DENVER – For the second straight night, Denver’s forward line of Trevor Moore, Danton Heinen and Dylan Gambrell was too much for North Dakota.
As a result, the Fighting Hawks will go into the final three weeks of the season tied atop the NCHC with St. Cloud State after being unable to distance themselves from the idle Huskies this weekend.
"You just can't take anything for granted," said head coach Brad Berry.
Moore had a goal and two assists, Heinen had two assists and Gambrell scored twice to carry the Pioneers to a 4-1 win and series sweep over North Dakota tonight at Magness Arena. The Moore-Heinen-Gambrell trio racked up a combined 18 points in the series and played a central role in handing UND its first series sweep since Nov. 2013 against St. Cloud State and its first road sweep since Nov. 2011 at Minnesota.
"It's definitely not what we came here for," said forward Austin Poganski on the weekend. "But I think it's a reality check, and I think it gets our minds going on what we have to do to win critical games in the playoffs."
"It's not acceptable for our program to lose two games in a row," added senior captain Gage Ausmus. "No matter where we are at or no matter what team we play."
Gambrell opened the scoring 8:31 into the first period, sniping a corner after being left all alone at the bottom of the left of faceoff circle.
UND was able to answer exactly 30 seconds later, however, when Austin Poganski scored on a nearly identical play. The St. Cloud, Minn., native gathered a pass from Luke Johnson in the left faceoff circle and roofed one over DU netminder Tanner Jaillet to tie it 1-1.
That goal midway through the first period would stand as UND’s only offense for the rest of the night, despite a handful of Grade A opportunities for the Fighting Hawks. Senior forward Drake Caggiula was denied by Jaillett on a partial breakway in the first period, and Boeser missed high on a breakaway later in the period.
"I thought we had some chances early, but we didn't capitalize," said Berry on the first period. "That happens in hockey. We have to make sure we drill down and capitalize on our chances early."
Caggiula also fanned on a one-timer with a wide-open net with seven minutes remaining and the Pioneers holding onto a 2-1 lead.
DU had grabbed the go-ahead goal on Jared Lukosevicius’ fifth goal of the season just 2:40 into the second period. That lead held through 40 minutes as the Pioneers outshot the Fighting Hawks in a period for the first time in the series.
UND poured 17 shots on Jaillet in the third period but could not generate the tying goal, with Caggiula’s one-timer bid the best chance. Moore provided the dagger with a breakaway goal with 4:06 remaining, beating Cam Johnson five-hold on a clean breakaway from the UND blueline in.
The Pioneers sealed it on Gambrell’s second of the night – an empty-netter – with 15 seconds left on the clock.
"There's six games left, we have four at home and two on the road, and we have to make sure that we manage the way that we play," said Berry on the upcoming schedule. "The team that has the most consistency is going to be playing long into the playoffs, and we want to be one of them."
UND fell to 22-5-3 overall and 13-4-1-1 in the NCHC. It will host Minnesota Duluth next Friday and Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
NOTES: Tonight's three stars as chosen by the media were: Tanner Jaillet (DU), Jarid Lukosevicius (DU), and Dylan Gambrell (DU) ... UND's PK went 3-3 tonight, has killed 20 straight over the last five games, and is 52-54 (96.3 percent) since the start of December ... Tonight marks the first back-to-back losses for UND since it lost both games at the 2015 NCHC Frozen Faceoff, a span of 33 games (24-6-3).