Grant Mismash’s season might be over.
It might have ended when his left knee collided with St. Cloud State captain Jimmy Schuldt’s knee in the third period of Friday night’s game in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
But that doesn’t mean UND’s season has ended, too.
With Mismash out of the lineup, UND responded with arguably its most resounding performance of the year, blowing by No. 1 St. Cloud State 5-1 in front of 11,956 in Ralph Engelstad Arena to grab a series split.
It marked the fourth-straight season that the Fighting Hawks have beaten a team ranked No. 1 in the USCHO poll.
They beat No. 1 Quinnipiac in the NCAA national championship game in 2016. They beat No. 1 Denver in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff the following year. They upset No. 1 Denver in Magness Arena last season, rallying from a three-goal deficit.
And they did it again Saturday night thanks to two goals from rookie Gavin Hain, two more from junior Dixon Bowen and a goal and an assist from Mark Senden.
But after the game, UND coach Brad Berry pointed the finger right back to Mismash’s injury as a rallying point for his team.
“I think what really fired us up was Mismash,” Berry said. “That play there, that probably ended his season, we took it to heart. We felt we got slighted there a little bit, but guys are prideful. That’s one thing at North Dakota. We’re a team-first mentality and our guys wore their hearts on their sleeves for him.
“There was a message there. It was: ‘Hey, the first thing we have to do is win the game. I know we’re mad, pissed off. But we need to keep our emotions in check to get the job done at hand. And then after, we can do what we do.' But we got the win and I thought we did a good job of being disciplined.”
UND was up 5-1 in the third period before it took its first penalty of the game. It came within 4:24 of completing a game without a single penalty for the first time since 1997.
But emotions boiled over in those final few minutes, where the teams combined for 12 penalties for 40 minutes.
By then, the Fighting Hawks were well on their way to a win.
- UND Insider (@undinsider) January 27, 2019
UND improved to 13-11-1 overall and 7-7 in NCHC play. They moved up to No. 20 in the Pairwise Rankings and once again showed that flash that they can play with anybody in the country.
The Fighting Hawks now have wins over teams currently ranked No. 1, No. 3, No. 6 and No. 7 in the Pairwise.
“This is huge for us, beating the top team in the nation,” Hain said. “It just brings us a whole ton of confidence in the room. We believe in each other. We believe in the team. We’ve just got to keep doing things right, keep playing smart and play like we did tonight and I think we’ll be right on track where we want to be.”
UND set the tone from the start Saturday.
St. Cloud State, which ranks third nationally in shot differential, didn’t register a shot on goal for the first 9:47. It was another three minutes before the Huskies got their second shot as UND buzzed Husky starting goalie David Hrenak with scoring chances.
The Fighting Hawks loaded up a big top line with Rhett Gardner, Nick Jones and Jordan Kawaguchi, but it was the other lines that hit the scoresheet.
Hain buried a feed from Senden at 3:22 of the first. Senden scored on a partial breakaway at 6:31 of the second. Bowen added a goal on a rush up the right side at 8:47 of the second, chasing Hrenak out of the net.
Schuldt scored late in the second period shorthanded to get the Huskies back in the game, but UND tacked on two more goals in the third.
“We know what we’ve got in the locker room,” Bowen said. “We proved that tonight. We just got to keep playing like that and get this thing rolling here.”
The Fighting Hawks play at Denver next weekend -- the team they may be battling for home ice in the first round of the NCHC playoffs. UND passed Denver for fourth in the standings Saturday by one point.
“We believe in ourselves,” Hain said. “All the guys in there. We believe in each other. We believe in the team and we just knew we had to come out and play a little bit better than we did last night. We did and it showed on the scoreboard.”
NORTH DAKOTA 5, ST. CLOUD STATE 1
First period -- 1. UND, Gavin Hain 2 (Mark Senden 4, Cole Smith 7) 3:22
Second period -- 2. UND, Mark Senden 4 6:31; 3. UND, Dixon Bowen 2 (Hayden Shaw 5) 8:47; 4. SCSU, Jimmy Schuldt 7 (Patrick Newell 13, Jon Lizotte 4) 17:25 (sh)
Third period -- 5. UND, Hain 3 (Colton Poolman 7) 5:52; 6. UND, Bowen 3 14:05
Penalties -- Newell, SCSU, hooking, 13:14 first; Jacob Benson, SCSU, interference, 16:27 second; Lizotte, SCSU, tripping, 8:38 third; Jasper Weatherby, UND, cross-checking, 15:36 third; Weatherby, UND, 10-minute misconduct, 15:36 third; Cole Smith, UND, interference, 16:47 third; Bowen, UND, tripping, 18:43 third; Gabe Bast, UND, slashing, 19:14 third; Ryan Poehling, SCSU, unsportsmanlike conduct, 19:14 third; R. Poehling, SCSU, 10-minute misconduct, 19:14 third; Rhett Gardner, UND, unsportsmanlike conduct, 19:14 third; Shaw, UND, unsportsmanlike conduct, 19:14 third; Micah Miller, SCSU, unsportsmanlike conduct, 19:14 third; Benson, SCSU, cross-checking, 19:54 third; Matt Kiersted, UND, roughing, 19:54 third
Goalie saves -- UND: Adam Scheel 7-7-8 -- 22 (1 GA); SCSU: David Hrenak 8-2-x -- 10 (3 GA), Jeff Smith x-7-7 -- 14 (2 GA)
Penalties-minutes -- UND 8-24, SCSU 7-22
Power plays -- UND 0-3, SCSU 0-3
Attendance -- 11,956
Referees -- Todd Anderson and Nick Krebsbach