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Rocco Grimaldi matched his career-high with four points.
Grimaldi spurs North Dakota rally in season opener
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Updated: Thursday 10/11/2013 23:22:33 (ET)
by Virg Foss, UNDsports.com
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- North Dakota men's hockey coach Dave Hakstol described tonight's four-point game by sophomore right wing Rocco Grimaldi as kind of a "quiet four points.''

Perhaps so. But they made quite the explosion on the scoreboard as his goal and two assists on UND's closing four unanswered goals led UND to a 5-3 non-conference victory over the visiting Vermont Catamounts at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Grimaldi's 5-on-3 power-play goal at 13:34 of the second period started UND's rally from a 3-1 deficit in a game marred by 19 penalties, 11 of them on UND.

After Brendan O'Donnell tied it at 3-3 late in the second period, Grimaldi made some noise again.

He assisted on Mark MacMillan's 5-on-3 power-play goal at 3:09 of the third period, sending UND ahead to stay. With UND having just a 10-second window on the 5-on-3, MacMillan cut from right to left across the crease to roof his shot with four seconds left on the 2-man advantage.

UND demonstrated how to close out a win. UND kept the puck out of their own zone for all but one of the final 100 seconds and capped it with sophomore center Drake Caggiula's goal on a feed from Grimaldi with 7.8 seconds left.

Another key figure was sophomore goalie Zane Gothberg. He came on after starter Clarke Saunders allowed three goals on the 17 shots he faced in 24 minutes.

Gothberg stopped all 17 shots he faced in the 34 minutes he played to pick up the victory.

North Dakota gave up a power-play goal to Vermont's Nick Bruneteau on the Catamounts' first chance on a shot off UND defenseman Gage Ausmus, then killed the remaining 10 Vermont power plays the rest of the game.

"I thought we created some of our own problems with penalties early,'' Hakstol said. "That led to us wasting the first 10 minutes of each of the first and second periods. But we found a way to battle back.''

Grimaldi was the man leading the calvary charge with his monster four-point game.

"I felt like it was kind of a quiet four-point game,'' Hakstol said of Grimaldi. "He played the right way and took advantage of his opportunities.''

Grimaldi had lots of help, though.

Every UND skater except rookie defenseman Paul LaDue was credited with at least one shot on goal as UND outshot Vermont 36-34.

Freshman Adam Tambellini answered Vermont's opening score on a nifty goal-mouth deke at 3:26 of the first period to tie it at 1-all.

But the Catamounts raced to a 3-1 lead on Tom Forgione's goal from the side of the net at 7:08 and Rob Hamilton's point shot at 5:19 of the second period for a 3-1 Vermont lead. All three Vermont goals were scored by freshmen.

Grimaldi answered with a brilliant goalie deke at 13:34 of the second period to ignite North Dakota's string of four straight goals to close the game in front of a sellout crowd of 11,725.

MacMillian pointed to positives for UND.

"Bit of rough start, got down 3-1 there,'' MacMillan said. "But it's a good sign already in the year coming back from a 3-1 deficit and battling back and finding a way to win,'' said MacMillan, who had a goal and an assist.

Hakstol said he didn't pull Saunders for poor play on his part, but rather to spark the team into better play in front of him.

Gothberg was perfect his relief appearance. "Obviously big,'' MacMillan said. "And there's no blame on Clarkie there. We weren't playing well enough in front of him.''

Grimaldi didn't disagree with his big night on the scoresheet being rather quiet. "I think it was, too,'' Grimaldi said. "I had a couple of 5-on-3 points. Those aren't extremely noticeable.''

Maybe not.

But when one triggers the comeback and the other sets up MacMillan for the winning goal, the timing of the points was deafening.

"When you have a 5-on-3, you're supposed to score,'' Grimaldi said. "I just did what I could to get this team a win.''

It was the season opener for both schools with the rematch schedule for 7:07 Saturday.

Notes: Grimaldi matched his career high with four points and was named the game's first star. MacMillan and Gothberg were named the second and third star, respectively ... In addition to Tambellini's first career goal, freshman Luke Johnson notched his first collegiate point with an assist.

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.

 

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