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Gersich hat trick gives UND win at St. Cloud State

St. Cloud State goalie Zach Driscoll blocks a shot by University of North Dakota's Brock Boeser, 16, as he tries to put it in from around the back of the goal during the first period Friday, Nov. 18, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Jason Wachter/St. Cloud Times1 / 5
University of North Dakota's Austin Poganski checks St. Cloud State's Jimmy Schuldt off the puck and into the glass during the first period Friday, Nov. 18, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Jason Wachter/St. Cloud Times2 / 5
St. Cloud State's Jacob Benson tries to slip the puck past University of North Dakota's Christian Wolanin and goalie Cam Johnson during the first period Friday, Nov. 18, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Jason Wachter, St. Cloud Times 3 / 5
St. Cloud State's Nick Poehling, 8, and University of North Dakota's Brock Boeser get tangled chasing the puck during the first period Friday, Nov. 18, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Jason Wachter/St. Cloud Times4 / 5
University of North Dakota goalie Cam Johnson deflects a shot by St. Cloud State's Nick Poehling during the first period Friday, Nov. 18, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Jason Wachter/St. Cloud Times5 / 5

ST. CLOUD, Minn.—UND mixed up the lines.

It changed power-play units.

It pulled out the black jerseys for the first time this year.

Anything it takes to end the program's longest winless streak—six games—in 14 seasons.

Whether it was all of the changes or just the fact that UND was due to finish off a game after playing relatively well with nothing to show for it—all that mattered Friday night was the result.

UND beat St. Cloud State 4-0 in the series opener at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center to end its six-game winless streak.

Shane Gersich scored three goals, Ludvig Hoff added one and goalie Cam Johnson stopped all 25 saves to shut out college hockey's fourth-best offense as UND looked much more like the defending national champion than in the previous three weeks.

"We played well early in the year," UND coach Brad Berry said. "But consistently, for a 60-minute game, I thought that was our best performance. You could tell there was some sharpness and detail there."

UND answered nearly every question heading into the night.

Could the penalty kill unit, ranking 51st of 60 teams nationally, slow down a St. Cloud State power play that has finished in the top five nationally in each of the last three years?

Yes. The Huskies went 0-for-4 on the power play and never really threatened.

Could the power-play unit, which had scored on just seven of 51 chances this season, take advantage of its limited opportunities against St. Cloud State?

Yes. UND scored on its first opportunity of the game and hit two posts on its other chance. It won the special teams battle for the first time in eight games.

Could UND score back-to-back goals for the first time in four games and take a lead into an intermission for the first time in seven games?

Yes. UND led 1-0 at the first intermission and 4-0 at the second. It rattled off two goals in 1:19 at the end of the second period to pull away.

"It feels really good," said forward Tyson Jost, the first-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche who notched two assists with former Avs legend and general manager Joe Sakic on hand. "Not for a second did I not believe in the group in there. We're a close-knit team. We're brothers in there. We did a really good job responding. The standard we set in our dressing room is how we played tonight. We want to keep this rolling."

St. Cloud State, which hasn't won a series against UND at home since 2001, will have to wait another year as it dropped to 6-5.

UND, meanwhile, will have an opportunity to sweep the Huskies in the National Hockey Center for the first time since 1998—the same year Jost was born. The series finale is scheduled for 7:07 tonight.

For the series opener, Berry swapped right wingers Brock Boeser (assist) and Austin Poganski (assist) to different lines. It seemed to work as UND generated chances on all four lines.

The top line of Gersich, Jost and Poganski scored three times—Gersich finishing off all of them. The sophomore has five goals in his last two games and nine for the season.

"I'm just playing with confidence right now," Gersich said. "I've been working really hard before practice and stuff, working on skills and getting confidence. It has translated to games."

The second line of Joel Janatuinen, Rhett Gardner and Boeser also had its fair share of opportunities.

And for the first time in over a month, UND got a goal from the third or fourth line when Hoff buried a shot from the right wing on a 3-on-1 rush.

Our guys played hard away from the puck," Berry said. "I thought our five-man gaps were a lot better than they have been. That's going to be something we need to do going forward."

Johnson, whose save percentage has suffered this season with an overhauled defensive corps, put together maybe his best game yet, becoming the first goalie to blank St. Cloud State since March 30, 2014 -- a 91-game stretch that spans four seasons.

"We got outplayed," St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. "That looked like a team that came in with the will. On the line of scrimmage, we just got slaughtered. Any possession puck, we got slaughtered. We had a handful of guys that were pushing. But we had a handful of guys that were just awful. We had too many guys who had bad nights tonight and it's the first time in awhile. We got outcompeted. They came in here much more desperate and took us down."

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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