GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- If he keeps this up, perhaps UND could remake the 1967 movie "Cool Hand Luke'' and rename it "Hot Hand Luke.''
Freshman wing Luke Johnson scored his third goal in the last three games and picked up his fifth point in the last three in North Dakota's 4-1 nonconferece college hockey victory over visiting Northern Michigan tonght at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
A crowd of 11,322 looked on as UND won its fourth straight game to break above the .500 mark at 8-7-2 on the season.
Johnson sniped a power play goal over the shoulder of Northern Michigan goalie Mathias Dahlstrom (26 saves) to the short side at 8:57 of the second period in what proved to be the winning goal. It came just 10 seconds into UND's power play and staked UND to a 2-0 lead.
"It's a lot different in the 'D' (defensive) zone, not as much work,'' Johnson said. "But I've played wing before, so I'm kind of used to it.''
UND scored twice on power plays, both times almost immediately after going on one.
Besides Johnson's goal 10 seconds into a power play, UND captain Dillon Simpson scored eight seconds into a power play late in the second period to stake UND to a 3-0 lead.
Simpson's goal from the right point was set up by a great screen in front of Dahlstrom by Mark MacMillan.
In the third period, a screen in front of UND goalie Zane Gothberg resulted in an overturned goal that hurt the Wildcats.
Down 3-1, Northern Michigan defenseman Mitch Jones scored on a power play slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle at 10:30 of the third period which would have chopped UND's lead to 3-2. But officials reviewed the goal on video replayd and disalllowed the goal. The offciial announcement was that the goal did not count because a Wildcat player was "visually impairing the goaltender in the crease.'' The Northern Michigan had one foot in the crease in front of Gothberg while blocking his vision, leading to the unusual ruling, but one that was not disputed.
With that goal off the books, UND wrapped it up when freshman defenseman Paul LaDue wiggled to free some space for himself at the right point before burying a wrist shot to the far side low 124 seconds after the Wildcats had their goal wiped off the board.
Johnson said he has more confidence in his game now and his linemates are two good players who know how to distribute the puck.
"I think confidence is just the biggest thing,'' Johnson said.
MacMillan had given UND a 1-0 lead at 4:10 of the opening when a long rebound from a Troy Stecher shot came out to MacMillan at the far faceoff dot. Dahlstrom never did locate the puck, leaving MacMillan a gaping net for his third goal of the season.
Johnson had some fun with reporters while talking about his goal from a tough angle to the short side. He was asked if he saw an opening to shoot at.
"Yeah, I did,'' Johnson replied. "No, I didn't,'' he quickly added to laughter from reporters. "I just tried to get it on net. Lucky enough it went in.'''
Johnson led UND with six shots on goal, all his coming in the first two periods. Through 40 minutes, Johnson had six shots, none of his teammates more than one. Nine UND players picked up at least a point, led by Grimaldi and defenseman Johdan Schmaltz with two assists each.
Contributions from everyone have led to UND getting on a roll, Johnson said.
"Everyone joined in and bought into the system,'' Johnson said. "We're really trying to make a push before the break.''
UND will look for its second straight series sweep tonight wth a rematch against NMU before taking a break until the Great Northwest Showcase in Burnaby, B.C., on Jan. 3-4.
"I thought we had a solid effort tonight,'' said UND coach Dave Hakstol.
UND, which outshot the Wildcats 30-25, received 24 saves from Gothberg. He has won his last four starts, giving up just seven goals in those starts.
UND NOTES: North Dakota was 2-for-4 on the power play, NMU 0-3 ... Besides the 6 shots on goal by Johnson, Colton St. Clair had 4 and Wade Murphy 3 ... UND won the faceoff battle 31-21, led by Grimaldi (16-7) ... The media voted Grimaldi No. 2 star and Simpson No. 3 behind Johnson ... Johnson, LaDue and Northern Michigan Casey Purpur were all teammates on the 2010 Grand Forks Central state championship hockey team ... Junior forward Stephane Pattyn played in his 100th collegiate game.
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.