The Fighting Sioux squared two-goal leads of 2-0, 3-1 and 5-3, then rallied from a 6-5 deficit to pull off an entertaining 7-6 Western Collegiate Hockey Association win over No. 4-ranked Colorado College.
The second goal of the game for sophomore left wing Brock Nelson (Warroad, Minn.) on a power-play rebound at 11:54 of the third period snapped a 6-all tie and gave the Sioux the victory in front of 11,375 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The offensive shootout came on the heels of UND's 1-0 loss last Sunday at Bemidji State, the third time the Sioux have been blanked this season. The Sioux, averaging 2.2 goals in league play, responded with their highest-scoring outing of the season to overcome the tough Tigers.
UND's top line led the way. Nelson had an assist to go with his two goals, junior center Corban Knight (High River, Alberta) had three assists and junior right wing Danny Kristo (Eden Prairie, Minn.) matched Nelson with a pair of goals and an assist.
"That's what we need,'' UND coach Dave Hakstol said of the four-goal, nine-point night from his top line. "The simple fact is they got shut out last weekend, I think they took it upon themselves a little bit to -- not try and go out and do everything and play fancy hockey -- they just went out and worked extremely hard, worked together and had some good things go their way.''
CC, the highest-scoring team in the WCHA averaging 4.4 goals a game, stepped into the shootout full force with a hat trick from junior center Ryan Schwartz leading the way.
Goals by Kristo just 36 seconds into the game on the first shot for either team and a power-play goal by Carter Rowney (Sexsmith, Alberta) at 7:08 staked the Sioux to a 2-0 lead at 7:08 of the opening period.
It was a hint of what was to come, an exciting back-and-forth affair in which both starting goalies were pulled. It was the first time that's happened in a UND game since Feb. 9, 2007, in an 8-4 win over Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Senior Brad Eidsness (Chestermere, Alberta) replaced Sioux starter Aaron Dell (Jr., Airdrie, Alberta) at 10:54 of the second period when Schwartz scored his third goal to give the Tigers their only lead at 6-5.
Eidsness stopped all 13 shots he faced. Dell had 16 saves and allowed all six CC goals.
Kristo stole a puck in the CC defensive zone to score unassisted at 13:11 of the second period to tie it at 6-6. Then his heavy wrist shot bounced off traffic to Nelson at the side of the net for the game-winning rebound goal at 11:54 of the third period.
"That was definitely a 180 (turn) from our last game,'' Nelson said. "These games are a little bit crazy, but they're definitely fun when you come out on the right end like that.''
It did much for UND's psyche. "It builds the confidence that we are able to score,'' he said. "It should be a step forward.''
The Sioux, unranked in the national polls and in 10th place in the WCHA, at least took a giant stride forward offensively. While the top line led the way, players from three of the four lines contributed goals, an encouraging sign.
"CC is a very strong team, very good offensively,'' Kristo said. "We needed to come out on all eight cylinders. I thought we did that.''
Enough so to motor to victory in one of the more entertaining games in a while.
"It was crazy, man, just one of those crazy nights,'' Hakstol said.
Hakstol said Kristo's goal shortly after CC had taken its only lead was key. "Tying the game up early to make it 6-6 pretty quickly after they went ahead was probably the most important point of the game for our team,'' Hakstol said.
The Sioux (3-6 WCHA, 5-7-1 overall) will look for their first series sweep of the year in Saturday's rematch with the Tigers (5-3, 7-3).
SIOUX NOTES: The game was the highest-scoring tilt between the two teams since a 9-5 CC win on Nov. 24, 1995, nearly 16 years to the day...Freshman defenseman Nick Mattson (Chanhassen, Minn.) scored his third goal of the season and added and assist . . . Kristo's seven shots on goal led the Sioux, followed by Nelson with six and freshman Michael Parks (St. Louis, Mo.) with four. Parks scored his second goal of the season . . .The Sioux went 3-5 on the power play while the Tigers went 2-5 . . . Kristo, Schwartz and Nelson were named the three stars by the media, in that order.
Virg Foss covered Fighting Sioux hockey for the Grand Forks Herald for 35 seasons until his retirement in 2005. He reports on UND home games exclusively for fightingsioux.com.