KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- A sixty-minute effort: check. Steady goaltending: check. Efficiency on special teams: check.
North Dakota threw all of the necessary ingredients together and cooked up a 3-2 NCHC road victory tonight at Western Michigan in front of 3,110 raucous fans at Lawson Ice Arena.
Sophomore goalie Zane Gothberg stood tall at the other end of the ice, making 36 saves and helping UND kill all seven Broncos’ power plays.
“For us it was a hard fought road win,” said UND head coach Dave Hakstol. “We killed penalties hard, we got some good saves, scored a couple of power-play goals, and the game winner was a greasy one. That’s the way we want to win on the road.”
Junior defenseman Nick Mattson concurred with his coach’s assessment.
“It’s time we start finding our identity,” said Mattson. “We’re probably not going to blow anyone out 6-1, but we can outwork a lot of teams. That’s going to be how we have to win.”
UND found itself trailing just 122 seconds into the game after a blown defensive zone faceoff assignment resulted in a Nolan LaPorte goal, but power-play goals by Johnson in the first and second periods staked UND to a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Rodwell converted a Stephane Pattyn centering pass midway through the third period to push the lead to 3-1, a goal that would end up the game-winner once WMU’s Josh Pitt scored as the final buzzer sounded.
Rodwell, Pattyn and linemate Connor Gaarder started the game and provided UND with a physical and energetic presence throughout the night.
“When they get a chip on the shoulder they’re pretty hard to play against, even in practice,” laughed Mattson.
Pattyn also led a penalty killing unit that went a perfect 7-for-7, with five of those coming during the second period alone.
“We spent a lot of minutes on the penalty kill,” said Hakstol. “Our guys did a good job there. It’s always a concern that you’ll grind down too much energy the way we did in the second period killing seven-plus minutes. But we survived that and I don’t think it affected us too much in the third period.”
Pattyn said killing penalties is a role he and his teammates relish.
“For guys who are on the PK it’s fun, it’s an intense time,” said Pattyn. “You want to win those battles. I thought we did well on the PK and also the power play did very well for us getting those two goals.”
Gothberg aided the penalty-killing effort by making 11 of his 36 saves while UND was shorthanded.
“He made a couple of real good, Grade-A opportunity saves. I thought through the game he continued to add confidence to our team,” said Hakstol.
North Dakota, which hadn’t won a Saturday game all season until last weekend, now searches for its first sweep of the year.
“Each weekend has presented a different challenge for us, but I think the singular focus right now has to be turning the page and getting to Saturday right away,” said Mattson. “We’re not really in position to pat ourselves on the back. We need to climb out of the hole we’ve dug for ourselves.”
The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. Eastern on Saturday.
Notes: Gothberg, Johnson and sophomore defenseman Jordan Schamltz were named the game’s three stars. Schmaltz assisted on both of Johnson’s power-play goals … Gaarder assisted on Rodwell’s goal and extended his career-best point streak to four games … UND has killed 10 consecutive opponent power plays over the past two games … Rodwell’s game-winner was the first of his career ... UND hit one goal post -- by Pattyn, Troy Stecher and Drake Caggiula -- in each period.