GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Long before any current University of North Dakota player -- or coach -- was born, Kitty Kallen released a song called "Little Things Mean a Lot'' that hit No. 1 on Billboard charts in 1954.
"Little things'' certainly meant a lot in a big victory for UND tonight as the Fighting Hawks rolled over Western Michigan 5-1 in the opener of a two-game National Collegiate Hockey Conference series.
Freshman defenseman Colton Poolman scored his first college goal in his 17th game, rookie Dixon Bowen netted his first goal since the season opener on Oct. 7 and junior wing Austin Poganski ended his drought of eight games without a goal by scoring twice to spark UND.
On Bowen's goal, the "little thing'' was a big body check thrown by linemate Ludwig Hoff along the sidewall that freed the puck for Bowen to burn the far side of the net with his wrist shot.
Junior goalie Cam Johnson was quietly superb in net with 24 saves.
UND backed up a big victory at Madison Square Garden over Boston College six days earlier with a sound performance in front of 11,330 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
UND blew the game open with a three-goal second period. Poganski scored at 7:08, Bowen at 12:26 and Poganski again on a power play at 18:23 for a 5-1 lead that stood up the rest of the way. Poganski also added and assist for his second three-point game at UND.
Poganski was named the game's No. 1 star by the media, followed by Johnson and Poolman.
"We were a little bit loose in the first period defensively a little bit, but I thought we tightened up as the game went on,'' UND coach Brad Berry said. "We had some depth scoring tonight, which is good.''
Poolman and Bowen were part of that depth scoring, but others chipped in as well. Every player on UND's top three lines had at least one point with NCHC scoring co-leader Shane Gersich adding a goal as well.
Poolman said it wasn't hard for the team to rebound after the thrill of playing in Madison Square Garden the previous week in front of 11,300 fans.
"We're used to playing in front of big crowds (at Ralph Engelstad Arena)," he said, noting that it made for an easy transition tonight.
UND jumped on the Broncos for two goals in 27 seconds midway through the opening period to take charge. Gerisch converted a backhand pass off the sidewall by Poganski at 10:42 and Poolman used a Rhett Gardner screen to rifle a wrister from the right point by WMU goalie Collin Olson at 13:44.
The cushion didn't last long.
WMU's 6-foot-4, 225-pound defenseman Scott Moldenhauer fired a point shot past three UND players and by a screened Johnson just 35 seconds after Poolman's goal, cutting the lead in half.
But the second period belonged to UND in general and Poganski in particular as the Fighting Hawks moved to 9-5-3 overall and to 3-3-1-1 in the NCHC -- and to No. 6 nationally in the all-important Pairwise rankings.
Berry, who had been looking for more consistent play of his team from one weekend to the next, liked what he saw tonight following the New York City trip. It is, he said, a good sign and an indication of growth of a team that is the 10th-youngest in the nation and playing without injured All-America forward Brock Boeser the last four games.
Western Michigan (7-5-3 overall, 3-5-1-1 NCHC), came into the contest with the third best offense in the NCHC, averaging 3.64 goals per game, and second-best power play at 22.1 percent. But Johnson and UND held the Broncos to a single goal and blanked WMU's power play on three tries while allowing just four shots total on net.
For the game, UND outshot the Broncos 34-25.
Game notes: Sophomore defenseman Hayden Shaw joined Boeser as a lineup scratch because of injury, the second game in a row Shaw has missed ... Poganski and Gersich each had five shots on goal to lead UND with Chris Wilkie collecting four ... Moldenhauer led the Broncos with four shots ... Sophomore defenseman Christian Wolainin was a plus-4 on the plus/minus charts to lead all players ... Olson stopped 18 shots and allowed four goals before being pulled after UND's fourth goal ... Ben Blacker had 11 stops and allowed one goal in 26 minutes of playing time ... UND will go for its first home league sweep of the season in tonight's 7:07 rematch.
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. He can be reached at email@example.com or at (701) 213-6866.