UND gives up three-goal lead, loses to Miami in OT
OXFORD, Ohio—No lead is safe with the UND men's hockey team right now.
Not even a three-goal cushion against the last-place National Collegiate Hockey Conference team that hadn't scored in four games and 240 minutes of play.
UND turned a 3-0 lead into a 4-3 overtime loss to Miami on Friday night in Goggin Ice Arena, the worst of all the blown leads in the last month.
Ben Lown finished it 59 seconds into overtime, when he was gifted a breakaway due to a poor line change and snapped a shot past UND goalie Cam Johnson's right leg.
The rally gave Miami its first win in six games and raised all sorts of questions for a UND team that started the season by finding a way to win close games and is finishing the season by finding ways to lose them.
It was the first time that UND had lost a game when leading by three in 14 years. It last happened Feb. 6, 2004, against Wisconsin at Kohl Center. UND led 3-0 in that game and lost 4-3 in overtime, just like Friday night.
"It's not doing the right things at key times of the game," UND coach Brad Berry said. "When you have a lead, you have to do the right things to keep momentum. We didn't keep momentum tonight. Getting pucks deep, turning pucks over and bad line changes are all sloppy things in a game that led to their momentum. They outright won the game, but we did a lot to create that."
UND lost games in which it held 2-0 leads to Minnesota Duluth (Jan. 20) and Omaha (Feb. 16). It also tied Denver in a game it led 2-0 (Jan. 26).
The blown lead against the RedHawks dropped UND (14-11-8, 8-9-4 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) into fourth place in league standings—which would be the final spot for home ice in the league's playoffs—and No. 14 in the Pairwise Rankings, which are used to select the 16-team NCAA tournament field.
UND currently has 15-year streaks of home ice and NCAA-tournament appearances that are in jeopardy of ending.
"It's just getting complacent," said UND forward Johnny Simonson, who scored for the second-straight game. "In this league, teams are good enough to come back from one-goal, two-goal deficits, especially if you give them opportunities. Tonight, we didn't manage pucks like we should have. We didn't get pucks deep, even when our coaches and players were talking about it. We didn't execute and that's what happens."
Defenseman Christian Wolanin said: "We're not pointing fingers. It's a team game. We win and lose as a team. But for us to have people and passengers not playing hockey the right way is killing us. It's a tough loss to take at this point in the year."
Although UND lost the game in the third period and overtime, there were signs that it could have happen much earlier than that.
The Fighting Hawks were often sloppy with pucks and didn't sustain much of an attack. They were able to build a lead because of snipes by Grant Mismash and Christian Wolanin and a shorthanded rebound goal by Simonson, but the RedHawks had generated the better of the chances.
It just took the first goal by Alec Mahalak, a defenseman without one on the season, to break the 240:24 scoreless drought that spanned three full games and parts of two more.
That one came just as a power play expired and cut UND's lead to 3-1.
"I could tell in the first period," Simonson said of UND's lack of sharpness. "We got outplayed. Getting outworked was the biggest problem. In the second period, even when our effort went up, you could tell guys were off up and down the lineup. We were fighting the puck a bit. We weren't making plays that we usually make time and time again."
Miami scored back-to-back goals in the opening four minutes of the third period—a wraparound by Phil Knies at 1:42 and a wrist shot by Gordie Green at 4:00—to pull even. Lown scored the winner after Jordan Kawaguchi's attempted dump in the neutral zone didn't get deep and he had a breakaway chance.
This is the opposite of how the season started.
UND scored game-winning goals or game-tying goals in the final half of the third period five times in first 13 games.
But since Simonson scored a game-winning goal with 2:31 to go to upset Denver on Nov. 17, the Fighting Hawks haven't won a single game decided by a goal (five ties, one loss).
UND also has more injury concerns.
Despite practicing Thursday, top-line center Rhett Gardner was unable to play. UND is winless in the six games he's missed due to injury (0-3-3). Joel Janatuinen also left the game early in the second period and didn't return.
Berry said both will be evaluated Saturday morning.
UND did use Ludvig Hoff, who flew from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea in time for the game.
"We have to manage pucks and not try to go through the neutral zone," Simonson said. "You saw how many turnovers we had tonight. Overtime pretty much summed up the game—not managing pucks and giving them opportunities."