UND gets first sweep in St. Cloud since 1998
ST. CLOUD, Minn.—During the past month, the UND men's hockey team learned some important lessons.
"Our team and coaching staff has tried to be a little more healthy the last couple of months," captain Gage Ausmus said. "They weren't giving us bacon at breakfast. They finally gave us bacon this weekend and I think that was the difference."
There will probably be a lot more bacon in the future.
UND made history Saturday night, becoming the first team to shutout St. Cloud State in back-to-back games in the 27-year history of the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
One night after posting a 26-save shutout, junior goalie Cam Johnson came back and stopped all 36 Husky shots to lead UND to a 3-0 win and give the program its first sweep in the building since 1998.
Johnson, who entered the weekend with an .895 save percentage, stopped all 62 shots and will head to Thanksgiving weekend with a scoreless streak of 153:35.
Minutes after boarding the bus back to Grand Forks, Johnson tweeted: "I'm baaaaaack."
"I think, slowly, we're starting to play the right way," said Johnson, who backstopped UND to the national championship last season. "We hit a little lull there. We're young and it's early in the season. We're learning. We were continually playing better and better each weekend. This is indicative of how much we've grown the last few weeks. If we keep going like that, we're going to win a lot of games this year."
UND entered the weekend on a six-game winless streak (0-4-2), its longest in 14 seasons. But it leaves the National Hockey Center with a 7-4-2 record and a lot more confidence after two shutouts of a St. Cloud State team that entered the weekend ranked fourth nationally in scoring.
"Obviously, I'm very proud of our guys," UND coach Brad Berry said. "They worked extremely hard. Not just for 60 minutes but for 120 minutes. It all started last Monday in practice when there was a workman-like attitude. IT was all business. We were playing OK, but we weren't playing great. We weren't playing well enough to win. There was another level. I have to commend our leadership group in the locker room. They got our guys dialed in."
Tucker Poolman and Rhett Gardner each had a goal and an assist in the series finale, while forward Shane Gersich stayed red hot scoring his fourth goal of the weekend and sixth in the last three games. Brock Boeser added two assists.
St. Cloud State fell to 6-6 overall and was swept at home for the second time this season.
"That was a hard, hard series," St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. "We hate lessons, but it's the kind of team we have right now. (The Fighting Hawks) didn't have a win in a league series going in and they hadn't beaten us in here twice in ...forever.
"We got destroyed on faceoffs. We started to battle back the second half of the game tonight and won some back, but territorially, it was a war of a series. Even our seniors haven't been in that hard of a series anywhere."
UND survived a push by the Huskies early—including a power-play chance—and eventually turned the tide.
The Fighting Hawks capitalized on their first power-play chance of the night when Poolman blasted a shot from the high slot off of Gardner and past Husky goalie Zach Driscoll (33 saves) at 10:35 of the opening frame.
UND extended its lead late in the second period after a lengthy wall battle that Joel Janatuinen and Gardner won to Boeser, who threaded a pass to the point. Poolman hammered a slap shot through a Janatuinen screen to make it 2-0 with 3:01 left.
The Huskies had a great chance to cut the lead in half early in the third period, when leading scorer Judd Peterson had a shorthanded breakaway, but Johnson made a desperation save with his leg to maintain the two-goal lead.
Then, UND went the other way and scored to make it 3-0 when Hayden Shaw threaded a pass to Gersich for a one-timer.
"It shows a lot about our team and the guys we have in the locker room and our coaching staff to come out and play like that two nights in a row," Ausmus said. "It's special."
It was extra sweet for UND forward Austin Poganski, who grew up in St. Cloud and attended high school at St. Cloud Cathedral.
"It was huge," Poganski said. "We were on a little slump the last six games. It's huge to get a sweep against an NCHC team and to do it in St. Cloud, which we haven't done in forever. It's a huge confidence boost and a lot of momentum for our team going on."