GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- On a night where the outside temperature was minus-13 and dropping when North Dakota's men's hockey team's game against Team USA Under-18 ended, a red-hot beginning rocketed UND to a 4-1 exhibition victory at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Freshman wing Joel Janatuinen's rebound goal 22 seconds into the game was followed by screened shot goals by defensemen Paul LaDue at 1:33 and Troy Stecher at 2:50 as UND scored on three of its first seven shots on net (42.8%) against U-18 goalie Jake Oettinger.
That proved to be all the offense UND needed to avoid being the seventh college team to be beaten by the U-18 team, based in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Drake Caggiula scored on a goal-mouth tip-in at 1:10 of the second period to make it 4-0 before James Sanchez broke the shutout with a power-play goal to the top corner on UND starting goalie Cam Johnson a 5:56 of period two.
It served as final tuneup for UND, as it begins the second half of the season next weekend against former UND coach Dean Blais and his Omaha Mavericks in Grand Forks.
UND, tied for first place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with St. Cloud State with two games in hand, will take an 18-2-2 record with nothing but conference games games ahead.
Even though idle from league play over the weekend, UND moved to No. 2 nationally in the all-important PairWise rankings with St. Cloud, Harvard and Omaha all losing to drop down.
"I thought we were sharp coming out of the chute,'' UND coach Brad Berry said. "Obviously with their long travel (Team USA played in Sioux Falls, S.D., Friday night), we jumped on them early. That's a good team. They played hard. They have skill over there.''
Team USA's overall record of 26-7-1 reflects that talent, but Oetttinger, the starting goalie, was torched for 3 goals early and was replaced in net by Joseph Woll, who stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced.
Berry thought the Fighting Hawks got sloppy at times after the rapid start.
"Part of that was not getting shots to the net,'' he said. "All of our goals were scored by getting pucks and bodies to the net, and we got away from that. Again, we got to make sure what gives us success, and that's playing a north game and getting pucks to the net, and get back to that.''
The line of center Luke Johnson with Chris Wilkie and Janatuinen on the wings was especially effective. Johnson and Wilkie had two assists apiece and Janatuinen the fastest goal to start a game this season for the Fighting Hawks.
"What I was really happy with was Luke Johnson, Wilkie and Janatuinen early on,'' Berry said. "They had some chemistry going on. We look for a lot of things going forward from that line.''
Berry dressed seven defensemen with freshman Danys Chartrand seeing his first action of the season. Berry also used three goalies, with freshman Matej Tomek making his debut as well. He played the final 4:42 of the game, but didn't have to make a save. Johnson (10 saves) and Matt Hrynkiw (13 saves, 0 goals) preceded him.
"Guys who normally don't get the reps got the reps tonight, which is good,'' Berry said.
LaDue, with a goal, two shots on net and a team-best three blocked shots, was named No, 2 star of the game by media, with Wilkie garnering top honors and Johnson third star.
"I thought it was good,'' LaDue said of UND's performance. "Exhibition game, midseason, kind of tough to get up for, but I thought we played good and got the start we wanted. They're a tough team to play against. They're really skilled, they're fast and they're shifty.''
Wilkie, who had one assist and three goals in his first 22 college games, looked good with his two-assist performance.
"It's a little bit of a confidence booster,'' Wilkie said. "Me and Luke and Joel have been playing pretty well the last couple weekends. We're just glad we could contribute to the win tonight.''
UND notes: Wilkie led UND in shots on goal with 4, followed by Stecher and Johnny Simonson with 3 ... UND has beaten the Under-18 team four years in a row in Grand Forks and outscored them by a combined margin of 21-8 ... UND had a 26-24 edge in shots on goal but lost the faceoff battle 31-25 ... UND was 0-5 on the power play with 6 shots on goal, Team USA 1-4 with 7 shots ... UND killed a 5-on-3 USA power play for 46 seconds in the second period, allowing just two shots, both turned back by Hrynkiw ... Clayton Keller led Team USA in shots on goal with 4 ... Of the 22 players on the Under-18 roster, 20 are committed to colleges, none to UND ... The game drew a paid crowd of 10,550.
Virg Foss covered UND hockey for 35 seasons for the Grand Forks Herald before his retirement. He's now in his 11th season of reporting on UND games exclusively for UNDsports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.