GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Colorado College threw a massive block party in Grand Forks this weekend, but it was the host University of North Dakota's men's hockey team that did the celebrating.
UND overcame an astonishing total of 52 shots blocked by CC players over two games to top off Friday's 5-3 National Collegiate Hockey Conference victory with a 3-2 triumph tonight at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The second straight home sweep for UND boosted its winning streak to a nation-best seven games and kept the Tigers (0-10-1) winless on the road this season.
Surprisingly enough, a huge goal from UND came in the third period from rookie defenseman Keaton Thompson on a shot he threaded through traffic from center point to tie the game at 2-2 at 6:16 of the final period.
The second career goal for Thompson seemed to give UND new life.
Just 124 seconds later, UND sophomore center Rocco Grimaldi pounced on a CC turnover in front of its own net to score the game-winning goal at 8:20, Grimaldi's seventh goal of the year.
It was enough to overcome two Tiger goals off power plays and send a crowd of 11,147 home happy.
Senior Derek Rodwell forced the turnover that led to Grimaldi's winning goal with a strong forecheck in the CC zone.
"It was good that he stayed on that guy (defenseman Gustav Olofsson), kind of made the guy panick and throw it into me,'' Grimaldi said. "So that was a great play by him. I thought he was a workhorse all night.''
Said UND coach Dave Hakstol: "I think it was the first bounce we got all weekend after putting a lot of rubber to the net.''
CC blocked 22 shots tonight after blocking 30 UND attempts Friday. In comparison, UND blocked 11 CC shots tonight.
Junior center Mark MacMillan flashed his great speed to show that he is fully recovered from a hip injury that has slowed him to give UND the early lead. He blazed down left wing, cut around the defenseman, raced across the goal crease and beat CC goalie Josh Thormbert easily to the far side to flip in a backhander at 11:09 of the first period. It was MacMillan's third goal in the last four games and his fifth of the season.
CC came back with power-play goals by Alexander Krushelnyski at 19:36 of the second period and by rookie defenseman Jacob Slavin at 1:16 of the third period to take its first lead of the weekend at 2-1.
But Thompson side-peddled to his right from left point to center point to find an opening to the net to thread in his slap shot at 6:16 to tie the game. It was Thompson's second college goal.
Then Grimaldi, stuffed on so many prime chances this season, pounced on a gift turnover in front of the net to knock home the winner for UND. It was enough to keep UND on its good roll since starting the win streak on Nov. 30 with a 3-2 win over St. Lawrence.
"I think guys are more comfortable now, guys are getting pucks deep and not worrying about making mistakes,'' Grimaldi said. "I think that's the biggest thing. It's just guys playing with clear minds and working hard.''
The sweep boosted UND's record to 7-5-0 in the NCHC and 11-7-2 overall.
UND, for the first time in a while, didn't have a single player missing this week because of injuries. MacMillan is one of the players injured previously who is making a big impact now. He had a goal each night this weekend, both from speed rushes off the wing.
"I think we're starting to see maybe what we were missing for that time span when he was out, with two speed goals,'' Hakstol said. "You really have to have the mentality to take the puck to the net like that. He took it right across the top of the crease and finished off a great goal.''
Said MacMillan: "Injuries are always tough, especially lower body ones. It was kind of hard to skate before Christmas there. It was good to go home and get a break. I'm definitely feeling better, and it's good to be back that way.''
And great for his team, too.
UND NOTES: UND was 0-4 on the power play with a total of three shots on goal, CC 2-4 with 7 shots . . . MacMillan was named No. 1 star, Krushelnyski (goal, assist) second star, and Grimaldi No. 3 star . . . MacMillan, Brendan O'Donnell and rookie defenseman Paul LaDue led UND in shots on goal with three each . . . CC fell to 2-15-3 overall and 2-7-3 in the NCHC .. .. . Zane Gothberg had 21 saves for UND, Thormbert 22 for CC ... The win was Hakstol's 150th conference victory at UND.
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.