Some 63 years after that song topped the music charts, little things meant a lot at Ralph Engelstad Arena tonight as the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks did many little things right to beat St. Lawrence University 6-1 and sweep the weekend non-conference series.
Six different UND players scored their first goal of the season and senior goalie Cam Johnson continued his stellar play with 27 saves as the Fighting Hawks moved to 3-0-1 on the season in front of 11,599 fans.
Defenseman Christian Wolanin opened the scoring at 6:11 of the first period. A power-play goal by Shane Gersich and an even-strength tally by rookie Grant Mismash staked UND to a healthy 3-0 lead after one period in which the Fighting Hawks outshot the Saints 13-4.
A power-play goal from rookie Jordan Kawaguchi and even-strength tallies by Cole Smith and Rhett Gardner closed UND's offense to more than offset Jacob Pritchard's third-period score for St. Lawrence. The Saints are now 0-4 on the season with just four goals scored, one in each game.
UND converted 2 of 5 power-play chances and killed all six St. Lawrence opportunities, including a 4-on-3, a 5-on-3 and even a 6-on-3 with the goalie pulled late in the second period. A major penalty on Mismash for contact to the head triggered two more UND penalties that gave the Saints a chance to battle back from a 4-0 deficit.
UND scored in a variety of ways in ballooning to six goals after managing just six goals total its first three games.
The Fighting Hawks scored on rebounds, odd-man rushes and screens, doing the little things that meant a lot on this night.
"It was a good week of practice and preparation that showed during the game,'' said defenseman Colton Poolman, who assisted on both of UND's first two goals and was named the game's No. 1 star by the media. "We got pucks in, and we played hard and heavy the whole game. I think that was the big key.''
Little things, indeed.
"The forwards did a great job tracking back, helping 'D' out, and the 'D' did a good job getting pucks north to the forwards, and they did the rest,'' Poolman added. "It was a good overall game.''
Johnson made six saves on the four power plays the Saints had when they had a window of opportunity to perhaps get back in the game.
"On the 5-on-3, when maybe it could have gone the other way, he was our best penalty-killer,''' Poolman said. "He comes up big in big moments.''
Gersich, UND's leading returning scorer, got his first goal (and point) of the season on a rebound on the power play at 14:11 of the period. He came into the season with 30 goals in his first two seasons.
"Obviously it feels good,'' Gersich said of his first goal. "Maybe gripping the stick a little too much the first three games. The first one's out of the way. Now I can look forward.''
Johnson said he was thinking of "a couple choice words''' when his teammates put the Saints on the string of power plays late in the second period. "It's tiring, but it's nice to get a little action there,'' Johnson said. "I thought our penalty kill was unbelievable.''
UND coach Brad Berry said the staff didn't make any major changes to the game strategy for the concluding game of the series.
"I think the biggest thing is that guys knew they could play better tonight. We left the rink last night (Friday) with the win (2-1). Grateful for the win. We all talked about it, that we can play a whole lot better. I think it was the self-realization that our games individually had to be better to have a better collective effect.''
Little things paid off on the scoreboard as well. Mismash and Kawaguchi, who both sat out the win against Alaska Anchorage a week earlier, contributed with their first goals.
"We talked about it at the beginning of the year,'' Berry said. "This team is going to win together. And we did tonight.''
Game notes: With the 1987 national championship UND team honored on the ice prior to the game, one of the assists on Gardner's game-closing goal went to Dixon Bowen, the son of Jeff Bowen, a member of that 1987 team . . . UND lost the faceoff battle 33-37 despite having won 20 of 25 faceoffs in the first period . . . Wolanin led UND in shots on goal with 5, followed by Gersich with 4 . . . Only three UND skaters didn't have at least one shot on goal . . . Pritchard's goal for SLU was his first of the season, set up by a Mike Marnell pass . . . UND lost senior center Johnny Simonson to injury late in the game, and he did not return. His status for the Minnesota series this weekend is unclear.
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.