GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Trailing Niagara 1-0 with just 20 minutes remaining to extend its season, North Dakota needed a source of offense – any source – to crack goalie Carsen Chubak, the Purple Eagles’ Hobey Baker Award finalist.
Enter senior captain Andrew MacWilliam (Calgary, Alberta), he of the three career goals. The bruising defenseman sent a point shot through traffic that beat Chubak high, tying the game just 1:56 into the first period and providing UND for the momentum it had been seeking for much of the first 40 minutes.
Just 57 seconds later, a more familiar goal-scorer, senior Danny Kristo (Eden Prairie, Minn.) converted a wraparound for his WCHA-leading 26th goal of the season to put UND ahead to stay.
The win vaulted UND (22-12-7) into Saturday’s NCAA West Region championship game, where it will face Yale.
While his goal ultimately proved to be the game-winner, Kristo said it was MacWilliam’s goal that kick-started UND’s third period rally.
“Everyone went out there and did their job and left everything on the ice,” said Kristo. “It was nice to get that (MacWilliam) goal early, and after that we had some momentum.”
MacWilliam said his goal, only his second of the season, was part of a simple UND gameplan.
“Their guy slid by me and I just put it on net. They’ve got a good goaltender and that was part of our plan, just getting pucks (on net),” said MacWilliam. “I kind of showed a little patience, which is kind of rare for me sometimes. I’m glad I could chip in.”
Revitalized by the goals by MacWilliam and Kristo, UND carried the play in the final 20 minutes, piling up a 20-7 edge in shots on goal and 35-16 advantage in shot attempts. Prior to that, Chubak was the story of the game, stopping all 23 shots through the first two periods.
While Chubak was stonewalling UND at one end, NU’s Jason Beattie opened the scoring at the 6:27 mark into the second period. Chubak’s goaltending and Beattie’s goal left UND searching for answers as the second period wound down.
But UND head coach Dave Hakstol credited a shift by Stephane Pattyn (Ste. Anne, Manitoba), Colten St. Clair (Fr., Gilbert, Ariz.) and Connor Gaarder (Edina, Minn.) late in the middle frame for energizing UND’s bench.
“I thought we actually turned the game a little bit in the last few minutes of the second period,” said Hakstol. “Pattyn’s line went out and had one good shift, and that turned into a couple of good shifts at the end of the second period where we were able to generate a little bit of pressure and some grind shifts in their zone.”
Hakstol said that momentum followed the team into the locker room
“Our guys had a determination coming out of the locker room after the second period that was purely focused on going out and giving our best effort,” said Hakstol. “Everything that we had, let’s go unload the tank. We did that right from the drop of the puck. The Pattyn shift (late in the second period) just kind of snapped us back into what we do and we carried it from there.”
UND also received stellar goaltending from freshman Zane Gothberg (Thief River Falls, Minn.), who stopped 28 of 29 shots in his first start in four games. Chubak finished with 41 saves as UND outshot the Purple Eagles 43-29.
Both teams went scoreless in six power play tries, although UND was able to rack up 13 shots with the man advantage, compared to just three by Niagara.
UND now shifts its focus to Yale, which eliminated UND from the regionals in 2009-10 when UND’s current seniors were freshmen.
“We’ve got to just get back to the hotel, get ourselves rested, and get ourselves ready to go back and play an outstanding 60-plus minutes – whatever it takes – against a very good hockey team tomorrow. The word of the day for our team is ‘resiliency.’ We feel good about being able to come back in the third period and move on to the next round of this tournament,” said Hakstol.
Saturday’s regional final begins at 4 p.m. Eastern.
Notes: Prior to tonight, Niagara was 14-1-2 when leading after two periods and UND was 2-8-1 when trailing after two ... Gothberg, Chubak and MacWilliam were named the game’s three stars … The announced attendance was 2,289 … Kristo and Rocco Grimaldi (Fr., Rossmoor, Calif.) led all players with seven shots on goal. Grimaldi assisted on MacWilliam’s goal and now has reached the scoresheet in 13 of his last 14 games … Kristo has five goals in five playoff games this year, with four of the goals coming in the third period … UND will play in the NCAA regional championship game for the seventh time in Hakstol’s nine seasons behind the bench.