GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- On paper, the season-opening contest between defending national champion North Dakota and the Canisius Golden Griffins from Atlantic Hockey Association didn't figure to be close.
On the ice at Ralph Engelstad Arena tonight, it wasn't.
Six different players scored goals for North Dakota and junior goalie Cam Johnson posted his sixth career shutout with a 17-save effort as the Fighting Hawks outshot Canisius 35-17 in a 6-0 rout.
It was UND's first shutout in a home opener since Jean-Philippe Lamoureux whitewashed Michigan State in 2007 and first shutout in a season opener overall since Clarke Saunders blanked Alaska Anchorage in 2012.
All-America sophomore wing Brock Boeser led the way offensively with a four-point game with a goal and three assists to set chase of his 60-point rookie season. Boeser's linemates, Shane Gersich and Tyson Jost, had a goal apiece as well and the line combined for eight scoring points to set the pace.
Johnson's first night was in sharp contrast to his first game last season, when he allowed goals on the first two shots he faced before rebounding to shatter several school goaltending records.
North Dakota's strong backchecking in support of Johnson was evident all night.
"I think I have a lot of good buddies on this team,'' Johnson said. "I just joke around with them, and tell them if I get scored on, it's their fault. I guess I scare a few of the freshmen.''
The stout defensive play by North Dakota caught the eye of head coach Brad Berry.
"That's our main premesis of trying to build that foundation early, D-zone coverage and trying to protect your end of the rink,'' said Berry, who last April became the first rookie coach ever to win an NCAA hockey title in his first year behind the bench.
"I think this time of the year, playmaking is a work in progress.''
The entire night progressed quite well for North Dakota as the Fighting Hawks, picked by the media to repeat as National Collegiate Hockey Conference champs, handled the Golden Griffins, picked for 10th in their 11-team league. Berry not only liked the play of his top line of Jost with Boeser and Gersich on the wings, but the play of all his roster.
"The second period, the way we got going, we built a couple of shifts, a shift at a time. Everybody got into it, and started playing the right way,'' Berry said.
A backhander from in front of the net by Gersich just 40 seconds into the game got UND off to a quick start. Then a four-goal second period with goals by Poganski, Jost, Bowen and Boeser iced it.
"In order to win games at this level, you've got to have to have everybody going, and I thought all four lines did a good job,'' Berry said.
UND wanted to start the season a bit better than it did a year ago when it fell into an early 2-0 hole before rallying to beat Lake Superior State.
"I think that was our main focus going into the game, to compete harder than them,'' Boeser said. "We definitely came out of the chute there. We wanted to get that first goal.''
"There were a couple of times where I was not really tested,'' Johnson said. "Just hanging out. For the most part, I thought our team played well.''
Johnson can now put his nightmare start of a year ago to rest.
"This year I was obviously much more comfortable,'' Johnson said. "Last year, I was kind of struggling a little bit with confidence at the start. We had a decent year last year, so that always helps.''
UND notes: UND was 0-3 on the power play with four shots on goal, Canisius 0-4 with 6 shots ... Bowen's goal was shorthanded on a setup from Trevor Olson ... Defenseman Tucker Poolman, along with Gersich and wing Chris Wilkie, led UND in shots on goal with four each ... Boeser was a plus-4 in the plus/minus ratings, with Tucker Poolman, Jost, Gersich, Hayden Shaw and team captain Gage Ausmus all plus-3 ... Ausmus also blocked five shots of the 15 blocked by his team ... UND has outscored Canisius 37-4 in winning all six meetings between the two teams.
Virg Foss covered UND hockey for 35 seasons and five NCAA championships for the Grand Forks Herald until his retirement. He's now in his 12th season of reporting on UND home games exclusively for UNDsports.com.