DENVER -- Almost 10 years to the exact date, UND played a game against Denver in Magness Arena that was so eerily similar to Saturday night's.
On Nov. 21, 2009, UND jumped out to a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Danny Kristo and Chris VandeVelde.
Then, the parade to the penalty box started.
Through the middle of the game, the Pioneers had six consecutive power plays and nine in the span of less than 37 minutes. They scored on three of them -- Joe Colborne twice and Kyle Ostrow once -- and went on to win 3-2. The Pioneers swept that weekend without scoring a goal at even strength.
On Saturday night, it (sort of) happened again.
UND jumped out to a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Cole Smith and Josh Rieger.
Then, the parade to the penalty box started.
Denver spent 29.6 percent of the game with a man (or two) advantage. They were at 5-on-4 for 12:08, 5-on-3 for 2:56 and 6-on-5 for 2:42. That's 17:46 in total.
But this time, UND's penalty killers and goalie Adam Scheel blanked the Pioneers on the power play and allowed UND to walk out of Magness Arena with a series victory for the first time since 2003 (read the game story on that here).
Denver went 0-for-6 on the power play Saturday.
That included two five-minute majors and two separate extended five-on-threes -- one lasting 56 seconds, the other a full two minutes.
"I mean, you definitely get a little tired, but after you kill off one penalty and then we get another, you kind of build off killing that penalty," said sophomore forward Mark Senden, one of UND's key penalty killers. "It's just kind of building off one another. Guys are cheering you on from the bench if you block a shot or get the puck out or do those little things."
UND also had the benefit of a large fan contingent at Magness Arena that got louder and louder with each clear and successful penalty kill.
"It brings a lot of energy," Senden said. "It gives you an extra boost out there when they start chanting and stuff. It's definitely a benefit to us when we're on the PK and we need that extra little boost to get it out of the zone. It's amazing."
UND coach Brad Berry, whose team has been one of the least penalized this season (ranking 41st nationally and seventh of eight NCHC teams in penalty minutes), often emphasizes not taking back-to-back penalties.
"What we've seen over the last couple years is that what happens when you take consecutive penalties is not good," Berry said. "We'll make sure we learn and move forward and make sure it's not a pattern."
Almost a rare 3x5 goal
The Pioneers entered the weekend clicking at over 20 percent on the power play.
On their first advantage Friday night, Emilio Pettersen had a great look off of a cross-ice pass, but didn't get all of the puck and missed the shot wide. Denver's second power play also generated chances. But as the weekend progressed, it had fewer and fewer good looks.
In fact, UND may have had the best scoring chance during Denver's second five-minute major Saturday.
Dixon Bowen nearly scored a rare three-on-five goal, skating the puck on a clean breakaway while down two men. Bowen's shot beat Denver goalie Magnus Chrona, but hit the crossbar.
In my 15 years covering the team, a three-on-five goal has only happened once in a UND game. Jason Gregoire did it at Colorado College in World Arena on Jan. 28, 2011.
Scheel's shorthanded save percentage
When the Pioneers did generate chances, Scheel was there.
The UND goalie made 13 saves while shorthanded Saturday and 17 on the weekend. That brings his shorthanded save percentage to a remarkable .950, which is, by far, the best mark in the conference.
NCHC shorthanded save percentage, top goalies
.950 -- Adam Scheel, North Dakota
.921 -- Magnus Chrona, Denver
.896 -- Hunter Shepard, Minnesota Duluth
.870 -- Matt Vernon, Colorado College
.861 -- Ryan Larkin, Miami
.857 -- Isaiah Saville, Omaha
.851 -- Brandon Bussi, Western Michigan
.744 -- David Hrenak, St. Cloud State
Scheel is enjoying a terrific start to the season, going 8-1-2 with a .924 save percentage and a 1.53 goals-against average.
DU's rare quiet weekend
UND held Denver to just two goals during the two-game series. That's Denver's fewest goal total for a home series since the NCHC started in 2013.
The last time the Pioneers were held to two goals on a home weekend was Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2012, when Wisconsin limited Denver to one goal each night. Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson split starts that weekend for the Badgers.
It also marked the first time that Denver has lost a home series since Dec. 11-12, 2015, when St. Cloud State earned a sweep in Magness Arena.
A similar Rieger story
By now, you've probably read what happened with Josh Rieger on Saturday night. If not, read it here.
This type of situation has happened one other time when I've been covering the team.
During the 2015-16 NCAA national championship season, Nick Schmaltz got hurt during warmups and couldn't play. Joel Janatuinen got the call. . . but he happened to be in his Walsh Hall dorm room when Schmaltz's injury occurred.
I think it's likely that UND may alter its policy and make the scratched players come to the rink with the rest of the team from now on. Or maybe, since Rieger scored the game-winning goal, a better policy would be that the scratches are mandated to eat Cherry Cricket wings before warmups?
Other notes and thoughts
- UND is now 2-0 in its new black jerseys this season, outscoring opponents 9-1 in those games.
- Smith, a senior, has been called for three major penalties in his career and all three have come against Denver. The other two came during his sophomore year against the Pioneers -- one at Magness Arena and another at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
- For the first time all season, Collin Adams and Jordan Kawaguchi were on the ice for opponent goals. Adams was on the ice Friday when Kohen Olischefski scored and Kawaguchi was on the ice for Pettersen's goal. Adams now ranks second in the nation in plus-minus (plus-12). Kawaguchi is fourth (plus-11)
- Denver was called for three too many men penalties on the weekend -- two Friday and one Saturday. Coach David Carle cannot be happy about that.
- UND finally had a breakout game offensively in Magness Arena. After scoring six goals in its previous six games there, the Fighting Hawks put four on the board. That's the most since Nov. 17, 2017, when UND rallied from down 3-0 to win 5-4.
- As much credit as UND's defensive group deserves for holding the Pioneers, the forwards also deserve credit. They were consistently collapsing on Denver's players with back pressure.
- How balanced is UND offensively? If I were to tell you, before the weekend, that outside of empty-netters, UND would not get a goal from Westin Michaud, Grant Mismash, Adams, Kawaguchi or Shane Pinto, could you imagine the Fighting Hawks winning the series?
- The balance was best displayed on UND's game-winning goal Saturday: Rieger from Judd Caulfield and Scheel. Those three entered the game with a combined four-career points, and they almost matched that on one play.
- Caulfield's two points on the season have been a result of excellent passes -- something that's not surprising if you watch the former Grand Forks Central player practice. He might be a better setup man than goal-scorer.