They did just that tonight when senior center Corban Knight (High River, Alberta) saw his attempted centering pass from behind the net deflect off the skate of Alaska Anchorage defenseman Blake Leask and into the net to trigger North Dakota's 4-1 college hockey win over the visiting Seawolves at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Knight's first goal of the season fueled a four-goal second period that snapped a scoreless tie and lifted UND to a win in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) opener for both teams in front of 11,446 fans, just shy of a sellout. UND improved to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in league play. Anchorage is 2-2-1 overall and 0-1 in the WCHA.
Knight's goal at 1:10 was followed the rookie Drake Cagggiula's (Pickering, Ontario) first college goal at 4:46 and a goal by senior center Carter Rowney (Sexsmith, Alberta) at 6:58 on a deflection of a point power-play shot by junior defenseman Dillon Simpson (Edmonton, Alberta).
"To come out and get one right away on a good bounce in the second period, I think it got the energy back in the building, which was important, and got us headed in the right direction for the second (period),'' UND coach Dave Hakstol said.
Freshman goalie Zane Gothberg, the first Thief River Falls, Minn., goalie to play for the program since UND benefactor Ralph Engelstad did in the late 1940s, was solid with a 17-save shutout. All he gave up was a rebound to the Seawolves' Alex Gellert at 15:39 of the second period.
UND junior defenseman Derek Forbort (Duluth, Minn.) snuffed any potential Anchorage rally just 22 seconds later with a blast from the top of the left faceoff circle to close the scoring.
Senior right wing Danny Kristo (Eden Prairie, Minn.), who sat out UND's first two games last weekend due to a team-imposed suspension, made his mark with a three-assist game to lead all scorers.
"It was definitely frustrating going up to Alaska (last weekend) and having to sit out both games,'' Kristo said. "I thought I felt some extra motivation stuff to prove tonight,'' Kristo said. "I'm glad it's over with and team is moving on.''
Kristo said he felt this was UND's best overall game of the two exhibition and two nonconference games it played previously.
"Tonight was probably the best 60 minutes we played as a team,'' Kristo said. "I thought we played well in all three zones in all three periods.''
UND outshot Anchorage 34-18 and was 1-for-3 on the power play while blanking the Seawolves on three chances. Anchorage didn't muster a single shot on goal on its power plays, and UND just one.
UND outshot Alaska 14-2 in the first period, but neither team scored.
"We stayed on it and kept doing the little things,'' Kristo said. "When you keep doing the small things like that, eventually it's going to pay off. Once we got one, the floodgates just opened.''
Caggiula was the recipient of a centering feed from freshman center Rocco Grimaldi (Rossmoor, Calif.) for his first goal. Grimaldi not only assisted on the goal, but assisted Caggiula by grabbing the puck and saving it for Caggiula as a souvenir.
"Great feeling, unexplainable, basically,'' Caggiula said of his goal. "To get that first goal on home ice, no better feeling than that.''
He might have known this was coming. "He (Grimaldi) told he was going to set me up today, so he stayed true to his word and did,'' Caggiula said.
Hakstol was pleased with Gothberg's debut. "I liked what he did tonight,'' Hakstol said. "You can see growth in him even over the last month. I thought he looked comfortable tonight.''
The two teams wrap up their series tomorrow night at 7:07 p.m.
NODAK NOTES: UND lost the faceoff battle 28-21, but Knight continued his mastery of that art, winning 11 of the 17 draws he took . . . Sophomore Mark MacMillan (Penticton, British Columbia) led UND in shots on goal with four. . . Freshman defenseman Jordan Schmaltz had a plus-minus rating of 2, the only player to post that figure. He leads the team with a plus-5 through three games . . . Three stars of the game as named by the media were Kristo, Forbort and Caggiula, in that order. . . Retired Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer and WCHA head of officials Greg Shepherd were at the game ... Montreal Canadiens director of player personnel Martin LaPoint was also in attendance.
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