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College hockey: UND beats Minnesota State on third-period goal

Throughout the weekend, Cole Smith was keeping a close eye on MSU-Mankato goaltender Dryden McKay. He noticed something. "He kind of had some iffy plays with the puck under pressure the whole weekend," Smith said. "I think I almost picked one off...

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UND's Adam Scheel blocks a shot by MSU Mankato forward Max Coatta (12) Saturday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Throughout the weekend, Cole Smith was keeping a close eye on MSU-Mankato goaltender Dryden McKay.

He noticed something.

“He kind of had some iffy plays with the puck under pressure the whole weekend,” Smith said. “I think I almost picked one off on the Friday night game as well. It was just kind of a thing for us to get pressure on the goalie all night.”

With Saturday night’s game tied 3-3 late in the third period, that attentiveness paid off.

Smith baited McKay into a mistake -- he left a puck behind the net for Smith -- and the junior forward picked it up, pulled it to the front of the crease and slammed it home for the game-winning goal.

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UND ran out the final 8 minutes, 25 seconds to secure a 4-3 victory over the Mavericks and a first victory of the season.

“I tried to fake like I was going to his backhand side and jumped to his forehand,” said Smith, who was the lone forechecker on the play.

What did Smith think when he saw the puck coming right to him?

“Get it in the net,” he said.

Sometimes, it takes a break like that to get things going.

Prior to Saturday night’s game, UND had found ways to lose or tie its first three contests.

The Fighting Hawks gave up a game-winning goal in the third period in its season opener against Bemidji State. They gave up a game-tying goal with just 4:14 left in a 1-1 tie with the Beavers the following night.

On Friday, UND lost 7-4 to the Mavericks, despite outshooting them by 17 shots.

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So, Saturday afternoon, UND associate coach Dane Jackson told the team a story about a year he had with the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League.

“Their team didn’t get off to a great start,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “They had a lot of talented players, but didn’t have a good start at all. They ended up winning the Calder Cup that year. But they had the message about going through the process, going through the hard and heavy games and getting calloused and hardened. This game, this weekend calloused and hardened us. It’s going to help us be a better team.”

This time, UND found a way to win the game in the end.

Smith finished with two goals and an assist -- his first-career three-point game. Sophomore defenseman Gabe Bast added a goal and an assist, while sophomore forward Grant Mismash had a power-play goal.

Rookie goalie Adam Scheel got his second-career start and he made 20 saves.

It added up to UND’s first victory of the year -- and helped the Fighting Hawks avoid their worst four-game start since 1994.

“Big relief,” Berry said. “It’s one of those things where you try to do all the right things and you finally get rewarded for it.”

Smith added: “It feels awesome. The vibe in the locker room is huge. It’s a big confidence booster for us going into this weekend. We’ve got one against the Gophers and we need that one.”

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UND got off to a good start for the second night in a row, scoring two goals in the span of 38 seconds.

The first goal came on a power play. Jordan Kawaguchi won a draw, Nick Jones made a touch pass to Bast at the point, Bast sent a pass to Mismash at the other point and Mismash one-timed a blast high over McKay.

Just 38 seconds later, Smith skated up the right side and launched a wrist shot off the skate of Riese Zmolek and past McKay.

But just like Friday, UND got in trouble with penalties.

UND took two penalties in the span of 2:06, and the Mavericks took just 12 seconds to score on each power play.

On the first goal, Max Coatta found Julian Napravnik -- a healthy scratch Friday night -- in the slot. Napravnik picked the glove-side corner of the net on Scheel to make it 2-1 at 11:16.

Then, Coatta scored his fourth goal of the weekend at 13:22, rocketing a pass from Bismarck’s Jared Spooner past Scheel.

“Discipline was a problem,” Berry said. “We took too many stick penalties in the first. We can’t do that against a team like that.”

UND regained the lead at 2:10 of the second period when Smith blew past a Maverick defenseman on a rush up the left side. He got the puck to the crease, where rookie Mark Senden and Bast swing away. Bast poked it home.

It appeared that UND was going to have a chance to extend the lead with a power play late in the second, but instead gave up the lead when MSU-Mankato standout Marc Michaelis scored shorthanded with fourth-tenths of a second left in the period.

This time, in the third period, UND found a way to score the key goal, though.

“Obviously, the past two weekends, we’ve been working hard,” Bast said. “The results haven’t gone our way. But tonight, we stuck to our process and we got a bounce.”

Berry adeed: “It’s one step. We have to keep moving forward.”

Related Topics: UND FIGHTING HAWKS HOCKEY
Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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