10th-seeded Michigan Tech used a late goal from fourth line freshman wing C.J. Eick with 2:02 left in the game tonight to beat UND 2-1 and force a deciding third game in the first round best-of-three Western Collegiate Hockey Association series.
When the six UND seniors were freshmen, they were forced into a third game before eliminating Minnesota in the league playoffs opening round. Starting with that win, UND had won 14 straight WCHA playoff games until Eick and Michigan Tech stopped the string tonight.
Eick raced up right wing, got UND goalie Clarke Saunders to lean a shade to his right, then flipped a backhander high past him on the short side for the winning goal.
It was just the third college goal in 35 games for Eick.
"I was trying to take it wide and get the puck on net,'' Eick said. "Ryan Furne made a great pass to put me on, I wouldn't say a breakaway, but I had a little step on them.''
That 'little step' turned into a giant step for the Huskies' hockey program, looking an infrequent berth in next week's WCHA Final Five and looking to end UND's run of 10 straight trips to the St. Paul-based tournament.
Eick said he tried going short side with his shot. "I think he (Saunders) was making the read I was going to cut to the far post, so he leaned and I tried to tuck it short side.''
His goal came about 30 seconds after UND freshman star Rocco Grimaldi had a similar rush at Tech goalie Pheonix Copley, but slid his shot wide.
The victory, coming after UND won Friday's game 5-3, means UND and the Huskies will play the deciding game at 7:07 Sunday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena with the winner moving on to the Final Five next week.
Copley, who finished with 29 saves as did Saunders in a strong goaltending battle, had a shutout going until UND senior Danny Kristo scored his team-leading 24th goal of the season and eighth in 10 games at 14:57 of the third period to tie it at 1-1.
On a faceoff in Tech's zone, the puck came to Kristo, who wheeled and banked a wrister into the net off of Copley's left shoulder.
Tech had take a 1-0 lead just 20 seconds into the second period on Tanner Kero's 11th goal of the season on a 4-on-4 situation after Tech forced a turnover in the UND zone.
"It was a hard-fought playoff game,'' UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "We came up one goal short. We battled hard. It was kind of an up-and-down first period, I thought they carried the momentum in the second period and we had a good push throughout the third. But it wasn't enough.''
Hakstol didn't get a good look at Kristo's goal from the bench. "He got a quick puck to the net and it found a hole,'' Hakstol said. "We didn't find a lot of holes on him (Copley) tonight.''
Copley had lost his previous four starts and given up 19 goals in those games, but he was superb tonight.
Kristo led UND in shots on goal with six, followed by the electric Grimaldi with five.
"He's got to keep creating opportunities and make sure he gets pucks on net and keeps working hard,'' Hakstol said of Grimaldi.
So the six seniors and UND will now face a Game 3 that they haven't experienced since the seniors were rookies.
"We've just go to come back and play an outstanding 60 minutes,'' Hakstol said. "It's two teams fighting to move on.''
UND captain Andrew MacWilliam, one of the seniors, put it this way:
"It's playoff hockey,'' he said. "If you don't bring your best, you're not going to like the outcome. We kind of lulled there in the second period and it came back to bite us.''
Added MacWilliam: "We're going to have to bring it tomorrow.''
UND notes: UND was 0-4 on the power play with just 3 shots on goal, Tech 0-3 with 4 shots . . . Jacob Johnstone, Milos Golic and Alex Petan had 4 shots on goal apiece for Tech....UND dropped to 20-11-7 overall and Tech improved to 13-19-4 . . . The announced attendance was 10,953 as UND continues to lead the nation in attendance this season . . . UND won the faceoff battle 38-30, led by senior Corban Knight (16 of 25).
Virg Foss covered UND hockey for 35 seasons for the Grand Forks Herald until his retirement in 2005. He now reports on UND home games exclusively for UNDsports.com.