UND rallies for tie to complete unbeaten weekend in Kohl Center
MADISON, Wis.—Brad Berry had plenty of reasons to be satisfied with Saturday night's 2-2 tie against rival Wisconsin in the Kohl Center.
For starters, his team finished the weekend unbeaten on the road against a top 10-ranked team in the country—and he did it without starting goalie Cam Johnson, who sustained a freak injury during morning skate Friday.
Secondly, Berry knows the win and tie against the Badgers, a contender to win the Big Ten Conference, will help UND in the Pairwise Rankings come the end of the year. Although the Pairwise Rankings aren't big factors until the end of the season, Berry couldn't resist checking his phone to see how the tie affected UND on Saturday night.
And perhaps the most satisfying part of the weekend was watching his team be resilient in difficult circumstances and find ways to score timely goals at the end of games.
Although the Fighting Hawks trailed for most of the weekend, they managed to rally for win on Friday and came back from a pair of third-period deficits Saturday to pull out a tie.
UND junior forward Shane Gersich scored the game-tying goal with 5:12 left to seal the unbeaten weekend for the Fighting Hawks, who moved to 6-2-2 overall.
"It's kind of something we rally around," sophomore forward Zach Yon said. "We don't try to get down on the bench. We try to get each other up. We try not to worry about the scoreboard and just play our game."
This is becoming a trend for the Fighting Hawks.
In the first 10 games of the season, UND has won or tied four of them in the final nine minutes or overtime.
On the first weekend against Alaska Anchorage, sophomore defenseman Casey Johnson scored an overtime winner.
On the second weekend against St. Lawrence, rookie Collin Adams, who had a goal Saturday, scored a game-winner with 3:49 to go.
And this weekend, Nick Jones scored a game-winning goal Friday night with 8:56 to go and Gersich scored the game-tying goal with 5:12 left in regulation.
"Guys find a way to get it done," Berry said. "There are no excuses with this group. It's next man up. They put everything on the table.
"There's a belief in each other. What you're seeing now is a team that is doing whatever it takes to win. Last night, guys like (Jordan) Kawaguchi and (Joel) Janatuinen. . . I could go right on down the list. . . are blocking shots, selling their bodies to get the win. Guys are doing whatever it takes. That's a good team. We have a long ways to go, but we're growing as a team here."
Yon added: "I think we really emphasize urgency. That's a word we use a lot around the locker room. When it comes down to it, we play with urgency and desperation and I think that's been successful for us."
UND faced plenty of adversity this weekend—and it wasn't just because of the 12,409 red-clad fans chanting at them in the Kohl Center.
Without Johnson, rookie goalie Peter Thome turned in a second-straight terrific performance, allowing just two goals on 24 shots—one a penalty shot by former U.S. Under-18 Team forward Sean Dhooghe and the other a no-chance-to-make-a-save shot by Jason Dhooghe, who converted after a UND turnover in the third.
For the weekend, Thome posted a .935 save percentage and a 1.92 goals-against average.
UND also lost Janatuinen to an upper-body injury after a high hit by Badger defenseman Tyler Inamoto late in the first period Saturday. Inamoto was ejected for the hit. Janatuinen attempted to come back and play in the second period, but quickly returned to the locker room.
Even so, UND was able to rally for a tie.
In the waning minutes of the game, rookie forward Grant Mismash made a nifty play to get the puck to Casey Johnson at the point. Johnson blasted a puck off the end wall and Gersich hammered the rebound past Wisconsin goalie Kyle Hayton (30 saves) from a sharp angle.
"When you're around the net like that, you just try to jam it in," Gersich said. "And luckily it went in."
UND is now 5-1-2 in nonconference play this season with only four out-of-league games remaining: a Thanksgiving-week series against Union and a home-and-home series in January against Bemidji State.
Next weekend, UND returns home to take on Miami.
"To come out of here with a win and a tie is a heck of a weekend," Berry said. "We grew as a team and we're proud of the guys."