HOUGHTON, Mich. -- It's been said by more than one observer that senior center Corban Knight is one of the most underrated players in college hockey despite back-to-back seasons of 40-plus points.
At the rate he's going this year, that "underrated" label might soon be a thing of the past.
Knight scored two goals and added a pair of assists for his first career 4-point game in leading eighth-ranked North Dakota to a 6-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) win over Michigan Tech tonight.
UND improved to 9-5-3 overall and 6-2-3 in the WCHA, while the Huskies dropped to 4-9-3 overall and 3-7-3 in league play.
Knight, who also won 13 of 21 faceoffs, combined with linemates Danny Kristo (1g, 2a) and Mark MacMillan (2a) for a 9-point night in UND's penultimate game of the first half of the season. The High River, Alberta, native also extended his point streak to 12 games, during which time he has racked up an incredible 19 points.
But classmate Joe Gleason (Edina, Minn.) was having none of the underrated talk.
"You guys (the media) call him ‘under the radar," said Gleason. "Not on our team. The faceoffs, the d-zone, the tape-to-tape passes...that stuff doesn't go overlooked by us. You can see how much raw talent he has in games like this where he just starts to take over."
Knight wasted no time in taking over tonight. His no-look centering pass from the corner set up a Rocco Grimaldi (Fr., Rossmoor, Calif.) power-play goal just five minutes into the game, and his one-timer goal with one second left on the clock sent UND into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead.
"Specialty teams were the difference in the hockey game," said UND head coach Dave Hakstol, whose team went 2-for-5 on the power play and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill. "There was a lot of special teams play in the first period -- eight minutes -- and we came out of the period with a 2-goal lead. Those were critical moments for us."
Hakstol singled out Gleason's goal -- power-play tally midway through the second set up by Knight -- as the biggest. Knight found Gleason open at the far point, and the Edina, Minn., native ripped a shot past MTU goalie Kevin Genoe just five minutes after Blake Pietila had gotten the Huskies on the board.
Gleason, whose three points (1g, 2a) matched his career high, deflected the praise to Knight.
"'Knighter' pretty much carried us all the way through tonight. I don't know how many points he had, four or five, whatever it was. He did a really good job. He led us tonight."
Senior captain Andrew MacWilliam (Calgary, Alberta) agreed.
"He's an absolute horse out there for us, whether it's putting pucks in the net or winning faceoffs. He's been playing well for us," said MacWilliam.
Kristo pushed the lead to 4-1 with 3:43 left in the second and Knight struck late once again, making it 5-1 with just 21 seconds left on the clock.
Junior forward Derek Rodwell (Taber, Alberta) banged home a loose puck during a goal-mouth scramble to round out the scoring with 12:48 left in regulation. It was the first goal in 22 games for Rodwell.
Junior goalie Clarke Saunders (Brockville, Ontario), making his fifth straight start, was outstanding between the pipes with 34 saves. Genoe stopped 23 of 28 shots and was relieved by Jamie Phillips to start the second period. Phillips stopped nine of 10 shots.
"Things are kind of falling into place for us right now," said Knight, who has five multi-point performances in his last eight games. "At the beginning of the year we weren't putting 60 minutes together and it seems like lately we've been able to do that.
"The job's only half done, though. We've had a little bit of trouble closing out series on Saturday nights. We all understand how big tomorrow night's game is and I think we're all pretty focused on that already."
Notes: UND is 29-2-4 all-time when Knight scores a goal ... Gleason has five points (1g, 4a) in his last two games ... UND has outscored the Huskies 23-4 in their last three visits to MacInnes Ice Arena ... Tonight's attendance was 2,649 ... Saturday's game will be the 250th meeting between UND and Michigan Tech.