NEW YORK – North Dakota had just two wins in its last 10 games.
It had not defeated Boston College in 11 years.
And it had just seen a 2-goal lead slip away in the first four-and-a-half minutes of the third period.
So, naturally, the Fighting Hawks turned to Trevor Olson – who had gone without a goal in almost exactly two full calendar years – to come up with the biggest goal of the season to date.
Olson, a junior winger, created a turnover and beat BC goalie Joe Woll with 2:01 remaining in regulation to turn a 3-2 lead into a 4-2 cushion.
The goal, Olson’s first since Dec. 5, 2014 – his freshman season – snapped a 56-game drought and held as the game-winner once BC’s Matthew Gaudreau made it 4-3 with nine seconds left.
The 4-3 win came in the Madison Square Garden in the first-ever College Hockey Showdown, with a mostly-green crowd of 11,348 roaring its approval.
“It feels really good,” said Olson, unable to hide his smile if he tried. “It’s been quite some time, almost two years, since I scored my last goal. It’s not my role and my goal to score goals every game, but obviously it’s nice to get one, especially in a venue like this.”
After UND had lost a faceoff in the Eagles’ zone, Olson intercepted an errant Casey Fitzgerald pass, skated in alone and flicked a shot over the glove of Woll.
“I kind of waited him out and he laid one out in the middle,” said Olson. “It was kind of a bobbling puck so I just wanted to get it on the cage and it happened to fall in for me.”
With his team playing without injured All-American Brock Boeser, as well as second-line center Rhett Gardner, who was ejected late in the second period, UND head coach Brad Berry said getting production from unlikely sources was vital.
“It was great to see a player like Trevor Olson contribute tonight on a goal like that when we needed it,” said Berry. “ That’s the difference between winning and losing against a good team: you have to have some scoring by committee.”
A more likely source of offense, star freshman Tyson Jost, had staked UND to a 2-0 lead with a pair of second-period goals. His first came on a 2-on-1 saucer pass from Austin Poganski that broke him in alone, and Jost deftly deked Woll for his sixth of the year. Just over five minutes later on a power play, Shane Gersich spotted Jost streaking through the left faceoff circle, and Jost wired a shot from the dot for his second 2-goal game in the last eight days.
The game turned late in the second period, however, when penalty trouble hit the Fighting Hawks.
Gardner was assessed a 5-minute major and game misconduct for face-masking. During the same scrum, teammate Chris Wilkie was assessed a minor penalty for slashing. That was the window that the Eagles needed to get back into the game.
Colin White connected on a one-timer below the circle 49 seconds into the third period to get BC on the board, and four minutes later Chris Brown banged home a rebound just as Gardner’s major expired.
After an opening two months in which UND has had trouble holding on to leads or closing out victories, the Fighting Hawks found a way on this night on the biggest stage.
Then Olson sealed the deal in the game’s final minutes.
“There are momentum shifts in a game and you have to deal with that,” said Berry. “Tonight was good in the fact that we found a way to close a game where momentum was going the other way.”
“That’s part of hockey. There’s going to be momentum swings. We really had to bounce back. That just shows our character in our team. We’re all warriors in there and I think we proved it tonight,” said Jost.
Cam Johnson, who was brilliant in a 28-save effort, echoed the sentiments of his teammate and coach.
“I think this was a huge momentum builder for us,” said Johnson. “We’ve been struggling to put together a full 60 minutes and that’s something we did tonight. We had a little bit of a slip-up but our group matured and we were able to come back and bang a couple home and get the W.”
Berry and his program could also take extra satisfaction in finally topping the Eagles, who have handed UND three straight NCAA Tournament losses since 2006.
“It’s been the Achilles heel of trying to win a game against a great program,” said Berry. “When we do get to the Frozen Fours or regionals it seems like it’s kind of a tough road for us to get past them. It was nice, for a change, to be on the other side of it.”
That satisfaction could be felt among the thousands of North Dakota faithful who proudly made their presence known throughout the world’s most famous arena.
“We always talk amongst our group that every game is a home game for us,” said Johnson. “They’re very loyal. They travel wherever we are. Our fans our unbelievable and we’re really lucky to have them.
"In saying that, we’ve got to perform for them and it was nice to get a win for ourselves, but also for our fans who traveled out here.”
The Fighting Hawks, now 8-5-3 overall and 6-2-2 in non-conference play, close out the first half next weekend at home against NCHC rival Western Michigan.
Notes: UND outshot the Eagles 34-31, including a 29-22 edge over the final two periods … UND went 1-6 on the power play while BC was 1-2 … Jost, White and Johnson were named the game’s three stars … Wilkie led all players with six shots on goal … UND (277 wins) and Boston College (275) are the winningest programs in college hockey since 2006-07 ... UND basketball and baseball alum Phil Jackson, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and now the president of the New York Knicks, was in attendance.