GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- If history repeats itself, it certainly dished up a painsaking sequel for the University of North Dakota hockey team Friday night.
Despite outshooting Minnesota 35-18, including 24-8 over the last two periods, the Fighting Hawks came up on the short end of a 2-1 score in front of a sellout of 11,862 jamming a raucous Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Last season, Minnesota beat UND 2-0 in Minneapolis in a game in which UND outshot Minnesota 33-20.
The main thorn for UND in both games was Gopher goalie Eric Schierhorn. He stopped 34 of UND's 35 shots tonight after turning back all 33 he faced last Nov. 5 at Mariucci Arena.
Minnesota used a goal from Rem Pitlick at 11:00 of the first period and one off the post and in by defenseman Steve Johnson in the third period to build a 2-0 lead.
That was enough to hold off a power-play rebound goal by Rhett Gardner at 13:40 of the third period. Gardner stuffed in a rebound off a Grant Mismash shot after Gardner had first won the offensive zone faceoff to start the play. Gardner said the play drawn up by UND assistant coach Matt Shaw following a UND timeout.
Though UND (3-1-1) suffered its first loss in this nonconference contest between arch-rivals meeting for the first time in more than 5 years in Grand Forks, the Hawks left with more positives than negatives.
"I thought our effort was there,'' UND coach Brad Berry. "We started the game the right way. We took a few penalties in the first period, and I thought that gave them a little momentum.''
Indeed it did. UND had a 9-1 shot advantage eight minutes into the game. Yet it was Minnesota that struck first when Pitlick split the UND defense to flip a shot high past UND goalie Cam Johnson, who missed on his poke-check attempt on Pitlick.
Overall, though, UND carried the play, only to be stymied by Schierhorn and his shot-blocking teammates.
For the game, the Gophers blocked 29 shots compared to six for UND, led by defensemen Tyler Nanne with six and Jack Glover with five.
"We didn't play too much in our end of the rink, but they are very opportunistic,'' Berry said. "When they had a couple of chances, they buried them. We had some looks, but they do a good job of blocking shots. We've got to get a better shot at getting more pucks to the net.''
And that wasn't easy tonight.
"They were great at blocking shots,'' UND defenseman Christian Wolanin said. "They do a great job of having not only one layer, but two layers, and sometimes three. That makes it tougher for defensemen to get shots through. We've got to find a way to break that and get pucks to Schierhorn, who is a pretty good goalie.''
Other than the final score, the feeling from UND was a positive one. "I honestly thought we played a pretty good 60 minutes,'' Gardner said. "They're a team that takes advantage of opportunities.''
Another positive was that highly-touted UND freshman defenseman Gabe Bast made his season debut after battling injuries going back to last season, and impressed on both ends of the rink. He was used both on the power play and as a penalty killer, besides taking his regular shifts.
"I felt pretty good, the first time playing a game in five months or so,'' Bast said. "I thought my timing was pretty good. As the game went on, I got more comfortable.''
Minnesota (3-2 overall) did muster 10 shots on goal in the first period, but then had a total of eight over the last two periods as UND pressed for offense and controlled the play.
Minnesota's usual free-wheeling power play was 0-5 with the man advantage with just three total shots on goal. UND was 1-6 on the power play, with 10 shots on net.
"We outplayed them, outshot them, but we'll take the positives with the negatives and come back tomorrow,'' Wolanin said. "Ready to redeem ourselves.''
Game notes: Two sisters of the late UND hockey benefactor Ralph Engelstad, who funded and built the rink bearing his name, dropped the ceremonial first puck prior to the game ... Defenseman Hayden Shaw led UND in shots on goal with 6, followed by Bast with 5 ... Highly-touted rookie Casey Mittelstadt, who assisted on Pitlick's goal, led Minnesota in shots on goal with 4 ... Named the three stars by the print media, in order, were Schierhorn, Pitlick and Gardner ... UND had a slight 34-31 edge in faceoffs, led by Nick Jones (9 of 12).
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.