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Minnesota returns Thanksgiving weekend favor by beating UND in Grand Forks

Two years after the Fighting Hawks thumped the Gophers 9-3 in Mariucci Arena, Minnesota responded with a 5-1 win in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

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Minnesota's Jack Perbix taps the puck in the net as UND goalie Zach Driscoll, Brady Ferner and Cooper Moore look on in the second period Friday, Nov. 25, 2021. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Two years ago, UND waltzed into Mariucci Arena on Thanksgiving weekend and hung nine goals on the scoreboard in a win over rival Minnesota.

It wasn't nine goals Friday night, but Minnesota did its best to return the holiday favor.

The Gophers opened a three-goal lead in the first half of the game, then cruised to a 5-1 win over UND in front of 11,624 fans in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Bryce Brodzinski scored twice for the Gophers, while Jack Perbix and Ryan Johnson tallied a goal each. Winnipeg Jets first-round pick Chaz Lucius iced it with an empty-netter as Minnesota ended a four-game losing streak against its rival.

"Not good enough," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Not good enough. Hats off to them. They played a good game, a good road game. We didn't play a very good game at all, to a man. I think it starts from the drop of the puck to specialty teams to five on five. That wasn't a very good performance tonight by our guys, to a man."

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Riese Gaber scored the lone goal for UND, which dropped to 9-5 overall.

"They outplayed us all game, basically," UND alternate captain Gavin Hain said. "We had a couple few-minute spurts where we put pressure on them but overall, they played better than us.

"We turned pucks over. We weren't getting the puck behind their 'D.' We weren't getting on their 'D.' We just weren't doing the right things to generate offense, basically."

Minnesota (9-6) will attempt to sweep UND in Grand Forks for the first time since 2005-06 when the teams conclude their two-game series at 6:07 p.m. Saturday.

"Not what we wanted, that's for sure," UND captain Mark Senden said. "We've got to be better all around. We've just got to be a lot better. That's the bottom line."

There weren't many areas where UND was good enough to beat the Big Ten preseason favorites.

The Fighting Hawks went the final 10 minutes, 39 seconds of the first period without registering a single shot on goal, while Minnesota built a lead on a Brodzinski power-play goal.

UND's power play, meanwhile, went 0-for-4 and was unable to convert on a five-on-three that lasted 1:25.

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"I think they just got confidence, because we weren't playing our game," Hain said. "We didn't play hard on them. We weren't doing what we needed to do and I think they started to get some confidence and they ended up outplaying us."

Discipline was once again an issue.

UND defenseman Tyler Kleven was called for a major for contact to the head and was ejected from the game. It's his second game misconduct of the season, meaning any future game misconducts will automatically carry a one-game suspension.

The Fighting Hawks have only lost four regulation games this season. In all four, they've either given the opponent a full two-minute five-on-three power play or a major.

"It's unacceptable," Senden said. "We have to look internally. Those have got to stop. It can't be a recurring thing. They have to stop now. It's something we're going to be addressing."

Although UND had star defenseman Jake Sanderson back in the lineup after he missed last weekend due to an illness, the Fighting Hawks still struggled to generate offense.

They've scored just four goals in the last three games.

"It's a mindset of remaining true to what our identity is and making it harder on other teams, where we put pucks in the offensive zone and we get two or three guys around the puck," Berry said. "Tonight, I thought we were a lot of one-and-done. I thought we were a lot of guys going in and battling for a puck with one guy and not a second guy in close support — and surely not a third. When we're a cohesive unit that puts pucks behind D-cores and plays well in the offensive zone, that's how you generate.

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"The other part is getting more shots on net. I thought we were too cute trying to find seam passes on different plays where, you know, you've to get greasy and dirty. Sometimes, it's just getting some pucks and bodies to the net on those opportunities, especially on nights where it's not going your way."

The Gophers are making just their second trip to Grand Forks in the last 10 years, and after Saturday, it will be another two years before they're back.

"We've got to battle," Senden said. "I just want to see everyone battling and giving everything they've got, playing the right way, chipping pucks, hitting guys, playing the right way."

Berry said UND needs a bigger push early in the game.

"It was right there at the beginning, the first couple of shifts were good," Berry said. "Then it turned the other way in the first period. We did have a push in the third, but it was too late. You have to make sure that happens in the first period and I know we have to be a lot better tomorrow. To a man, we have to make sure we have guys come in that can fulfill their roles and do their jobs to the best of their capability to win a game."

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