in the first six minutes of the third period, but the Fighting Hawks could have felt fortunate at that point to only give up one on the major to the skilled Pioneers.

"I think basically it was taking away seam plays and trying not to lose guys on coverage," UND coach Brad Berry said. "They're a good team off the entry. Once they're in the zone, they can pick you apart. I think it was us playing tighter."

UND's special teams was the talk all week. The outlook was extra bleak when UND released a lineup Friday without regular special teamers Rhett Gardner, Gabe Bast and Nick Jones.

On Nov. 15, UND ranked No. 2 in the country on the penalty kill. At that point, the Fighting Hawks were killing off 95.8 percent of their penalties.

Since, UND ranked No. 59 of 60 college hockey teams on the penalty kill entering the weekend.

The Hawks gave up six power-play goals last weekend in getting swept at Minnesota Duluth and a seventh goal came just moments after a power play expired.

"Worked on it a lot this week," UND defenseman Hayden Shaw said. "We definitely needed it. I liked what we did. It's always tough when you have to kill a five minute. We'll look at some video but I really like the looks that we gave them."

Denver came in with one the most skilled teams in the nation. The Pioneers entered the weekend ranking fifth in the NCAA in goals per game.

During the November series between UND and Denver, the Pioneers went 5-for-12 on the power play as the teams split.

This time, UND limited the power-play chances for standouts like Terry, Henrik Borgstrom and Dylan Gambrell.

"Obviously, they're a skilled team and have a great power play," UND's Joel Janatuinen said. "I think we did a good job on the kill. We have to have the same mentality tomorrow.

"I think we just had the right mentality of hard work. We did a good job of that. We didn't give them time and space."

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department since 2004. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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