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MEN'S HOCKEY: UND completes sweep of Niagara

The nonconference portion of the schedule started inauspiciously. It ended Saturday night with near perfection. After dropping a season-opening game to Bemidji State, UND rolled through the rest of its nonconference schedule, going unbeaten the r...

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UND's Michael Parks pokes the puck between the post and Niagara goalie Jackson Teichroeb for UND's first goal Saturday at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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The nonconference portion of the schedule started inauspiciously.

It ended Saturday night with near perfection.

After dropping a season-opening game to Bemidji State, UND rolled through the rest of its nonconference schedule, going unbeaten the rest of the way (9-0-1) -- a development that will pay dividends come NCAA tournament selection time.

UND capped its best nonconference record under 11th-year coach Dave Hakstol with a dominant 5-0 victory over Niagara University in front of 11,586 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Senior linemates Mark MacMillan and Michael Parks each scored twice, senior captain Stephane Pattyn added another goal and Zane McIntyre stopped 15 shots in posting his first shutout of the season.

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Previously, UND’s best nonconference effort under Hakstol was 2007-08, when UND went 5-1-1, earned a No. 1 seed at the NCAA regional and qualified for the NCAA Frozen Four.

This time, UND’s 9-1-1 record is a big reason why it will hit the stretch run at No. 5 in the Pairwise Rankings.

“I don’t think you can stress it enough,” Parks said. “We just said after the game here that our only nonconference loss was the first game of the year against Bemidji. That was a wake-up call. No matter who you are playing, those games have a huge effect on the Pairwise, obviously.”
UND (16-5-2) found that out the hard way last season.

Despite finishing second in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference standings and piling up a large number of wins, UND needed help on the final day of the season to get into the NCAA tournament. After sweating that out, the players were determined not to go through the same thing this season.

“After tonight, we have a great nonconference record this year,” MacMillan said. “That’s a big part of the national picture. We learned that last year just squeaking into the tournament. We lost the first game Friday night against Bemidji and that was a big wake-up call.
“We basically couldn’t lose from then on.”

And UND didn’t.

It swept Wisconsin, Lake Superior State and Niagara, earned an overtime win in the Hall of Fame Game against Air Force and got a win and a tie against Hockey East preseason favorite Providence, the only nonconference opponent of UND’s that currently has a winning record.

“It’s important to be successful in the nonconference side of things,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “Every game that we play in nonconference is really tough, especially in this building. There can be two different effects. I thought last night, maybe we caught Niagara a little flat-footed. Tonight, we saw a real tenacious, hard-to-play-against team until we got that second goal. That changed the momentum. Nonconference is extremely important and the guys did the job.”

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Earlier this season, UND made some games interesting against overmatched opponents, but not this weekend.

UND outscored the Purple Eagles (3-17-2) by a combined score of 12-1 on the weekend in earning the sweep. During Saturday’s series finale, Niagara nearly reached the midway point of the game with a 0-0 tie, but UND eventually blew it open.

Parks scored the first goal of the game by driving the net on a rush at 9:42 of the second. MacMillan added one at 13:12 on a rebound. And in the final minute of the middle frame, Pattyn tipped a Keaton Thompson shot past Niagara goalie Jackson Teichroeb (38 saves).

In the third, MacMillan knocked one in from the side of the net at 3:10, then set up Parks on a backdoor tap-in at 13:22 for the final margin.

“I think the reason it wasn’t so interesting (this weekend) is the maturity of this team,” MacMillan said. “We’re growing as a team. We know how important these games are and we knew that we had to get on them as quick as we could. We did that right away last night.”
Niagara left impressed with UND.

“That’s a pretty good team over there, obviously,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “We knew that coming in, playing a perennial power. They’re ranked, and they should be, as well as they played. They’re very tough to play against. They’re big and strong and physical. We couldn’t muster up any offense really two nights in a row against the D-corps. When they need to make plays, they made plays.”

Notes: UND played without forwards Colten St. Clair (upper body) and Trevor Olson (mononucleosis) and defenseman Troy Stecher (leg). . . UND used the same lineup for the third straight game. . . Niagara changed all four of its forward lines after Friday night’s 7-1 loss. . . Four different UND players notched two-goal games this weekend. . . UND goalies McIntyre and Shelby Amsley-Benzie combined to stop 98 of 99 shots this weekend and post three shutouts.

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Related Topics: UND SPORTSHOCKEY
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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