But Senkbeil's rebound goal -- his first at UND-- stood up as the game-winner as North Dakota toppled Colorado College 5-3 for a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series split.
Another first goal by a UND player -- that by junior wing Mitch MacMillian (Penticton, British Columbia), a St. Cloud State transfer -- at 13:22 of the second period gave UND lead, its first weekend lead after losing 4-3 on Friday.
A huge night by senior wing Danny Kristo (Eden Prairie, Minn.) keyed the victory. Kristo had a career best four-point game, with two goals, two assists and one loud clang off the pipe late in the second period
UND coach Dave Hakstol made changes throughout his lineup after Friday's loss. He switched players around on all four lines, made one change on defense and gave freshman goalie Zane Gothberg (Thief River Falls, Minn.) his first start in 10 games.
After a sluggish first period in which UND was out 12-4 and outscored 2-1 with Kristo's 12th goal of the season the only highlight for UND, North Dakota turned it around in a major way in the second period.
UND outshot the Tigers 15-1 in the second period and used goals by fourth line right wing Joe Gleason (Edina, Minn.) and Mitch MacMillian to wrestle the lead away from the Tigers. Gleason, moved from defense to wing for this game, scored on a sharp angle below the faceoff dot on UND's only power play chance of the night to tie it at 2-2 8:02 into the period.
Just over five minutes later, MacMillan blasted on wrist shot just inside the post after a cross-ice pass from Kristo for North Dakota's first lead.
After CC's Rylan Schwartz tied it with CC's second power play goal of the game at 5:13 of the final period, Senkbeil slammed in the puck from in front of the net after Sioux freshman defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (Verona, Wis.) hit the post seconds earlier.
Kristo's empty-netter from 110 feet away with 1:06 left in the game iced the victory for North Dakota, which improved to 8-3-3 in WCHA play and 13-6-3 overall.
Senkbeil somehow ended up on the ice with Kristo from UND's top line when his goal came. Kristo's backhand pass to the left wing also set up Mitch MacMillan's first UND goal.
"It's pretty exciting, it's been a while,'' Senkbeil said of his first goal. "My eyes kind of lit up when the puck was in the crease. I just tried to pound it, pound it home.''
That he did, which created a glow among the fans and his teammates who have appreciated the hard work from the California walk-on.
Senkbeil's feeling was shared by MacMillian, who had to sit out a transfer year, then scored in his fifth game in a UND jersey.
"Words can't describe it,'' he said. "It's good to get the first one out of the way.''
He was moved to the top line with Kristo and senior center Corban Knight (High River, Alberta) for Saturday's game. "They're really special players,'' MacMillan said, "and you know you've got to take the most of the opportunity to play with them.''
Knight and Kristo continued hot streaks.
Knight assisted on Gleason's goal, giving him 29 points in his last 17 games, tying him for 10th place in longest scoring streak in school history.
Kristo now has goals in seven straight games, a stretch in which he has 8 goals, 8 assists. Kristo is the leading active scorer in college hockey with 139 career points now.
UND bounced back strong after a lethargic first period in which UND managed just four shots, its season low for the opening period.
"Pretty much playing desperate hockey,'' is how Kristo described UND's bounce-back in the second period. "It was an unacceptable first period, four shots on net. Pretty much the guys said we've got to step up.''
He was just as happy for teammates as he was with the win and his four-point game. "Hats off to (Senkbeil),'' Kristo said. "Not always the prettiest guy out there, but I think everyone was pretty excited for him. Huge goal for our team. Congrats to both those guys (Senkbeil and MacMillan).''
Hakstol took note of Senkbeil's goal, too.
"Last night, the difference in the hockey game, their fourth line scored the game-winner in the third period,'' Hakstol said. "Tonight, one of our guys we don't normally count on to score a goal, went out and did that. He did it the old-fashioned way, he want to the top of the crease and found a way to jam one home.''
Hakstol said the turnaround from the first to second periods had a bit to do with new line chemistry coming into play, and a better performance by everyone.
"Maybe some of the chemistry was part of that,'' Hakstol said, "but I think it was the guys determination.''
Despite bone-chilling temperatures and slippery roads, the game drew a sellout of 11,915 fans who turned out to see a team that leads the nation in attendance.
"Amazing,'' Hakstol said. "We came to the rink Friday and the students were lined up a block long outside in the snowstorm and blizzard. Same thing today. We've got people traveling from 1, 2, 3, 4 hours away, finding a way to get here. It makes it worthwhile at the end of Saturday night when you have a satisfying win. Hopefully that's a nice payoff for those people and their dedication.''
UND NOTES: Gothberg finished with 21 saves to 26 for CC's Josh Thormbert .. . . MacMillan, who also had an assist to go with his first goal, led UND in shots on goal with 5, followed by Knight with four . . .Knight was a plus-four in the plus/minus category, tops on the team . . . Mitch MacMillan's little brother, sophomore Mark, led UND in faceoff wins with 9 of 11 draws successful . . . UND was 1-1 on the power play, CC 1-4.... The teams split their four meetings this season, each winning once in the other team's rink.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.