GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- With a strong contingent of players from the 1987 national championship University of North Dakota men's hockey team on hand Friday night as part of their 30th anniversary of that remarkable team, perhaps there was a little more pressure on the this year's UND Fighting Hawks Friday night.
While this team is light years away at this point of time from the glory of the famed "Hrkac Circus," which won a then-NCAA-record 40 games led by Hobey Baker Award winner Tony Hrkac, they kept pace in one important area.
Like the 1986-87 team, which won its first eight games in building one of the nation's greatest college hockey teams of all time, this year's version is now unbeaten in three games. The Fighting Hawks moved to 2-0-1 on the young season after beating visiting St. Lawrence University 2-1 before 11,221 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Highly-touted freshman wing Collin Adams scored the winning goal with 3:49 left in the game, one-timing a pass from Joel Janatuinen on a power play past the left shoulder of SLU goalie Arthur Brey.
It was the only power play UND converted in seven chances and came after the Fighting Hawks squandered a 5-on-3 power play advantage for 44 seconds earlier in the period.
The second college goal for Adams won't soon be fogotten by him. "It was a special moment, hearing all the fans scream like that,'' Adams said. "It was amazing.''
The play was made when sophomore defenseman Colton Poolman made a strong play at the left point to hold the puck in the zone near the blue line. He fed fellow defenseman Christian Wolanin at the right point, who quickly passed to Janatuinen, who found Adams in front.
The game continued the trend through three games of offensive struggles for UND. In going unbeaten through three games, the Fighting Hawks have scored a total of six goals. In stark contrast, the famed Hrkac Circus averaged a nation-best 5.5 goals per game.
A key play earlier in the period came right after UND fizzled on the 5-on-3 power play. The Saints forced a neutral zone turnover and broke free on a 2-on-0 rush, with leading returning goal scorer Mike Marnell taking the shot on UND goalie Cam Johnson (20 saves). Johnson made the big save and Adams came back with the winning goal late in the period to secure the victory.
"Bottom line, we found a way to win,'' UND coach Brad Berry said. "It wasn't pretty, lots of stuff to work on. Didn't think we sustained a lot of offensive zone play just because we were a little bit inconsistent with our shifts, from shift to shift.''
Berry said improvement would come from simplifying the plays. "I think we've got to play simple,'' he said. "The simple part is getting pucks deep. I thought we turned over way too many pucks at their blue line. They played a good road game that didn't allow us much time and space. In those situations, we've got to get pucks deep.''
UND did score first at 19:49 of the opening period. Sophomore center Ludvig Hoff scored his second goal of the season, banging home a loose puck after a strong drive to the net by rookie forward Grant Mismash set up the rebound.
The Saints tied it on a power play at 14:48 of the second period when senior center Joe Sullivan knocked in a rebound.
UND thought it had regained the lead three minutes later when Cole Smith banged home a rebound. The officials disallowed the goal immediately, and said they were intending to blow the whistle stopping play after losing sight of the puck before Smith knocked it in.
Poolman appreciates the skills Adams brings to the team. "He's quick and shifty down there, he can make guys miss,'' Poolman said. "He's a finisher. You get guys like that in and around those areas, they somehow find a way to score goals every time. We need more of that, I think.''
The goal capped a victory after UND scored just three goals last weekend in a 1-1 tie and 2-1 win at Alaska Anchorage.
That UND could eke out a win with the 1987 team on hand to be honored Saturday night made the victory even more meaningful.
"It's pretty special,'' Poolman said. "They might be one of the best teams in UND history with that Hrkac Circus line and all those great players. It's an honor to play in front of them.''
UND, which outshot St. Lawrence 28-21, was 1-for-7 on the power play with eight shots, while the Saints were 1-for-4 with three shots.
Game notes: Wolanin and Shane Gersich led the Hawks in shots on goal with 5 apiece . . . St. Lawrence blocked 19 UND shots compared to 8 blocks for UND . . . Nolan Gluchowski had 5 shots on goal and Sullivan 4 to lead the Saints, now 0-3 on the season with just a total of 3 goals in 3 games . . . UND had a 35-26 edge in faceoff wins, led by Nick Jones (9 of 11), but lost a critical offensive zone faceoff while working on the 5-on-3 power play, allowing the Saints an easy clear . . . Artur Brey was strong for the Saints with 26 saves . . . Adams was named No. 1 star in media voting, followed by Hoff and Sullivan . . . The 1987 team will be introduced on the ice prior to Saturday's 7:07 p.m. start.
Virg Foss is in his 13th season of reporting on UND home games exclusively for UNDsports.com. He covered UND hockey for 35 seasons for the Grand Forks Herald until his retirement from newspapers.