GRAND FORKS, N.D. – In an exhibition game just over one year ago, North Dakota lost forward Michael Parks to an injury that ended up costing him half of his sophomore season. In tonight’s 4-1 exhibition win over the U.S. Under-18 National Team, UND again watched as an injured teammate was taken off the ice with a potentially serious injury.
During the second period, sophomore forward Drake Caggiula got tangled up with a Team USA player at the blue line and ended up going up and over the fallen player before landing head-first on the ice. Caggiula lay motionless on the ice for several minutes while being attended to by medical personnel and was taken on a stretcher following a lengthy delay. Fortunately, Caggiula was later released from hospital after all tests came back negative.
At the time of the injury, the challenge for UND head coach Dave Hakstol and Caggiula’s teammates became a matter of gathering their emotions and putting their focus back on the game.
“It puts everything secondary, but I think our guys did a good job of going back to work and closing out a pretty good second period,” said Hakstol. “A lot of credit to them. That’s not the easiest thing to do as you’re going through that experience. While a major part of your thought process is still with (Drake), now you still have to go back to the game and where our job was tonight.”
While Caggiula’s injury brought an immediate hush to the 10,576 in attendance, UND set about reenergizing its bench and the crowd.
Less than 90 seconds after Caggiula was taken from the ice, senior forward Mitch MacMillan opened the scoring when his sharp-angle shot eluded USA netminder Edwin Minney. Two minutes, later Brendan O’Donnell converted a Mark MacMillan feed in the slot to give UND a 2-0 lead.
Jordan Schmaltz punctuated UND’s dominant second period when he tapped home a rebound goal with three seconds left in the frame. UND outshot Team USA 17-2 in the period and 30-19 for the game.
Team USA’s Sonny Milano and UND’s Coltyn Sanderson traded goals in the third period, Sanderson’s coming into an empty net with two-tenths of a second remaining. Sanderson and senior forward Derek Rodwell were each playing in their first game of the season, with Sanderson seeing his first game action since last October.
“I thought they both really worked their way into the game,” said Hakstol. “It’s hard when you haven’t played in such a long time. For Coltyn it’s been almost a year since he’s played. But I wouldn’t have had either of them on the ice in the last couple of minutes of a 2-goal game unless I thought they were playing solid hockey. I thought it was fitting for Coltyn Sanderson to get one right at the buzzer.”
UND netminders Zane Gothberg and Clarke Saunders combined to stop 18 of 19 shots and were steady when called upon. Gothberg started and stopped all eight shots he faced through the game’s first 33 minutes. Saunders relieved him late in the second period and stopped 10 of 11 shots.
UND will return to NCHC action next weekend when it hosts St. Cloud State on Friday and Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Notes: O’Donnell, Mark MacMillan and Mitch MacMillan were named the game’s three stars by the print media in attendance … Freshman forward Luke Johnson led all players with four shots on goal … Neither team scored on the power play, with UND going 0-3 and USA going 0-6. Counting the two exhibition games, UND has killed 34 of 35 opponent power plays this season … Freshman defenseman Gage Ausmus led all players with a +3 rating … UND wore custom jerseys with pink trim tonight as part of the athletic department’s North Dakota Strong campaign, aimed at raising awareness and funding for breast cancer research. The jerseys will be auctioned off at UNDsports.com/auctions.