GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- There was good news in abundance for the University of North Dakota men's hockey program today.
Former UND All-American T.J. Oshie, from Warroad, Minn., was a hero to start the morning. Oshie scored four goals in a shootout in six tries to lift the United States to a 3-2 victory homestanding Russia in the Olympic Games. That sends Team USA to the semifinals in search of a gold medal.
At Ralph Engelstad Arena tonight in front of a sellout of 11,665, a balanced attack and a five-goal night from the defensemen lifted UND to a 9-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference drubbing of Miami to complete the weekend sweep.
In further good news, the victory boosted UND to a tie for 11th in the PairWise Rankings that mimic the selection process for teh 16-team NCAA Tournament.
UND had been hanging on the bubble around 16th place or so for the past month, so this was a major move. The sweep put UND (11-7 NCHC, 18-9-3) in sole possession of second place in league play, one game behind St. Cloud State with six games remaining.
Balance was the key once again for UND. Fourteen players figured in on the scoring, with six of them accumu=lating multi-point games, paced by Rocco Grimaldi with four points (goal, 3 assists) and defenseman Nick Mattson with three (2 goals, assist).
It was easily UND's biggest offensive outburst of the season and the most goals given up by Miami (4-13-1 in NCHC), the preseason pick to win the league.
Was UND inspired by a fomer UND player, Oshie, starring on the world's biggest stage earlier in the day?
"Possibly, I don't know how the Canadians (on UND's team) felt about it,'' Grimaldi said. "Just because he's a Sioux guy, that helps. No, it was incredible to watch that. You're not going to see that -- maybe never again.''
Grimaldi said it was a lesson to his teammates tonight to keep pressing for more. And Oshie's four goals were used a teaching point by UND coaches in preparation of their team for the game.
"It was something coaches were talking about a lot, saying that he scored one but he didn't end up with one,'' Grimaldi said. "He wanted more and more. That's how we looked at this weekend. We got one (win on Friday), but it wasn't enough. We wanted both wins, and we went out there and did it.''
UND overcame having two goals disallowed in the first eight minutes of the game, both scored by Mark MacMillan. His first was wiped out when he was called for a penalty on his rush to the net in which he caught Miami goalie Ryan McKay in the head with his elbow. That wiped out that goal 47 seconds into the contest.
MacMillan had what looked like another goal disallowed on a video review at 7:48 when referees ruled his shot never crossed the goal line.
"Didn't seem to matter,'' UND coach Dave Hakstol said of the disallowed goals. "We were ready to play. We had a great start. It didn't seem to matter what happened last shift. We were ready to play the next shift.''
Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz scored at 3:36 to get UND rolling. With a delayed penalty coming on Miami, Schmaltz unleashed a howitzer with a sixth attacker on for UND to notch the first of nine UND goals.
Colten St. Clair knocked a rebound out of mid-air at 6:34, Grimaldi came in alone to score at 8:56 and rookie defenseman Keaton Thompson capped a four-goal opening period for UND at 12:58, the most goals in a period by UND this season.
Drake Caggiula and defenseman Dillon Simpson combined to run the margin to 6-1 early in the second period before Mattson delivered his second and third goals of the season at 8:26 and 13:00 of the period.
Brendan O'Donnell finished the scoring for UND in the third period with his power-play tally with 56 seconds left.
Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly scored for Miami.
It all added up to a rare blowout win at home.
"We haven't had many third periods where we've been able to go out and play and have fun,'' Hakstol acknowledged.
Said Mattson: "For a team that lacks goal scoring, it was good to pour it on a little bit.''
UND was the only team in the top six in the NCHC that had allowed more goals in league play than it had scored, but that all changed with tonight's nine-goal explosion. The disallowed goals didn't slow UND at all, Mattson said.
"We were playing so well we didn't think it was going to take away our momentum, but we thought the refs were going to get their heads ripped off by the crowd.''
And the five goals by the defensemen?
"Got all the skill on the back end, I guess,'' Mattson quipped. "All year the defensemen have done a good job jumping up. This was one of those nights where things went well for us.''
UND notes: Zane Gothberg returned from missing three weeks with injury to play well, making 27 saves, 14 of them in the last period ... Defenseman Paul LaDue had two assists and led the team in plus/minus rating at plus 6 ... Grimaldi led UND in shots on goal with 5 followed by Mattson with 4 ... UND was 2-for-5 on the power play, Miami 1 of 3 ... Mattson, Grimaldi and LaDue were named the game's three stars, in that order ... UND goes on the road the next two weekends, first to Minnesota Duluth, then to St. Cloud State before closing the regular season at home against Western Michigan.
Virg Foss covered UND hockey for 35 seasons for the Grand Forks Herald until his retirement in 2005. He now reports on UND home games exclusively for UNDsports.com.