GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Black Friday indeed.
The University of North Dakota hockey team might be lining up for a refund today after buying a clunker of a performance for one-third of the game Friday in a 4-1 non-conference loss to visiting Union College at Ralph Engelstad Arena in the opening game of the Subway Holiday Classic.
UND gave up goals on a deflection on a power play and a misplay by freshman goalie Peter Thome in the opening period to fall behind the Dutchmen 2-0 and never fully recovered as Union won for the eighth time in the last nine games.
Though UND outshot Union 38-21 overall, including 26-12 over the last two periods, the early Union goals by Ryan Walker and Sebastian Vidmar proved to be the difference, along with a solid 37-save performance by Dutchmen goalie Jake Kupsky.
UND, coming off a 5-4 upset of top-ranked Denver University last Friday in Denver after falling behind 3-0 in that game, found no rally magic tonight.
Even after defenseman Christian Wolanin scored his fifth goal of the season at 3:27 of the third period to make it 2-1 and raise the hopes of a nice Thanksgiving weekend crowd of 11,087, those hopes died quickly.
Union defenseman Vas Kolias scored on a breakaway just 52 seconds after Wolanin's goal to kill the mini-rally and send Union on to victory. Brandan Taylor's empty-net goal with 1:07 left in the game wrapped it up for the Dutchmen.
But the outcome basically came down to the first period.
"Pretty much,'' UND coach Brad Berry said. "Lost in the first period. We've won a lot of games chasing games (from behind), but if you keep doing that, it'll catch up with you. It caught up with us tonight. We've got to learn in our minds what gives us success, and it's about the compete, battles, execution and sharpness.''
And UND had little of that until it was staring at a 2-0 deficit against a hot team that blocked 21 shots in front of its goalie and blanked UND in four power plays, despite 14 shots with a man advantage.
A letdown from the Denver series?
"I don't know,'' Berry said. "Everybody talks about the Denver hangover, the Minnesota hangover, after a big series. Maybe there's a little bit going into it. But you know what, we're coming into the Ralph. The one thing is, this place was built for us to have success in it, and there's an obligation on our part. We've got to make sure that we remember that next time we step on that ice.''
UND didn't have much puck-luck in this contest, but it caught a break to score its only goal. A shot from the left point by rookie defenseman Matt Kierstad hit traffic in front of the net and kicked to the other side of the net to Wolanin, who buried the rebound.
But with UND pressing hard right away to tie it up, the sophomore Kolias slipped behind the UND defense for a breakaway, beating Thome glove side high with a wrist shot for his first goal of the season and his second in 49 career games.
Wolanin lamented the slow start as well.
"Horrible. Going through the motions, waiting for things to happen,'' Wolanin said. "I'm sure it was pretty obvious from watching, it's not North Dakota hockey. They took advantage of it.''
And counting on a rally to pull out a victory again isn't the path to sucess.
"We've proved we can do it, but that's not how you want to play hockey,'' Wolanin said. "Coach said between periods you can only do that for so long. And teams that do that, don't win in the end.''
That was the storyline at Ralph Engelstad Arena tonight as North Dakota fell to 8-4-3 overall. Union improved to 8-6-0.
Game notes: Kupsky was named No. 1 star by the media, followed by Walker and Wolanin ... Rhett Gardner and Wolanin led UND in shots on goal with 5 each ... UND won the faceoff battle 43-23 led by Nick Jones (14-6) and Gardner (14-9) ... Besides grabbing a 2-0 lead in the first period, the Dutchmen had two shots clank off pipes as well ... Former UND All-American Zach Parise and current NHL player with the Minnesota Wild is expected to take in Saturday's rematch at 7:05 p.m. and drop the ceremonial opening puck. Parise is sidelined with a back injury ... Union coach Rick Bennett led the Dutchmen to the 2014 NCAA title while UND coach Berry guided his team to the 2016 national championship.
Virg Foss is in his 13th season of reporting on UND home hockey games exclusively for UNDsports.com. He covered UND hockey for 35 seasons for the Grand Forks Herald until his retirement from newspapers.