Gophers take the opener with a 2-1 win over North Dakota
After waiting six seasons, UND finally hosted its biggest rival, Minnesota, in Ralph Engelstad Arena again.
So, the venue was different.
Everything else was the same.
Minnesota extended its unbeaten streak over UND to seven games Friday night, stealing another game in which the Fighting Hawks left the rink feeling that they played well enough to win.
For the second straight rivalry game, Gopher goalie Eric Schierhorn put on a show, stopping 34 of 35 shots in a 2-1 Minnesota win in front of 11,862 fans that were left waiting to celebrate most of the game.
Going back to last season's series in Mariucci Arena, Schierhorn has stopped 72 of the past 73 shots against UND, only allowing a late power-play goal to Rhett Gardner on Friday night.
"I thought we played well," UND defenseman Christian Wolanin said. "Felt kind of like last year in Minnesota. I think we outplayed them, and I think we outshot them, but obviously not the result we want."
The game, statistically, was nearly identical to Minnesota's 2-0 win on Saturday night last season.
On Friday, shots on goal were 35-18 UND. Last season, they were 33-20.
On Friday, shot attempts were 78-33 UND. Last season, they were 80-38.
On Friday, the Gophers blocked 29 shots. Last season, they blocked 25.
But Minnesota took advantage of a pair of rushes—a breakaway goal by Rem Pitlick in the first period and a three-on-two goal by defenseman Steve Johnson in the third—to get the win.
"You can't take the credit away from them, they are great at blocking shots," Wolanin said. "They're great at having two layers, sometimes three. That makes tough for defensemen to get shots through, but you've got to work around that. We've got to find a way to break that, get through that, and get pucks to Schierhorn."
UND dropped its first game of the season, falling to 3-1-1, while the Gophers improved to 3-2 overall.
The Gophers are now 5-0-2 in the last seven games against UND and will try for their first sweep in Grand Forks since 2005-06 in tonight's series finale (7:07 p.m., Ralph Engelstad Arena).
"We were relentless tonight," UND coach Brad Berry said. "I thought we pushed the pace. I thought we did a good job playing in the other team's zone. They did a good job of defending and blocking shots. It's another way our team has to find a way to win against a very good team.
"Tonight, we'll make some adjustments and you know North Dakota, after you lose the first game, we'll be back."
Although UND outshot the Gophers 9-1 to start the game, the Fighting Hawks had nothing to show for it and quickly trailed when Minnesota converted its second shot on goal.
Tyler Sheehy, who was listed as doubtful earlier in the week but returned to the lineup after missing last weekend's series, sent a long outlet pass to freshman Casey Mittelstadt on the left side. The first-round Buffalo Sabres draft pick slipped a pass to Pitlick, who got behind the UND defense.
Pitlick cut to the top of the crease and flipped a shot blocker side. UND goalie Cam Johnson (16 saves) got a piece of the puck but it still got by him for a 1-0 Gopher lead at 11:00 of the second period.
UND held a 13-5 advantage in shots in the second period, but couldn't even the game. Then, Minnesota built a two-goal lead at 12:08 of the third.
On a three-on-two rush, Pitlick found Johnson trailing the play and the blue liner beat the UND goalie on the blocker side to make it 2-0.
UND made it a one-goal game just four seconds into its sixth power-play chance of the night in the third—Gardner banged home a rebound of a Grant Mismash shot—but that was the final tally.
"I honestly thought we played a pretty good 60 minutes," Gardner said. "They're a team that takes advantage of opportunities. They took advantage of a couple of our breakdowns. But all in all, we're pretty happy with that effort. There are a few things we have to fix going into tomorrow, but I think we're trying to stay positive.
"We just have to start bearing down on our chances, cleaning up little things and handling pucks a little bit better. It's just a matter of getting one and breaking out from there."
Notes: Gabe Bast made his college debut on defense for UND. . . Johnny Simonson missed the game with an undisclosed injury. . . Matt Kiersted, Zach Yon and Josh Rieger also were scratched. . . Freshman forward Scott Reedy was out with an injury for Minnesota.