GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- With two hat tricks in his last two games against Bemidji State spanning last year and this, there's little question sophomore All-America winger Brock Boeser is an elite scorer, no surprise there.
But that he scored his third goal tonight on a rare penalty shot -- snapping a 2-2 tie in the third period -- did surprise Boeser.
He was awarded a penalty shot when BSU's Leo Fitzgerald was called for slashing Boeser on a shorthanded breakaway at 12:52 of the third period. Boeser channeled his best shootout move from NHL shootout master T.J. Oshie, slowly winding his way into the zone, then deking BSU goalie Michael Bitzer before flipping a backhander off both goal posts.
With his hands of lightning to finish off his slow, winding route to the net, Boeser gave many a flashback of Oshie's many shootout goals scored with similar moves.
"That's actually a (Oshie) move I copy,'' Boeser said. "But, lucky goal, I think.''
But did he deserve the penalty shot? Maybe not, according to Boeser.
"Honestly I didn't think there was even a penalty called,'' Boeser said. "I didn't feel anything like a hack or anything -- but I'll take it.''
Boeser said he originally intended to shoot for an opening on his way to the net. But when Bitzer came far out to challenge Boeser, the UND forward moved around Bitzer to the goalie's right and chimed both posts for the winning goal on his backhand flip.
The Beavers, off to a 4-0 start, their best start since 2005, looked the part of a nationally-ranked team (18th) in jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first period over No. 1-ranked North Dakota, now 4-0.
Phillip Marinaccio scored on a wrister stick side on Johnson at 4:58 after a turnover at the blue line by UND rookie defenseman Andrew Peski. Brett Beauvais drilled a slap shot off Johlnson's arm and into the net at 9:19 as the hard-charging Beavers came out strong.
But Boeser buried a wrister on a 5-on-3 power play at 11:51 of the second period, then tied it at 2-2 at 3:58 of the third period when his backhander through traffic hit the shin guard of a player and slipped through Bitzer's pads.
Boeser's first goal ended a streak of 191 minutes, 11 seconds of shutout goaltendending for Bitzer, who came into the game with a nation-best 0.5 goals against average.
Bitzer finished with 33 saves and Johnson with 16, both goalies posting a handful of difficult stops on Grade A chances. They were named second and third stars of the game by the media, behind Boeser and his three-bagger.
"I thought they came out hot and put us back on our heels,'' Johnson said. "That team always plays well. They're a really good team, and a quality opponent. I don't think we were up to par at the start.''
A slow start to the game hasn't been unusual for the Fighting Hawks.
"Kind of a common theme, starting chasing the game a little bit,'' UND coach Brad Berry said. "We got into penalty trouble, and I thought our puck decisions were a little sloppy early on. When you have a combination of both of those, it's tough to get into the flow of the game or momentum. I think we gradually got it back as the game went on.''
It was a learning lesson for UND, Berry said.
"We have to be sure that we put this in the bank and learn that when the puck drops, you have to be ready to go.''
BSU always plays North Dakota tough and close, despite beating UND just three times in 36 meetings.
"They had a north mentality,'' Berry said. "They chipped pucks north, got pucks into our end, and forechecked. They've got good quick, skilled, smart players. There's a reason why they won their first four games against quality opponents, because they play hard and play the right way.''
Notes: Boeser led all players in shot on goal with eight, with Tucker Poolman and Tyson Jost adding four each ... Boeser became the first UND player with a natural hat trick since Ryan Duncan did it in the 2008 regional semifinal against Princeton ... Gerry Fitzgerald had three of BSU's 18 shots on net to lead his team ... UND was 1-for-5 on the power play with 5 shots and held BSU scoreless on 7 man-advantage chances with just three shots ... Jost won nine of 13 faceoffs to lead UND, but the Beavers had a 37-35 overall edge in that category ... Boeser's penalty shot goal was the second in two seasons for UND ... Austin Poganski scored on a penalty shot on Feb. 19 of last season to beat Minnesota Duluth in OT ... The game at Ralph Engelstad Areana drew a sellout of 11,816 ... Saturday's rematch is at 7:07 p.m.
Virg Foss covered UND for the Grand Forks Herald for 35 seasons and 5 NCAA championships until his retirement in 2005. He's in his 12th year of reporting on UND home games exclusively for UNDsports.com.