MINNEAPOLIS -- Top-ranked Minnesota scored five unanswered goals including three in the third period, to defeat No. 6 North Dakota 5-1 tonight in Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) action.
Trailing 1-0 after a Michael Parks (St. Louis, Mo.) power-play goal, the Golden Gophers stormed back with a pair of goals in the second and added three more in the third. The win, coupled with Denver's loss at St. Cloud State, enabled Minnesota to take sole possession of first place in the WCHA.
The tilt between the longtime and storied rivals played out virtually dead-even through the game's first 40 minutes. Neither team was willing to concede an inch during an opening period that saw each squad register just one shot on goal midway through the frame.
Parks eventually opened the scoring 3:34 into the second period on a fortunate bounce. Working from the corner with the man advantage, senior center Corban Knight (High River, Alberta) threw a pass in front of the net, and the punk deflected in off Parks' body for his third goal in six games this season. With the assist, Knight extended his point streak to 18 games, UND's longest in more than 20 years.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Minnesota's Zach Budish found a puck high in the UND slot and snapped a shot over the blocker of UND goalie Clarke Saunders (Brockville, Ontario) less than three minutes after Parks had opened the scoring.
The 1-1 scored nearly stood for the duration of the second period, until Minnesota defenseman Ben Marshall banged home a loose puck on the power play during a goal-mouth scramble. The goal, which came with 5.2 seconds showing on the clock, gave the Gophers their first lead. UND head coach Dave Hakstol said the goal tilted the complexion of the game.
"We made a mistake on a line change that led to the (ensuing) power play. They capitalized and it was a tough goal for us to give up at the end of the second."
The Gophers took control of the game on a Nate Schmidt blast from the point 6:03 into the third period, then sealed the win on goals by Nate Condon and Erik Haula 91 seconds apart late in the third period.
Condon's goal, a short-handed tally, came as a result of some good Minnesota fortune. UND senior defenseman Joe Gleason (Edina, Minn.) stepped into a point shot at the Gopher line, but his stick shattered, resulting in a Minnesota rush the other way. Condon finished off the transition by beating Saunders for the 4-1 lead.
North Dakota pulled Saunders for an extra attacker with four minutes remaining, but Haula quickly potted his 10th goal of the season into the empty net to round out the scoring.
"I thought it was a pretty tightly-played hockey game," said Hakstol. We made a couple too-many mistakes and weren't able to capitalize at a couple of key times of the game when we had some opportunities.
Wilcox stopped 24 of 25 shots for the Gophers, including 19 over the final two periods. Saunders countered with 22 saves in the loss.
"(Wilcox) made some timely saves for them and we weren't able to bury some shots. It was a little bit of him playing well and us not capitalizing," said Knight.
UND went 1-for-4 on the power play while the Gophers top-ranked unit with 1-for-5.
The two teams will play the finale of the series tomorrow night at 5:07 p.m.
"We need a little bit more out of everybody. We need to capitalize on a couple of our opportunities and remove some of our mistakes. We'll be focused. We were focused coming into tonight; we'll be focused tomorrow night," said Hakstol.
Notes: Knight's 18-game point streak is UND's longest since Dixon Ward's 18-game streak in 1990-91, the same year Knight was born. UND's last streak longer than Knight's was Steve Johnson's school-record 27-gamer in 1987-88 ... Danny Kristo had his 7-game point streak snapped ... UND has not won at Mariccui Arena since Feb. 1, 2008, having gone 0-4-2 since then ... The attendance of 10,318 was the third-largest crowd in Mariucci Arena history.