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Sweet sweep

UND goalie Cam Johnson takes a shot to the chest during the second period of Saturday's home win over St. Lawrence University. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald1 / 5
UND's Jordan Kawaguchi struggles with St. Lawrence forward Callum Cusinato for control of the puck Saturday night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Fighting Hawks bested the Saints 6-1. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald2 / 5
St. Lawrence goalie Daniel Mannella barely stops a shot by UND's Shane Gersich during Saturday's game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald3 / 5
Ed Belfour, former UND goalie who was on the 1986-1987 national chamionship team, waves to fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena during a ceremony prior to Saturday's hockey game against St. Lawrence University. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald4 / 5
UND forward Johnny Simonson and St. Lawrence defenseman Dylan Woolf collide during the final minutes of the second period of Saturday's game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald5 / 5

Cam Johnson was finally able to sit back and relax.

For the first time this season, the UND hockey team gave its goaltender a little room for error.

UND exploded for three goals in the first period and six goals for the game—matching its total from the first three games of the season combined—in a 6-1 rout of St. Lawrence on Saturday in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Six different players scored the goals.

Christian Wolanin, Shane Gersich and Grant Mismash scored in the first, Jordan Kawaguchi scored in the second and Cole Smith and Rhett Gardner tacked on the final goals in the third to finish off UND's first two-game sweep of the season.

"I'm happy with how our team has played," Johnson said. "Tonight, we were finally able to score goals, which is something we've been lacking a little bit lately.

"It's easy to settle into those games, especially in the third period, when you're playing with a lead there. I wish they all came like that. I wish we had a start like that every game. It was our time. We had so many chances to score last night and the past couple weekends. Those bounces are finally going our way."

UND is off to an unbeaten start through two weekends at 3-0-1, earning a win and a tie at Alaska Anchorage and now a sweep against St. Lawrence of the Eastern College Athletic Conference.

The first three games all came down to the wire.

UND tied its first game, won its second game in overtime and used a goal in the final five minutes to win Friday's game against the Saints 2-1.

But the offense finally opened up in Game 4.

Twelve players got on the scoresheet as UND built a three-goal lead in the first period.

"I don't know if we did anything differently," UND coach Brad Berry said. "The biggest thing is guys knew they could play better tonight. We left the rink last night with a win, grateful for the win, but we all talked about that we can play a whole lot better. It was a self-realization that our games, individually, had to be better."

There were numerous positives offensively.

Rookies Mismash and Kawaguchi, expected to be offensive contributors this year, were scratched a week ago in Alaska, but returned to score goals.

Mismash picked up a puck in the neutral zone, blew past St. Lawrence defenseman Nolan Gluchowski, and buried a wrist shot five-hole on Arthur Brey, who was pulled after allowing three goals on 13 shots in the opening frame.

Kawaguchi scored his goal on the power play in the second period, walking a puck to the inside of the right circle and snapping a shot glove side on backup goalie Daniel Mannella.

The power play as a whole was a plus. After going 1-for-its-first-15 chances of the season, UND's power play is now 3-for-its-last-6.

Gersich also scored a power-play goal Saturday, picking up a rebound of a Colton Poolman (two assists) shot.

"It feels good," Gersich said. "Maybe I was gripping the stick a little too much in the first few games. The first one is out of the way, now I can move forward."

In net, a relaxed Johnson turned in another stellar game.

He stopped 27 of 28 shots and helped kill a 5-on-3 power play for 1:40. For the season, he has a .938 save percentage and a 1.23 goals-against average.

"That's Cam," Wolanin said. "He's the best goalie in the country in my opinion, and I think most other peoples' opinions here. We expect that out of him and he expects that out of himself."

Poolman added: "His rebound control is unbelievable. Quietly, he's a steady influence back there and we know we have a good one with Cam."

UND will now prepare for next weekend's showdown against rival Minnesota in Ralph Engelstad Arena—the first trip to Grand Forks for the Gophers in six seasons.

"I'm happy with how I've played and I'm happy with how we've played," Johnson said. "We've just got to keep it rolling."

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 14th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman 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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