Burnaby, BRITISH COLUMBIA – One night after a lackluster performance in a 3-2 overtime loss to British Columbia, North Dakota was intent on using tonight’s Great Northwest Showcase finale to get back on track before resuming NCHC play next weekend.
Mission accomplished. UND outshot host Simon Fraser 51-17 – 27-6 in the third period alone – and overcame a pair of disallowed goals en route to a 4-3 victory over the Clan.
Senior captain Dillon Simpson scored twice in the third period, including the game-winner with 4:05 remaining, to erase SFU’s third-period lead.
Simpson, who also assisted on Rocco Grimaldi’s first-period power-play goal, said he liked his team’s response following Friday’s loss.
“Yesterday was very disappointing. We had to take a real hard look in the mirror last night and this morning. I think we came out, though, with the right effort tonight and had a good bounce-back,” said Simpson.
Despite the improved effort and the sizeable shots on goal discrepancy, UND still had to clear some hurdles Saturday to earn the victory.
An apparent Luke Johnson deflection goal in the first period was waved off because the net had been lodged by a Clan defenseman. A Michael Parks deflection in the third period – originally ruled a goal – was overturned after refree Mike Campbell conferred with his linesmen. And freshman Adam Tambellini hit the corner of the cross bar and the goal post in the third period.
On top of the three near-goals, SFU goalie Graeme Gordon stymied UND’s shooters at nearly every turn and finished with 47 saves.
“Their goalie played phenomenal,” said Simpson. “They did a good job of limiting our chances off the rush. They clogged up the neutral zone pretty well. At the end of the day, a win’s a win – they don’t ask how. At the same time, we’ve got to take some positives out of this game.”
After a scoreless first period, Grimaldi finally opened the scoring 6:28 into the second period while on the power play, blasting a slap shot from the top of the left circle past Gordon. But SFU responded with a Scott Brkich power-play goal seven minutes later to send the teams into the second intermission tied 1-1.
The Clan took a lead on a Taylor Piller goal just 59 seconds into the final frame, but UND’s captain took over from there. A big Andrew Panzarella body check in the offensive zone caused a turnover with the puck rolling right to Simpson at the point, and he stepped into a howitzer that beat Gordon pulled UND even.
UND’s Stephane Pattyn and SFU’s Nick Sandor traded goals, Sandor’s coming on a 2-man advantage, setting the stage for Simpson’s winner with just over four minutes left. Simpson beat a defender at the top of the right circle and walked the puck to the slot, where his initial shot was stopped. But Simpson found his rebound at the side of the net and wrapped it inside the open post to reclaim a lead UND would not relinquish.
UND head coach Dave Hakstol was pleased with what he saw tonight.
“Our team played well today. I was happy with it. At an exhibition level, I was real happy with our performance,” said Hakstol. “I thought we played hard and did the things we wanted to do in this tournament, but unfortunately didn’t do them last night. The best we could do is bounce tonight and we did that.”
Hakstol said the games were invaluable after a 20-day layoff.
“It was good to play games. When you’re off for a long time it’s always a little bit hard to get the intensity level up to the point where it needed to be for an exhibition game,” said Hakstol. “We were able to do that tonight and playing games was really important for us to get some of the cobwebs out, to get ourselves ready as we go into the stretch run.”
UND returns to NCHC play at home next weekend against Colorado College. The puck drops at 7:37 p.m. Central on Friday and 7:07 p.m. on Saturday.
Notes: Simpson and Gordon were named the Player of the Game for their respective teams … Grimaldi left the game with an injury early in the third period and did not return. However, Hakstol said he didn’t think the injury would be long-term … Hakstol said he was planning on starting Clarke Saunders in goal tonight, but the senior came down with the flu late last night and had to stay at the hotel tonight … Next Friday’s game against CC will be telecast live nationally on CBS Sports Network.