OXFORD, Ohio – Shortly after the North Dakoa men’s hockey team arrived at Steve Cady Arena on Friday night, junior winger Trevor Olson smiled at UND radio voice Tim Hennessy and said, “See you after the game.”
Olson, with two goals entering the night, was implying that he’d be in demand in media circles following UND’s NCHC clash with Miami.
The Duluth, Minn., native, it turned out, was something of a prophet.
Olson’s short-handed goal with 1:40 left in the second period snapped a 2-2 tie and held up as the game-winner as the Fighting Hawks edged the host RedHawks 3-2 in the penultimate game of the regular season.
The goal kept UND in the driver’s seat for the fourth and final spot for home ice in the NCHC Quarterfinals, one point ahead of St. Cloud State and three up on Omaha. It also kept alive UND’s hopes for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, moving the Fighting Hawks from No. 16 to 13 in the PairWise Rankings.
And, of course, it ensured Olson a post-game date with reporters.
“It’s a huge win,” said Olson, “especially when we need them right now.
Olson’s goal gave UND its one and only lead of the night, and came while the Fighting Hawks were killing a Miami power play. Olson blocked a shot inside his own blue line and was off to the races, beating Miami goalie Ryan Larkin with a quick snap shot to the glove side. It finally put UND in the lead during a game in which it had largely dominated the RedHawks yet had trailed 1-0 and 2-1.
Olson’s goal was as big as any this season by a Fighting Hawk, but it was merely the exclamation point on a team-wide statement.
“A lot of guys stepped up their game today,” said Olson. “We really jumped out and got a good start on them. We were a pretty resilient group tonight.”
UND blitzed Miami in the first period – outshooting the RedHawks 16-5 and out-attempting them 21-5. Yet as has been the case so often in recent weeks, UND still found itself chasing the game.
Kiefer Sherwood converted a 3-on-2 rush for Miami at 7:38 of the first period to open the scoring. UND was undeterred, however, as Ludvig Hoff crashed the net on a power play and knocked home a Chris Wilkie rebound to send the two teams into the locker room tied 1-1.
Gordie Green regained the lead for the RedHawks midway through the second period on a fortutitous Miami bounce. Sherwood led a rush and centered the puck in front, but UND defenseman Andrew Peski through his body in front of the shot. However, the puck rolled right to Green at the bottom of the right circle and he hit an open net for a 2-1 lead.
UND had another answer, this time just three minutes later as a 4-on-3 power play expired. Freshman Tyson Jost worked his way into the middle of the slot and rifled a top-corner past the glove hand of Larkin, again tying the game.
Olson’s game-winner came just under five minutes later.
“I thought 5-on-5 we did the right things in the offensive zone: changing out of the offensive zone, being fresh, getting pucks to the net, getting net-front,” said UND head coach Brad Berry. “A solid, 60-minute game but we’ve got to turn the page. It’s got to be business-like again tomorrow.”
UND goalie Cam Johnson only had to make 14 saves, although several were Grade A opportunities.
“We finally played the way we wanted to,” said Johnson. “It was a great group effort. Guys were doing the small things – guys were boxing out, blocking shots. And defense creates offense.”
UND outshot the RedHawks 41-16 and finished with a sizeable 68-29 advantage in shot attempts. The Fighting Hawks also killed both Miami power-play chances, while generating 17 shots of their own in a 1-6 night with the man advantage.
Now, UND can secure home ice for the NCHC Quarterfinals on Saturday night by doing something it hasn’t done since the first week of January: win consecutive games.
“We’ve been talking about playing playoff hockey,” said Hoff, who broke a 21-game goal drought, “and I think we went out there and did that tonight.”
Notes: Sophomore forward Brock Boeser (undisclosed injury) did not play for UND, while freshman forward Dixon Bowen returned after missing three games … NCHC goal-scoring leader Shane Gersich led all players with six shots on goal but was held without a goal for the third straight game … Linemate Austin Poganski was next with five shots on goal and had a critical blocked shot in the final 30 seconds of the third period.