GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Just who is that masked man wearing a UND hockey jersey and sporting an all-white facemask that most all goalies prefer to have artistically painted?
Turns out it is Fighting Hawks' freshman goaltender Peter Thome, the Plain Jane of college goaltenders when it comes to mask decor.
Thome turned in his third straight goaltending gem tonight, stopping 27 of 28 Miami University shots in backstopping UND to a 4-1 National Collegiate Hockey Conference victory in front of 11,389 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Thome improved to 2-0-1 in a UND uniform since making his first emergency start last weekend when junior goalie Cam Johnson was injured seven days ago on the day a two-game series at Wisconsin began for the Fighting Hawks.
Thome, a rookie from Minneapolis, has now allowed just five goals in his three starts.
And as superstitious as goaltenders can be, he may not switch to a decorated mark any time soon. Plain white is good enough for him for now, he says.
He at first said after the game that he hopes his new mask comes in Saturday morning ... but added that he is hesitant to wear it now, being unbeaten with the white mask.
"I was thinking about that after the game,'' he said. "I thought, if it comes in, what do I do?''
He didn't have to think that through very long.
"I think honestly, I'll wear the white one until I lose,'' he said, pausing long enough to knock on a wood table for good luck.
Luck is what sparked UND's offense early in the second period after a lethargic opening period with just four shots on goal for the Fighting Hawks, just one at even strength.
But early in the second period, just as a holding penalty to UND junior Nick Jones expired, defenseman Colton Poolman rattled a clearing pass out of his end that bounced directly to Jones as he stepped on the ice. He raced untouched down the left wall, cut across the crease and beat Miami goalie Ryan Larkin to the far side.
The goal at 4:03 of the second period broke a scoreless tie and came despite Jones taking a stick slash across his hands from Miami defenseman Grant Frederic.
Jones then made it 3-0 after two periods when he flipped a backhander through a pile on a goal-mouth scramble at 18:07 for his fifth goal of the season -- and fourth in his last five games.
Karch Bachman cut the UND lead to 3-1 on a rebound at 7:26 of the third period, ending Thome's bid for his first career shutout.
But rookie Grant Mismash pried a loose puck from under Larkin's pads exactly four minutes later to score his fourth goal of the season and complete the 4-1 victory, moving UND to 7-2-2 overall and 2-1 in NCHC play. Miami fell to 4-5 overall and 1-2 in league play.
UND coach Brad Berry said the strong offense from Jones isn't unexpected. Jones played a year-and-a-half at Ohio State, then left college and played in the British Columbia Hockey League for 1 1/2 years before joining UND this fall.
"When he was in the BCHL when he went back to junior from college, he was on the power play and in high offensive situations,'' Berry said. "He was a vital force in the BCHL. We also knew he is an unbelievable two-way player. When he's scoring goals, it's something he's always had in his bag.''
He bagged the big one out of the penalty box tonight to shake the Fighting Hawks out of their doledrums, after being outhot 9-4 by Miami in the opening period. It was the fewest shot total for UND in an opening period this season.
"It was a big boost for us to get that goal coming out of the penalty box,'' Berry said. "That (Miami) was a team that played with speed and tenacity the first period, and they played faster than we did. I thought we made a couple of adjustments in the second (period), got better, and ground out the win.''
Jones said he got a lucky bounce on the clearing pass from Poolman that led to his breakaway goal our of the penalty box.
"It was just a fortunate bounce. . . but we'll take it,'' Jones said.
And in the end, it sparked enough offense for UND to take the opening game of the two-game weekend series.
Game notes: UND won the special teams battle, going 1-for-5 on the power play while blanking Miami on 5 chances ... UUND has killed 44 of 46 power plays by opposing teams through 11 games, third-best in the nation coming into the weekend ... Gersich led UND in shots on goal with 7, more than double anyone else on the team ... Mismash (goal, assist) and Jones (2 goals) led UND with two points each ... UND won the faceoff battle 42-29, led by Gardner (14/8), Dixon Bowen (10/8) and Joes (8/6) ... UND came into the weekend ranked No. 2 and 4 in two national polls, while Miami was unranked.
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.