UND rallies to tie Miami, but only grabs one point in key series
OXFORD, Ohio—It never stopped raining the entire time UND was in Ohio on its last road trip of the regular season.
Perhaps it was a omen or a metaphor for the Fighting Hawks, whose chances of getting home ice for the first round of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs and a berth in the NCAA tournament for a 16th straight year are now as murky as the puddles that gathered across Miami University's campus.
UND picked up just one point on this trip to Oxford against the NCHC's last-place team and it came thanks to a third-period rally to tie Miami 2-2 on Saturday night in Goggin Ice Arena.
Hayden Shaw scored on a shot from the left circle at 4 minutes, 20 seconds of the third period and Nick Jones re-directed a Colton Poolman point exactly three minutes later to help UND erase a 2-0 deficit and get a tie.
Miami grabbed the extra point in NCHC standings on a 3-on-3 goal by Kiefer Sherwood.
"Obviously, it's disappointing," Jones said, referring to the weekend as a whole. "Last night more than tonight. Tonight, I thought we had the intensity, especially in the third period to battle back. First period, I thought we played well. We let up a little in the second period, but in the third period, we scratched and clawed to get those two goals to tie it up."
UND, which matched a school record for most ties in a season with nine, remained in the fourth and final spot for home ice in the NCHC playoffs with 31 points, three ahead of Omaha, Colorado College and Western Michigan, who are all tied with 28.
UND (14-11-9, 8-9-5 NCHC) closes the regular season next week against St. Cloud State, which won the Penrose Cup outright over Denver on Saturday night.
Omaha closes the regular season at third-place Minnesota Duluth and Colorado College hosts a reeling Western Michigan team.
In the Pairwise Rankings, which are used to select the 16-team NCAA tournament field, UND remained No. 14. Teams need to remain in the top 15 to have a chance at an at-large bid.
"Overall, it's a tough weekend," Jones said. "But we have a huge weekend coming home for senior weekend against a really good team."
After falling behind Miami 2-0 on a shorthanded breakway goal by Josh Melnick and a blast by Sherwood on the opening shift of the third period, UND swarmed Miami with scoring chances.
It caught a break on the first goal as Shaw's wrister from the left circle hit the glove of Miami goalie Ryan Larkin, popped in the air and trickled in behind him.
UND drew a power play soon after that with pressure and capitalized when Jones tipped Poolman's shot from the left point.
UND had plenty of chances to win it in the third and overtime, too.
Grant Mismash may have had the best, hitting the crossbar on a turnaround shot in overtime.
For a team that had given up two-goal leads in four of the past eight games, the comeback was a welcome sign.
"I thought tonight was a level we have to get to each and every night to give us a result we want," UND coach Brad Berry said. "We didn't get the result, but we played at a level that gave us opportunities to win the game. That's the biggest thing. Down 2-0, guys didn't give up. They pressured hard. At 2-1, they pressed even harder after that. We're going home next weekend and we need to get to that level."
Shaw said: "Tonight, I liked our mentality that we brought. It's obviously a bummer with the outcome, but there are a lot of things I'm really proud of our group about. It's the mentality aspect that I really liked."
UND played without three injured players—top-line center Rhett Gardner, winger Joel Janatuinen and defenseman Gabe Bast. Berry didn't have any specific updates on when the injured players may return.
It was the seventh game UND has played without Gardner this season and the Fighting Hawks haven't won any of them (0-3-4).
"It's been a question all year that's been asked of me and a question I'm going to keep answering," Berry said of the injuries. "It is what it is. We don't hang excuses on it. We go day-to-day to see if they're available. If they're not, we have guys who will play."
UND's lengthy streaks of home ice in the first round of the playoffs and trips to the NCAA tournament may be on the line during next weekend's series.
"We have a good group," Jones said. "It's not the ideal spot, but we have a great group here and we're going to fight. I have no doubt that this group here will get it done."
Notes: Guy LaFrance, who assisted on Reg Morelli's overtime goal in the 1959 NCAA national championship game to give UND its first title, attended the game.. . It was Senior Night for Miami. The RedHawks honored its three seniors—defensemen Louie Belpedio and Scott Dornbrock and forward Conor Lemirande.