OXFORD, Ohio – With just one senior in the lineup for North Dakota, the team’s junior class took center stage for the first-ever league game in National Collegiate Hockey Conference history.
The goals by O’Donnell and Parks staked UND to a 3-0 lead 21 minutes into the game, stunning the Homecoming capacity crowd of 3,642. O’Donnell added an assist for his first career 3-point game, while Parks goes into the record books for scoring the first goal in NCHC history.
“That was a positive for them to come out and make some plays,” UND head coach Dave Hakstol said of his juniors. “More importantly, there were some good bounces there. They played good, two-way hockey and that’s the most important thing from my perspective.”
While the line of Parks, O’Donnell and Mark MacMillan did the heavy lifting offensively, Hakstol said he was pleased with his team’s ability to consistently roll all four lines, regardless of matchups. On more than one occasion, Miami had its top line, featuring standouts Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber, matched up against UND’s fourth line of Colten St. Clair, Stephane Pattyn and Connor Gaarder.
“We have confidence in all of our lines,” said Hakstol. “All of our lines are going to have their ups and downs. That’s the nature of the game. But I thought all four of our lines played with a good mentality and played the right way.”
Miami, the NCHC preseason favorite in a vote of the league’s media, mounted rally with a pair of goals in the final 12 minutes of the second period, the latter banking in off the skate of Mattson in front of the UND net. But Mattson atoned by scoring a critical power-play goal with 6:15 left in the third period to give UND a 2-goal lead it would not relinquish.
His point shot deflected off the stick of a Miami defender in the slot and eluded RedHawks goalie Jay Wiliams.
“A little bit of karma, hopefully. Maybe the hockey gods (were) looking out for me there,” said Mattson. “I was a little bummed, so it was nice to get that one.”
Mattson and the defense corps also received a 35-save effort from sophomore goalie Zane Gothberg, two off of his career high. His biggest stop may have been a kick save on a Jimmy Mullin slap shot from the low slot with just over 10 minutes remaining in the third period.
Gothberg improved to 2-0-1 on the young season while Williams fell to 1-1-0.
The job for UND (2-0-1) heading into Saturday’s series finale is to replicate Friday’s effort and leave Oxford with a conference sweep.
“We want to establish ourselves as a great team in this league right away,” said Mattson. “That happens over the course of the year, but it starts tonight. It was a good measuring stick against a great team.”
Notes: UND killed all three Miami power plays, extending its streak of successful penalty kills to 19 in a row. UND has not allowed power-play goal since Vermont scored 2:57 into the season opener … MacMillan and Parks were named the game’s first two stars, while Miami forward Sean Kuraly was named the third star … Freshman defensemen Paul LaDue and Troy Stecher each collected an assist for their first collegiate points … Parks and O’Donnell both led all players with a +3 rating … UND was unable to score on a 5-minute power play early in the third period after Miami’s Blake Coleman was penalized for checking from behind ... Former UND letterwinner Justin Duberman, NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton, NCHC Director of Officials Don Adam, and ESPN's John Buccigross were among those in attendance.