UND loses in OT, no longer controls destiny in NCHC home-ice race
Whether or not UND gets home ice for the first round of league playoffs for a 16th straight season is no longer in the team's hands.
UND lost that control when St. Cloud State's Ryan Poehling scored a power-play goal 2 minutes, 48 seconds into overtime to give the Huskies a 4-3 victory in front of 11,923 in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
It was another punch to the gut for the Fighting Hawks, who outshot the top-ranked team in the country for all three periods of regulation, only to find another way to lose a close game.
Jordan Kawaguchi and Christian Wolanin scored second-period goals for UND and Nick Jones tied it with just 4:18 to go, but like so many other times in the second half of this season, it wasn't enough.
Now, UND needs to get at least a point in tonight's series finale against Penrose Cup champion St. Cloud State (7:07 p.m., Ralph Engelstad Arena) to have a shot at home ice for the playoffs.
It also will need help from Minnesota Duluth, which is hosting Omaha.
UND, Colorado College and Omaha are tied with 31 points in league standings, but Omaha holds the tiebreaker over the Fighting Hawks.
"I thought it was a great effort," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Great intensity. Great effort. Good enough to win, but we found a way to lose. It's been a common theme for a few games this year. We have to move forward now."
UND (14-12-9, 8-10-5 NCHC) is now 2-6-4 since January 12th.
It hasn't won a one-goal game since Dec. 1 against Western Michigan.
Is it deflating to go toe-to-toe with the top-ranked team only to lose in overtime and come away with no league points?
"I would say it's a little frustrating," Berry said. "I wouldn't say deflating. One thing about this group, at North Dakota, our culture is that we never lie down. We keep fighting. You'll see an effort even better tomorrow."
Immediately after the game, UND was at No. 15 in the Pairwise Rankings, firmly on the bubble of reaching the NCAA tournament for a 16th straight year.
After Jones tied the game, St. Cloud State drew a power play in overtime when rookie Gabe Bast—who hadn't played in nine games because of injury—was called for high sticking. It was his third penalty of the game.
Berry acknowledged that Bast's timing may have been off as he gets back into the game, but added: "He's a big part of our team. We need him in the lineup."
On the ensuing power play, Easton Brodzinski made a pass from the corner to Poehling on top of the crease. Poehling re-directed it on net. Cam Johnson made the initial save, but Poehling beat UND defenseman Hayden Shaw to the rebound and snuck it by Johnson on the short side.
Poehling had a major impact on the game, finishing with a pair of goals, including a highlight-reel, between-the-legs goal on a breakaway to give St. Cloud State a 3-2 lead with 11:21 to go in the third period.
"Ryan is a big, lanky guy and he has that stuff," St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. "He likes to come in from the left side. I prefer he didn't try that stuff but it worked for him there. When it works, you go with it. He has that long reach, and you can do things like that when you're long and lanky."
UND played with all three of its top centers—Rhett Gardner, Nick Jones and Ludvig Hoff—all in the lineup for the first time since Jan. 12. And the Fighting Hawks got off to a good start.
Defenseman Andrew Peski fired a shot on net from the right point. Nick Jones collected the rebound on the right side of the crease and made a no-look, behind-the-back tap pass to Kawaguchi, who hammered it five-hole on David Hrenak.
The Huskies (22-6-5, 16-4-3) responded with back-to-back goals to take the lead.
Grand Forks Red River's Jon Lizotte scored an even-strength goal at 15:05 on a shot from the left circle and captain Jimmy Schuldt scored on a power-play blast at 17:19.
UND evened it before the end of the second when Wolanin fired a shot through traffic at 19:56.
The teams traded goals in the third before the decisive overtime.
"The start is huge tomorrow," Berry said. "We want to make sure we have a concerted effort and focus moving forward here. I think we'd all agree that was an effort that was good enough to win a game, but in some way, shape or form, the result wasn't there. We have to keep moving forward. I want to reiterate that at North Dakota, we keep moving forward. We fight to the end and we're going to keep battling away here."