GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- A sweep of a weekend series has been elusive for the University of North Dakota men's hockey team this season.
But a sweep at Western Michigan last weekend and a three-goal explosion in the third period Saturday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena highlighted a 3-1 victory over Northern Michigan and the first stick salute of players to the fans this season following a home sweep.
The victory was North Dakota's fifth straight, upped its overall record ty 9-7-2 and sent NoDak into the Christmas break on a high note.
Freshman defenseman Gage Ausmus rallied UND from a 1-0 deficit in the third period with his goal at 10:35, his second of the season.
Ausmus, sliding into the faceoff circle off the left point, took a Michael Parks feed from behind the end line and one-timed his shot past the glove hand of NMU rookie goalie Mathias Dahlstrom (28 saves).
An empty-net goal by Derek Rodwell (his 3rd) with Dahlstrom pulled for an extra attacker wrapped it up with 35 seconds remaining.
"A couple sweeps in a row, and I think we're heading in the right direction,'' Grimaldi said. "So it's great for our team.''
North Dakota did it with defense as much as late fireworks from the offense. UND limited the Wildcats to just 14 shots on goal, 11 fewer than UND has given up in any game this season. The Wildcats were outshot 14-3 in the telling third period and 31-14 overall.
As in Friday's 4-1 North Dakota win, nine players figured into the scoring column tonight in front of 11,536 fans, no player having more than a single point.
"I think it is just a level of comfortableness with guys playing together and getting chemistry and work ethic,'' Grimaldi said. "We working harder the past few weekends than we did at the beginning of the year.''
Grimaldi noticed something else.
"It showed the resilency of our team coming back,'' Grimaldi said. "Earlier in the year, we'd go down and kind of sit back on our heels and wouldn't be able to get back in the game.''
Grimaldi was named the game's No. 1 star by the media, with Ausmus second star and Caggiula checking in at No. 3.
Northern Michigan had taken a 1-0 lead when freshman Shane Sooth scored on a power play from center slot to the glove hand of UND goalie Zane Gothberg (13 saves) at 15:20 of the opening period.
Grimaldi and UND have prospered since he was moved from wing to center recently.
"I'm kind of different from a lot of people,'' Grimaldi said. "The more I play, the more energy I get. I don't know if that 's human-like or what. I like getting out there a lot.''
Ausmus saw the play develop on the far side of the rink from him.
"I saw Parks coming down the wall and all five of their guys kinda followed him,'' Ausmus said. "I saw an opening on the back side and figured I'd just get myself open some way. Parksie got it me and I just beared down and got a goal.''
And a big one it was, pumping life into UND and the fans.
"A really tight, hard-fought game,'' UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "In the third period, we really needed was somebody to make a play. Michael Parks and Gage Ausmus made a play,'' Hakstol said. "From there, we got a little momentum going.''
Hakstol said Northern Michigan is really hard to play against.
"They don't give up much time, space, especially in the critical scoring areas,'' Hakstol said. "This was a little different win for us, but in a lot of ways, it was one of our best wins.''
Northern Michigan dropped to 6-10-2 overall.
UND NOTES: North Dakota is idle until playing in a tournament in British Columbia on Jan. 3-4 ... The next home series for UND is Jan. 10-11 vs. Colorado College ... Grimaldi led UND with 4 shots on net followed by Troy Stecher and Rodwell with 3 ... UND was 0-2 on the power play, the Wildcats 1-5. . . UND lost the faceoff battle 31-28 but rookie Adam Tambellini won 7 of the 9 draws he took ... UND had a 5-minute power play in the first period when UNM's Reed Steckel drew a major for kneeing, but UND couldn't convert, mustering just four shots on goal.
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.