GRAND FORKS, N.D. – A power outage at the University of North Dakota's Ralph Engelstad Arena tonight had nothing to do with the school's eletrical grid.
It was the Fighting Hawks' hockey team that short-circuited in a 3-1 National Collegiate Hockey Conference loss to Western Michigan.
UND was 0-for-6 on the power play, despite generating 13 shots on goal in spending more than half of the third period on power plays.
Thanks to a pair of 5-minute majors on the Broncos and a couple of minors, UND was unable to cash in once in 10 minutes, 35 seconds of power play time in the final period. As a result, UND lost to the Broncos for only the second time in 18 all-time meetings.
Philadelphia Flyers draftee Wade Allison scored twice for the Broncos, including the first goal of the game. The freshman right wing then scored the game-winner at 12:38 of the third period, exactly on minute after WMU killed a 5-minute major and game DQ on Taylor Fleming for checking from behind.
The Broncos had to kill 3 minutes, 35 seconds of a UND power play to open the third period after a 5-minute major for kneeing on Fleming late in the second period.
UND was playing with two NHL first-round picks in sophomore Brock Boeser (wrist injury) and freshman Tyson Jost (in Canada's World Junior training camp), but inconsistent play throughout the lineup was just as big of a culprit tonight.
"We can be the best team in the nation if we want to,'' sophomore forward Joel Janatuinen said. "Right now, we kind of want to and that's not good enough.''
UND outshot WMU 21-7 in the last period, but struggled mightly to set up quality chances on the multiple power plays.
"Our entries weren't clean and as far as going up and down the ice, we didn't sustain a lot of time in the zone,'' UND coach Brad Berry said. "And when you going up and down and spending a lot of energy, I thought we got a lot of pucks blocked and didn't get the net front. We didn't execute how we should have.''
And that lack of execution started early in the game, Berry said.
"I didn't think we were ready to play in probably the first 10 minutes of the game,'' he said. "Eventually we got into it, but it wasn't the start we wanted, we were on our heels...the first 10 minutes were critical on a team we'd beaten (5-1) the night before.''
Allison gave WMU a 1-0 lead at 9:08 of the first period, tapping in a goal-mouth feed past the left leg pad of UND goalie Cam Johnson (19 saves) on a power play.
NCHC scoring leader Shane Gersich answered that at 18:34 of the first period to tie it at 1-1. The sophomore wing flew down the left wing, cut across the front of the net and beat WMU goalie Ben Blecker (32 saves) between the pads. It was Gersich's 13th goal of the season.
But failure on the power play eventually caught up to UND and Allison's second of the game and ninth of the season spelled the difference. UND pulled Johnson for an extra attacker while on a power play with 2 minutes, 15 seconds left in the game. The Broncos sealed the win with Michael Rebry's empty-net goal with 38 seconds remaining.
The loss continued UND's pattern of inconsistency since opening the season with five straight wins. Since then, UND (9-6-3 overall, 3-4-1-1 NCHC) has won just four of 13 games and never more than two in a row.
"Very inconsistent,'' Berry said of UND's play to this point of the season. "We've had success, then we lose a game or two,'' he said. "In order to make ground up in the second half and do the things we want to do like last year (national champs), we have to have consistency in our play.''
"After last night's game, we knew what it would take today,'' Janatuinen said. "We just weren't ready...we've got to take a long look in the mirror again and get better.''
The Broncos (8-5-3 overall, 4-5-1-1 NCHC) were outshot 33-22 by UND, but rode solid play by Blecker and superb penalty killing to spit the weekend series.
UND is now off until a non-conferece game at Union College in New York on Dec. 30. Neither Boeser nor Jost will be available for that game because of World Juniors.
"A couple of weeks off, optimistically, hopefully each guy, when we go home, we can think about this and think about why our season has been so up and down and why we lack consistency...hopefully can get it figured out,'' junior defenseman Tucker Poolman said.
Game notes: Gersich led UND in shots on net with seven ... UND had a total of 12 shots on net through two periods, then mustered 21 in the final period ... Allison had a hand in every goal, assisting on one and scoring two while leading WMU in shot on goal with five ... UND lost the faceoff battle 40-35 with Gardner leading UND with 17 wins in 28 draws ... WMU had 2 minutes, 59 seconds of power play time in the game and scored once, while UND had a total of 16 minutes 13 seconds and didn't score ... Defenseman Hayden Shaw sat out again with injury, leaving UND minus three regulars ... Junior forward Austin Poganski played in his 100th career game.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or at (701) 213-6866.