GRAND FORKS, N.D. --North Dakota entered the holiday break riding a 5-game winning streak that was its longest all season. It emerged from that break tonight looking sluggish and out of synch in a 3-2 exhibition loss in overtime to the University of British Columbia at the Great Northwest Showcase.
UND head coach Dave Hakstol told his team in the locker room after the game that tonight’s effort was the complete opposite of the blueprint used to put together the winning streak.
“We got outworked tonight, right from the start of the game. We had spurts where we got good contributions from our lineup but we just didn’t sustain any of that throughout the 60-some minutes of the game,” said Hakstol.
“We worked extremely hard those last five games in order to win and that’s the way we have to play to win. We’re a hard to play against when we play with that intensity level and tenacity and we didn’t do that throughout the game tonight.”
Despite the subpar performance, UND was within a minute of escaping with a victory after Connor Gaarder broke a 1-1 tie with 4:11 remaining in regulation, banging home a loose puck from the slot.
But the Thunderbirds found the tying goalie with 52 seconds remaining and goaltender Matt Hewitt on the bench for an extra attacker. Just as Wade Murphy stepped out of the penalty box for a tripping minor, Joe Antilla found a rebound off the end boards and snuck it past UND goalie Zane Gothberg to send the game into extra time.
Antilla set up the winner in overtime with 1:04 remaining, finding Jason Yee at the faceoff dot to the left of Gothberg. Yee drilled a one-timer past Gothberg to send UND to its locker room tasting defeat for the first time since Nov. 29.
“We looked like we were comfortable, thinking we’re getting a lot of guys back in the lineup and things were going to come easy,” said Hakstol.” We didn’t work to make good things to happen. We didn’t sustain very much throughout the hockey game.”
UBC outshot UND 26-25 and both teams went scoreless on the power play, UBC going 0-4 and UND 0-3. Mitch MacMillan, a Penticton, British Columbia, native, scored UND’s other goal. Jessi Hilton opened the scoring for the Thunderbirds.
After the loss, UND players refused to use a 20-day layoff as an excuse for their performance, noting UBC was coming off of a similar break.
“We had a really had work week of practice and got the rust out that way. It was just a mindset. Guys weren’t really to play, guys weren’t expecting to be challenged here and I think that was our first mistake, starting from our leaders, obviously,” said junior assistant captain Stephane Pattyn.
“We didn’t work hard today,” Pattyn continued. “If we work hard we’re a hard team to beat. We’re not going to beat teams just with our skill and playmaking. We have to work hard and win every battle. We have to have that mindset not only for tomorrow, but for the rest of the season.”
Freshman defenseman Troy Stecher, a product of nearby Richmond, agreed.
“Winning five games coming into the break, there shouldn’t be any rust. We should be mentally sharp and prepared to go, especially after the week we had back in North Dakota,” said Stecher. “You come in here, you’re spoiled, go to a Canucks game (Thursday night), get wined and dined and think you’re going to walk all over these guys. That was our first mistake and it cost us a hockey game.”
UND will face host Simon Fraser, which lost 8-1 to Princeton earlier tonight, on Saturday at 7 p.m. Pacific to close out the tournament.
Notes: Sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi was named the player of the game for North Dakota … UBC will play Princeton at 4 p.m. on Saturday … UND will resume NCHC play next weekend at home against Colorado College.