MINNEAPOLIS -- If one were to look at tonight’s box score, after observing that North Dakota scored three power-play goals and were plus-12 in shots on goal and plus-20 on faceoffs, one might assume it was a UND victory.
Forget the box score; this game was anything but normal.
Minnesota Duluth freshman Joey Anderson scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal with 51 seconds left in the third period to lift the Bulldogs to a 4-3 win over the Fighting Hawks in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship game.
It was a clash with very little on the line in the formation of NCAA Tournament ramifications, yet still featured 27 penalties (one of them a major), 57 penalty minutes, 16 power-play opportunities and five power-play goals.
Anderson’s championship-clinching goal, a centering pass that ricocheted off the skate of UND defenseman Hayden Shaw and into the net, came just after two minutes Trevor Olson had tied the game 3-3 while UND was on a 5-on-3 man advantage of his own.
Olson converted a Christian Wolanin pass for another clutch-late game goal by the junior winger from Duluth, but his heroics were short-lived.
“There were those ups and downs the whole game,” said Olson. “There were penalties on both sides. That’s a kill we needed to have but we’re not going to hold that against our guys. We kill the penalties we need to kill off and they got a lucky bounce in front.”
Power plays – both successful and unsuccessful – were the story of tonight’s contest. UND opened the scoring midway through the first period on a Brock Boeser power-play goal. The Burnsville, Minn., native one-timed a Tyson Jost cross-ice feed for his 16th goal of the season.
The Fighting Hawks had a chance to blow the game open late in the first period after UMD defenseman Neal Pionk was assessed a 5-minute charging major for crashing violently into UND goalie Cam Johnson. With a time still remaining on Willie Raskob minor, UND opened the first minute of the power-play with a 5-on-3 but was unable to convert at all on the major.
The Fighting Hawks were without standout defenseman Tucker Poolman for the entirety of the 5-minute power play – and the rest of the game –due an injury sustained at the other end of the ice shortly before the Pionk-Johnson collision.
UND went into the locker room with just a 1-0 lead after outshooting the Bulldogs 16-4 and amassing an incredible 42-6 advantage in shot attempts, buoyed by having 8:57 of power-play time in the period.
The Bulldogs turned the game early in the second period on three goals 58 seconds apart by Dominic Toninato, Riley Tufte and Adam Johnson.
UND answered with a Jost power-play goal at the 9-minute mark of the middle frame to make it 3-2 after 40 minutes.
“After that three-minute barrage, I thought we came back and played pretty strong,” said UND head coach Brad Berry. “For the most part, I thought we played a very strong game. We didn’t win this championship game but it made our group a lot stronger. We feel very confident within our group with what we accomplished this weekend.
“We’ve had some ups and downs and we’ve grown.”
UND outshot the Bulldogs 35-23 and received some timely stops from Johnson, including a breakaway save on Toninato in the third period. The lower-seeded Fighting Hawks also held a 78-39 advantage in shot attempts and won 50 of 80 faceoffs.
“It was a heated battle out there with two rivals going at it,” said Berry of the penalty-filled game. “You control what you can control and that’s the way you play on the ice. I feel very strongly that our team plays the right way.”
Johnson finished with 19 saves in suffering just his second career playoff loss, while UMD’s Hunter Miska stopped 32 of shots.
When the smoke cleared, UND had gone 3-10 on the power play and the Bulldogs went 2-6.
Now, UND turns its focus to a 15th straight NCAA Tournament appearance next weekend in Fargo against an opponent that will be revealed Sunday morning on the NCAA Selection Show (11 a.m. Central on ESPNU).
“We’ll take whoever our opponent is,” said Olson. “We’re not looking forward to one specific opponent.”
Berry said he expected to have his All-NCHC defenseman, Poolman, back in the lineup.
Notes: Jost and Poolman were named to the all-tournament team … Jost (1 goal, 2 assists), Olson (1 goal, 1 assist), Boeser (1 goal, 1 assist) and Wolanin (2 assists) all had multi-point games for UND … Announced attendance for the championship game was 10,297 … UND is 0-5 against Minnesota Duluth this season, the first time they’ve dropped at least five games to the same team in one season since going 1-6-0 against Minnesota in 2001-02 …