Riese Gaber checks off bucket-list item, drives stirring comeback win over St. Cloud State
The Fighting Hawks junior forward scored the tying goal with an extra attacker and the winner in overtime.
GRAND FORKS — After Riese Gaber finished serving a five-minute major penalty in the third period, he exited the penalty box and skated up to goalie Drew DeRidder.
"I felt bad," the UND junior forward said. "I told Drew I was going to get one back for him. I don't think there was any chance I was going to be denied on that."
He was not.
UND rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the final 15 minutes to beat St. Cloud State 4-3 in overtime Friday in front of 11,486 in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Gaber scored the game-tying goal with an extra attacker, then buried the winner 1 minute, 26 seconds into overtime to finish a stirring rally in front of a crowd that exalted like it hasn't often this season.
On the winning goal, UND freshman winger Jackson Blake circled behind the net and attempted a wraparound. The puck slid out to the right circle, where Gaber picked it up and fired it past Husky goaltender Dominic Basse.
"That was probably the coolest moment of my life. . . one of the coolest moments," Gaber said. "That was on my bucket list to score one of those at The Ralph. This place means so much to me. It's pretty cool to have that."
After scoring, Gaber skated to center ice, where he was mobbed by his teammates.
"It was everything I thought it would be," Gaber said. "I tried to take it in. I looked up at the crowd and tried to take everything in, because obviously, this place is so special. We're extremely fortunate to be able to put on that jersey and play in this building."
With the win, UND improved to 13-13-4 overall and will go for the series sweep at 6:07 p.m. Saturday in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The Fighting Hawks moved into a three-way tie for fifth place with Minnesota Duluth and Colorado College. They still need to gain 11 points on St. Cloud State with only 15 points available to go in order to get home ice for the first round of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs.
The Huskies dropped to 18-9-2 overall and their winless streak has reached five. St. Cloud State has only won once since defenseman Dylan Anhorn suffered a season-ending injury on Jan. 21 (1-3-2).
The biggest issue for the Fighting Hawks in the series opener was discipline. The Huskies scored all three of their goals on the power play. They had seven power-play chances in all, including the five-minute major to start the third.
But UND used special teams goals of its own Friday.
Freshman Owen McLaughlin scored on the power play in the first period, making a nifty shot over the 6-foot-6 Basse from in tight.
Sophomore Jake Schmaltz then started the rally at 5:55 of the third period by scoring on the power play — his first goal since Oct. 29 in Las Vegas.
Then, Gaber's magic arrived in the form of a six-on-five goal and a three-on-three overtime tally.
"Any time it's a two-goal deficit, there's always a question of whether we can come back," UND coach Brad Berry said. "We talked about it before the game — playing at North Dakota and it's such a privilege to be part of this program. What would you do to be a part of this program? I felt our guys right from the get-go. I know we gave up three power-play goals tonight, but I thought for the most part there was belief in our team and resiliency in our group."
It marked the seventh time this season UND has rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie a game. The Fighting Hawks have won four of them.
UND pulled DeRidder (22 saves) for the extra attacker with 2:30 to go and capitalized just over a minute later.
Defenseman Chris Jandric left a puck for Gavin Hain (two assists), who made a cross-ice feed to Gaber. He snapped it past Basse to even it.
"Excellent play," UND alternate captain Ethan Frisch said. "That was a great rush by Jandric. I thought he was all over the ice tonight. He was excellent. Drop pass to Hainer. Great vision to see Riese coming down the back door. That was pretty awesome. It was cool to watch from behind. We needed that big time."
In overtime, Berry said he wanted to get Blake, an NCHC rookie of the year candidate, on the ice as much as possible.
"He's a difference-maker," Berry said. "And he made a huge play to evade a defender and go behind the net and put one out front for Riese."
The winner was Gaber's 18th of the season, and UND's first overtime winner in The Ralph since Hain beat Denver in the 2021 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal.
"The building was incredible," Gaber said. "That's one of the loudest I've heard it. That's so big for us. It gives us so much momentum and energy. It's just something where you sit back and look in the crowd and try to take everything, because it's so dang cool. We're so fortunate."