His tally with just under two minutes left in the third period not only proved to be the game-winner in an important WCHA contest with Wisconsin, but it also came on his 21st birthday.
"It's probably my best present, for sure," a smiling Pattyn said. "It's definitely a good feeling to get that one out of the way. Hopefully they keep coming."
UND's 5-3 victory before 11,769 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena improved the team to 14-10-2 overall and 10-9-0 in league play. The Badgers fell to 12-11-2 overall and 7-10-2 in the WCHA, four points behind UND in the battle for home ice during the playoffs.
Sophomore defenseman Dillon Simpson (Edmonton, Alberta), who notched his first goal since last February, also felt a sense of relief.
"Hopefully the floodgates open a little bit here for me scoring-wise," he said. "It was great to get that goal and just get the confidence to shoot the puck."
UND got off to a quick start, thanks to a goal by freshman forward Michael Parks(St. Louis, Mo.) just 31 seconds into the first period. He pounced on the puck right off a faceoff won by junior center Carter Rowney (Sexsmith, Alberta) in the Wisconsin zone and fired it past Badgers goalie Joe Rumpel.
UND coach Dave Hakstol noted the importance of the team getting scoring contributions across the lineup.
"We need contributions at different times from different people," he explained. "For Steph Pattyn to step up tonight with his linemates and come up with game-winning goal, that was the separation in a real close hockey game tonight. It's very important for us."
Junior forward Danny Kristo (Eden Prairie, Minn.) gave UND an early 2-0 lead with a power-play goal at 4:56 of the first, when Brock Neslon's (So., Warroad, Minn.) wrister from the top of the right circle deflected off Kristo's leg. The goal was initially credited to Nelson.
However, the Badgers stormed back with a power-play goal by forward Michel Mersch at 6:37 and an even-strength goal by Keegan Meuer at 13:34 to make it 2-2 before the first intermission.
Simpson gave UND the lead again in the second period when his slap shot from the point through traffic beat Rumpel cleanly at the 13:27 mark. Mersch took advantage of a bad bounce and shot the puck past UND junior goalie Aaron Dell (Airdrie, Alberta) at 16:45 to make it 3-3 at the end of two periods.
After getting swept by Wisconsin back in October, UND's third game of the season against the Badgers wasn't shaping up to have a positive ending.
"It's hard in terms of trying to build any momentum," Hakstol said of the goals UND gave up off bad bounces. "They tend to deflate the bench a little bit, but that's the kind of night it was. It was a tough, close-to-the-vest game. Bounces are part of it.
"Between the second and third, we just wanted to wipe the slate clean, forget about that and do what he had to do to try to win the game," he added. "If you let some of the negative stuff linger in your mind, it's pretty hard to focus on what you need to do to be successful."
The return of sophomore defenseman Derek Forbort (Duluth, Minn.) to the lineup enabled junior defenseman Joe Gleason (Edina, Minn.) to center the fourth line. That paid off late in the third period when Gleason started the rush up ice that led to Pattyn's game-winning goal.
Gleason's pass sent senior forward Mario Lamoureux (Grand Forks, N.D.) in on Rumpel, who stopped his initial shot. The puck came back to Lamoureux, who spotted Pattyn camped out on the other side of the crease and passed to him. He buried the chance to put UND up 4-3 at 18:06.
"Mario made that shot and I think they all just sunk to him," Patty said. "I was just going to the net hoping I could get a rebound, but it ended up being a beautiful pass by Mario. It was definitely an easy tap-in, but definitely all Mario."
"I know it's his birthday, so it's a special night for him," Simpson said. "It's a goal we needed, and he came through big for us."
Hakstol said that in a tightly contested game, it was the break UND needed.
"Fortunately, we came up with that opportunity," he said. "It was a good play by our captain, Mario Lamoureux, to find Pattyn on the back door. It was good timing for him to score the first goal of his career."
Wisconsin pulled Rumpel with 1:12 left in the game, but Nelson picked up his 18th goal of the season with an empty netter that sealed the win. He whacked the puck out of UND's zone and the home fans roared as it rolled down the ice on end and across the goal line with .9 second left on the clock.
"It was a 3-3 hockey game and it comes down to a 20-minute hockey game," Hakstol said. "At that point in time, you have to have a short memory, go out and do what we need to do to give us a chance to win the game. I thought we did that. I was proud of the guys to be able to do that."
The two teams meet for the second game of the series on Saturday at 7:07 p.m. in Engelstad Arena.