The steely look on the face of UND head coach Dave Hakstol and his curt, to-the-point words that followed were evidence indeed that North Dakota's 3-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association loss to St. Cloud State was worse than the final score showed.
With 7 1/2 minutes left in the game, North Dakota had just 9 shots on goal to 32 for the Huskies before freshman Rocco Grimaldi (Rossmoor, Calif.) scored on a power-play deflection to avert the shutout. For Grimaldi, it was his 9th goal of the season.
Still, UND managed a season-low 16 shots on goal, half of them coming in the final period and 7 of them in the final 7 1/2 minutes when UND was down 3-0.
Hakstol pulled no punches with his words. He made no excuses.
"We didn't play well tonight,'' he said. "There's no real bright spots I'm going to look to out of this. We got our tails kicked in our own building.''
It was a surprisingly lethargic performance by UND, coming off a tremendous effort in a 4-4 OT tie at Minnesota six days earlier.
But with a chance to move into a tie for first place in the WCHA with a victory, UND, No. 5 in the national polls, responded poorly.
Hakstol chose not to dig into the faults in UND's game in front of the media in the post-game interview.
"I'm not going to try to air it out in this forum,'' Hakstol said. "We didn't play well. The rest is going to be kept behind closed doors. We're going to have to come back very, very strong tomorrow night.''
The game took an ugly turn early on for UND when St. Cloud State freshman Jonny Brodzinski scored 4:15 into the game.
Jimmy Murray's initial shot banked off the end boards and came out to Brodzinski at the outer edge of the faceoff circle. He one-timed his shot to the short side of UND freshman goalie Zane Gothberg (Thief River Falls, Minn.), who was late in covering the near side.
St.. Cloud captain Ben Hanowski scored from in close at 16:36 of the opening period to make it 2-0 before Brodzinski capped a nifty three-way passing play with a blast from the left faceoff circle to make it 3-0 at 7:35 of the second period.
UND was staring at being shut out at home for the first time since Oct. 28, 2011, when Ryan Faragher's 44 saves keyed a 4-0 St. Cloud win. Tonight, Faragher was tested just 17 times, stopping 16 of them.
It won't be an easy performance to erase from the memory books, Hakstol said, and he doesn't want it to be.
"This isn't one to forget,'' he said. "This is hard one.''
Hakstol shuffled his lines around as the game went on and UND did show more spark late in the game. But by then, St. Cloud was in command with the 3-0 lead.
"We just played uninspired, I guess,'' Grimaldi said. "Give credit to their team, they played a great game.''
In contrast, Brodzinski had 8 shots for St. Cloud and Hanowski 7, their combined 15 shots just one short that the total for the entire UND team.
"It just wasn't our game,'' Grimaldi said. "I can't even put a finger on what we did wrong tonight. Starting with myself, no one was inspired to play the game. That can't happen.''
St. Cloud State improved to 16-10 overall and 13-5 in the WCHA in moving into sole possession of first place when co-leader Minnesota lost at home to Minnesota State 2-1.
North Dakota, 1-3-1 in its last five games, dropped to 13-8-4 overall and 8-6-4 in league play.
UND, which trails St. Cloud 2-1 in the season series, wraps up regular-season play against the Huskies with Saturday's 7:05 start.
UND NOTES: A crowd of 11,821 watched at Ralph Engelstad Arena . . . UND's three shots on goal in the first period were the lowest total for any period all season for North Dakota . . . UND was 1-for-1 on the power play with one shot on goal, the Huskies 0-for-2 with 6 shots on goal . . . Knight's 19-game point streak came to an end when he was held pointless. It's the fourth-longest in UND history and the longest in 25 years .....UND goalie Gothberg drew an assist on his team's only goal.
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.