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Offensive explosion leads Penn State past UND in Nashville

The Nittany Lions became the first team to beat the Fighting Hawks in a destination game.

10302021 UNDMHKY Jake Schmaltz.jpg
UND forward Jake Schmaltz stretches to stay onside as Penn State defenseman Christian Berger (5) looks to break up the play at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday, October 30, 2021. Photo via Russ Hons / UND Athletics.
Russell Hons

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — UND arrived in Nashville on Thursday night, stayed on Broadway and took in a few things the city had to offer.

They walked the green-flooded streets downtown, received a raucous ovation when they made a brief stop at the pregame party Friday night at Wildhorse Saloon and walked to Saturday night's game through a tunnel of cheering and chanting UND fans that traveled from at least 47 different states to attend the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game.

But once the game started, the fun ended.

A mistake-prone UND team lost 6-4 to Penn State in Bridgestone Arena, where 14,659 fans tried to urge a Fighting Hawks comeback after they fell behind 2-0 in the first.

UND pulled within a goal four separate times, but never tied it back up.

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Penn State defenseman Clayton Phillips, who played against UND in its last destination game in Vegas as a Minnesota Gopher, scored two goals. Connor MacEachern added two, while Tyler Gratton and Ben Copeland had one.

Judd Caulfield, Ethan Frisch, Jake Schmaltz and Riese Gaber scored for UND.

"Obviously, this is one we had circled," Frisch said. "We knew what we had to do. We had the proper pre-scout. We knew everything we needed to do, all the little things. . . it sounds like a broken record at this point, we're just not doing it. We're not getting the starts we need. We're not playing disciplined. We're not getting it done."

It marked the first time UND lost a destination game.

In 2012, it beat Clarkson in Winnipeg's MTS Centre. The following year, it beat Omaha at T.D. Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series. In 2016, the Fighting Hawks beat Boston College in New York City's Madison Square Garden. And in 2018, they beat rival Minnesota in Las Vegas.

"I thought it was tremendous having fan support come here to a neutral site in an NHL city in Nashville," UND coach Brad Berry said. "It just shows the support of our program. One thing we could have done a little bit better job of is focus a little more. I know we have family and friends and I think it's a great experience when you come to these destination games. Each and every individual has to try to focus and bring that A-game and make sure there's not a lot of distractions.

"I just thought there were a lot of guys tonight who were just off a little bit. I'm not making an excuse because of that. But it's a situation where we're going to be playing in big venues against teams on the road and at home. There's going to be high pressure. We've got to make sure we manage ourselves a little bit better."

Despite the home-crowd atmosphere, UND got off to a slow start. It got outshot 13-6 in the first period and gave up the first two goals.

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The Fighting Hawks continually clawed back in the game, pulling within a goal at 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4. Every goal came with a man advantage — three on the power play and one with an extra attacker.

Despite outshooting Penn State 26-10 in the final two periods, the Fighting Hawks gave up four goals and never tied it up.

"I don't think we took our foot off the gas," Frisch said. "It was one of those things where I felt like we'd dominate, then one play, boom, they'd put it in the back of our net. They capitalized. They did a great job. Kudos to them. They did what they needed to do."

UND goalie Zach Driscoll stopped 17 shots, while Penn State's Oskar Autio made 28 saves.

After the game, the teams stood on their blue lines as the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame trophy, the J. Lawrence Cain Award, was presented to the winner. For once, UND's fans were exiting the arena and not watching.

"Our fans are second to none," Frisch said. "You saw them out there. You heard them. We needed to do a better job for them."

Note: UND wore special jerseys for the game, a nod to the ones the program wore in 1994. It said 'North Dakota' across the front and no jersey numbers.

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