COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – North Dakota senior captain Austin Poganski wasn’t particularly eager to talk about his first goal of the season following his team’s 6-4 NCHC win at Colorado College.
Poganski, held without a point through the first seven games of the season, jokingly offered a ‘No comment’ when asked about the second-period goal by the media before finally acquiescing.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Poganski. “I felt like I was doing the right things today. It wasn’t the prettiest goal. It’s the grimiest goal ever, but I think I’ll take it at this point.”
Poganski might as well have been describing UND’s victory, one that often lacked in style points but one you’ll not catch the Fighting Hawks apologizing for in the grueling NCHC.
Poganski’s goal was part of a four-goal second period for North Dakota, turning what had been a 2-1 deficit into a 5-3 lead after 40 minutes. Nick Jones, Gabe Bast and Jordan Kawaguchi also scored in the second period – Bast’s the first of his career -- while rookie Grant Mismash scored one each in the first and third periods.
All told, it was a fifth win of the season for the fourth-ranked Fighting Hawks and allowed UND to escape the Broadmoor World Arena with a conference split.
“We played a good game, not a great game,” said Poganski. “I thought we had some really good opportunities and periods of high energy and high emotion. We also had some times we were a little sluggish and took some dumb penalties.”
If it was an uneven effort, it was still a more inspired performance than Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Tigers. UND came out flying from the drop of the puck, out-shooting the Tigers 10-6 in the opening period. Mismash’s power-play goal 6:41 into the game got UND off on the right foot.
“Last night was kind of a bad night for all of us,” said Mismash. “I don’t want to make any excuses but the altitude change I something to get used to. I think tonight we were all buzzing on the same level.”
UND continued its early-season trend of explosiveness on Saturdays after struggling to score on Fridays. The Fighting Hawks have scored 19 goals in four Saturday games compared to just five goals in four Friday tilts.
“It’s driving us crazy,” said UND Head Coach Brad Berry. “It’s not like we don’t prepare for Friday nights. It’s one of those things where teams come out very hard on Friday night. We’ve got to make sure we do all the different things that give us a chance for success.”
Mismash said Berry and the UND staff emphasized playing harder in the middle of the ice in the offensive zone in an effort to generate more chances on CC standout netminder Alex Leclerc. Tonight, UND was able to beat Leclerc six times on 27 shots after he had stopped 71 of 72 in his previous two starts against UND.
“We played hard in between the dots. That was kind of our key that the coaches talked to us about,” said Mismash. “Just play hard through there and box out, go to the net and stay at the net, and get rebounds. I think that was the key for tonight.”
Poganski’s goal, a tap-in of a Joel Janatuinen rebound, was a prime example.
“I think he knew that last night wasn’t his best game of the year and he knew he had to be better and he was,” said Berry. “That’s what a captain does, and that’s what a leader does. I’m glad he got a goal. He got the monkey off the back.”
Mismash potted his second of the game off a CC turnover in the opening minute of the third period to give UND a 6-3 cushion. Trevor Gooch pulled the Tigers back within two with 6:10 left, but UND gutted out the final six minutes in a penalty-filled third period without forwards Trevor Olson and Ludvig Hoff. Both left the game with upper body injuries and did not return.
UND went 2-7 on the power after generating just once chance with the man advantage on Friday. The Fighting Hawks, the top-ranked penalty-killing team in the NCHC, thwarted all five CC chances on the power play.
UND returns to the road next weekend for a non-conference series at Wisconsin.
Notes: Mismash, Poganski and Nick Halloran were named the game’s three stars … Shane Gersich, Rhett Gardner and Christian Wolanin each had two assists … Nick Jones had a goal and an assist and won 21 of 26 faceoffs … Olson was playing in his 100th collegiate game.