UND finishes series sweep of Western Michigan
UND coach Brad Berry decided to put his fourth line on the ice to start the third period.
"We needed a little jump and a little spark," Berry said. "You saw what happened."
Cole Smith tied a 65-year-old school record by scoring seven seconds into the third period, sparking a three-goal final period and giving UND a 4-1 win Saturday night over Western Michigan in front of 11,742 in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The victory sealed a two-game series sweep over the Broncos, who entered the weekend atop the National Collegiate Hockey Conference standings.
The Fighting Hawks (10-4-4, 5-2-1 NCHC) trailed 1-0 late in the second period, but Nick Jones scored with 22.3 seconds left in the middle frame and Smith gave UND the lead for good just seconds into the third period.
Hayden Shaw and Grant Mismash iced the win with back-to-back tallies in the final eight minutes.
"We haven't put two games in a row together for a while," Smith said. "To do it at home, for our fans, the last series before Christmas, it felt really good. The boys are ecstatic."
The win puts UND a single point behind first-place St. Cloud State in the NCHC standings. UND plays at St. Cloud State next weekend before heading to Christmas break.
Smith, a sophomore from Brainerd, was scratched in the team's season-opener at Alaska Anchorage, but has become a key player in the last month.
He has a team-best plus-7 rating in the past eight games. He's been on the ice for seven UND goals and not a single goal against.
Smith has been in on three game-winning goals (two goals, one assist), most on the team this season.
And he came through in the clutch again Saturday.
Western Michigan center Hugh McGing won the third-period faceoff back, but defenseman-turned-forward Josh Rieger beat Bronco winger Dawson DiPietro to the puck and tapped it in Smith's direction.
Smith swooped in, picked it up, skated around Western Michigan defenseman Luke Bafia and buried it five-hole.
"He's a big, heavy guy who skates extremely well," Berry said of Smith. "He's tough to handle when he's got momentum."
It tied Ben Cherski's school record for the fastest goal to start the third period. Cherski scored his on Jan. 18, 1952.
Smith found out about the record after the game.
"That's pretty cool," he said.
Western Michigan (9-7-1, 5-3 NCHC) was playing an ideal road game late in the second period, limiting UND's opportunities and leading 1-0 on a highlight-reel goal by Austin Rueschhoff, who danced around Fighting Hawk rookie defenseman Matt Kiersted and roofed a forehand.
But the game turned late in the second.
Shane Gersich (two assists) picked a puck out of midair in the defensive zone to start a rush up the left side. He gave the puck to Jones, who sent a pass to Mismash in the right circle. Bronco goalie Ben Blacker (21 saves) stopped Mismash's attempt, but Jones buried it five-hole.
"We were disappointed to give up a goal with 23 seconds left in the second period," Western Michigan coach Andy Murray said. "Our game was much better tonight than last night as a team. In the second period, we had to kill three penalties. We battled through it. Guys were sacrificing, blocking shots. I think they only advanced the shot clock by one.
"Then, we came out and gave one up with 23 seconds left. Then, we come out for the third period and a veteran forward gets overpowered, a defenseman gets beat and a great effort by Smith. Not known for that type of goal, but good for him. And we were chasing it after that."
Shaw banked a power-play goal off of Western Michigan defenseman Corey Schueneman with 8:01 to go and Mismash buried a Gersich feed with 5:34 left.
Cam Johnson, who returned to the ice during Friday night's 4-3 win after missing eight games with a lower-body injury, stopped 19 of 20 shots.
UND played with every healthy body in the lineup.
Sophomore forward Ludvig Hoff (upper body) and sophomore defenseman Andrew Peski (undisclosed), who were both injured in Friday's game, did not play. They joined Trevor Olson (upper body, 10 games missed) and Dixon Bowen (foot, five games missed) out of the lineup.
"We talk about growing as a team," Berry said. "When you win games, you grow as a team. You grow even more when you see the lineup changes we've had due to illness and injuries., You grow exponentially from that because you find ways to win with guys in different roles."