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Same issues arise for UND as it collapses in third period

The Fighting Hawks give up six goals again in a loss at St. Cloud State.

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St. Cloud State defenseman Brendan Bushy (18) moves the puck against North Dakota in the first period Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. On Saturday, it was the same story for UND, which gave up six-straight goals in losing 6-3. On Friday, the Hawks gave up five-straight goals.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live
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ST. CLOUD, Minn. — UND stormed to a 3-0 lead Saturday night on the road against the No. 3-ranked team in the country.

But no lead has been safe this season.

Not even that one.

St. Cloud State poured on six unanswered goals to beat UND 6-3 in the series finale in the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

Zach Okabe tallied a natural hat trick — three consecutive goals — in the span of just 8 minutes, 53 seconds at the end of the second and start of the third, turning a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 Huskies lead.

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It marked the first time St. Cloud State has swept UND in the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in 21 years. The last time was November 2001, when the Huskies won 8-4 and 6-1. That's also the last time UND has given up 13 goals in a single weekend.

"We're in this together," UND coach Brad Berry said. "We're part of a situation right now where it's frustrating and we're going to be part of the solution together. We have to make sure we get back home to Grand Forks, have a great week of practice and we've got to find a way to play that 60-minute game to win."

It was the same old issues for UND.

At the top of the list: The Fighting Hawks continue to give up an astounding number of goals.

They allowed six-plus goals for the fourth time this season — and it's not even Christmas yet. The last time they allowed six-plus goals four times in a season was 2005-06.

UND now ranks 49th of 61 teams nationally in goals allowed per game at 3.4. It ranks dead last in save percentage at .861 — a good margin behind No. 60 Yale, which is at .869.

Sophomore Jakob Hellsten started the series opener and was yanked after giving up five goals on 24 shots in two periods.

Fifth-year senior Drew DeRidder started Saturday and allowed five goals on 18 shots. He also stopped three clean breakaways — a sign that when UND gives up shots, they're far too often Grade-A looks.

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"This weekend, we didn't help out our goalies that much," said UND defenseman Chris Jandric, who had a pair of assists. "It was tough to leave them hanging there. There's just so much positive we have that it's tough we're not getting rewarded. I think you have to look at some of the positives and clean up some of the mistakes we had, because we did let up 13 goals this weekend. We do have to clean that up a bit."

As UND searches for answers defensively, Berry didn't rule out the possibility of third-string goalie Kaleb Johnson, a Grand Forks native who has yet to play in a regular season game, getting some action.

"I think he's a guy who has earned a lot through his practices here," Berry said. "We're going to go through the week of practice here and everything's on the table. But at the end of the day, we're confident in the goaltenders we have. We just haven't been playing sound enough around them consistently, and in saying that, maybe they have to be a little better, too.

"This is obviously a team thing we're going through right now, and it's not just one guy or a few guys you can point the finger at. It's everybody together as far as figuring this thing out."

The other problem for UND has been closing out games.

The Fighting Hawks are 6-8-3 overall. In eight of the 11 games UND did not win, it led or was tied in the third. It has blown a two-goal lead four times this season.

This was the first time it blew a 3-0 lead and lost since Feb. 23, 2018, at Miami.

"We have to find ways to close out games," Jandric said. "We have (lost leads) multiple times throughout the year and it's been tough for us. We're there. We're in games. It's just all of the sudden, we lapse for five minutes and they score."

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On Saturday, Matteo Costantini, Gavin Hain and Riese Gaber scored goals to stake the Fighting Hawks to the 3-0 lead, but the Huskies got one back on a goal by Thief River Falls product Brendan Bushy early in the second.

The tide turned when Okabe scored with just 1:48 to go in the second period, drawing the Huskies within one at 3-2.

Then, it predictably went awry in the third.

Okabe scored just 55 seconds into the final frame to tie it. He put the Huskies ahead on the power play at 7:05.

"Every time you get a goal scored on you, you want to make sure that you play in their end of the rink and not play in your end," Berry said. "I think sometimes when we get a goal scored on us, it's right back down our throat and it's in our end of the rink. We have to have that mindset, 'Let's get in their end of the rink, let's do what we have to do to gain momentum.'"

UND has outscored its opponents 20-11 in the first period and 27-24 in the second period this season. It has been outscored 22-12 in the third.

"We just got away from our game a little bit there," UND forward Judd Caulfield said. "I thought we had a great first two periods, obviously, we had a 3-1 lead and they got one toward the end of the second. We just have to stick to that style of game. There's not many teams that can compete with us when we do. St. Cloud is the No. 3 team in the country and we were playing really well against them.

"I thought we were controlling play for the first 40 minutes. We just have to find a way to close out those last 20 minutes, because as we've seen throughout the year, it takes 60 minutes to win a game."

Notes: UND played its second-straight game without defenseman Ethan Frisch (lower body). Forward Dane Montgomery remained out due to an upper-body injury, while forward Carson Albrecht, forward Ben Strinden, defenseman Luke Bast and goalie Kaleb Johnson were scratched. . . St. Cloud State defenseman Spencer Meier (upper body) remained out.

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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