MADISON, Wis. – North Dakota twice rallied from one goal down in the third period, including Shane Gersich’s tying goal with 5:12 remaining, to escape from Wisconsin with a 2-2 overtime tie Saturday night and an unbeaten weekend.
The fourth-ranked Fighting Hawks did not enjoy a lead all night and had to play a man short after junior forward Joel Janatuinen left the game with an injury. They didn’t even win the exhibition shootout that followed overtime.
Yet UND players and coaches were clearly pleased with being able to leave Madison with a win and a tie against the seventh-ranked Badgers, a weekend that gave the Fighting Hawks a 6-2-2 overall record heading back into National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) play next weekend.
“It was nice because they weren’t easy games but we found a way to have success,” said senior forward Johnny Simonson, back in the lineup this weekend after missing the previous two weeks with an injury.
“I wouldn’t say we played our best hockey,” said Simonson, “but that’s the way it goes some nights. When you have a team that can find a way to get wins out of those games, that’s a step in the right direction.”
Gersich tucked home a rebound off the end boards late in the third period to salvage the tie, the second time UND battled back to tie it in the final 20 minutes. Freshman forward Collin Adams first tied it at 1-1 four minutes into the third period, pouncing on a loose puck during a scramble in front and roofing it over UW goalie Kyle Hayton.
“We scored that tying goal at 1-1, you could tell it was a spark. I thought we took the game over after that first goal,” said UND Head Coach Brad Berry.
As expected, the host Badgers came out flying in the first period yet UND was able to hold serve until the final four minutes when freshman Sean Dhooghe beat netminder Peter Thome on a penalty shot after being held on a breakaway by Dixon Bowen. Dhooghe out-waited Thome on a nifty breakaway for his first collegiate goal.
Dhooghe’s brother Jason also netted his first goal at 8:39 of the third period, briefly regaining the lead for the Badgers. Gersich’s goal six minutes later enabled UND to come home with a 5-1-2 non-conference record to date.
“To come back and tie the game and come out of here with a win and a tie, that’s a heck of a weekend and we grew as a team. Now we’ve got to get back to the NCHC,” said Berry. “You can’t help but look at what happens [in the national PairWise Rankings] from week to week. A win and a tie against a top-10 team, a very good team, that will help you move up. Now the biggest thing is making sure we move forward and keep up there.”
Thome made his second straight start in place of injured senior Cam Johnson and stopped 22 of 24 shots. His lone blemishes were the penalty shot and a defensive miscue on top of the crease in the third.
“I thought we took a step as a team,” said Gersich. “A few guys were down there and it’s next man up. I thought Peter ‘Thumb’ stepped up and gave us a chance to him each night. Credit to him.”
“We talked about it in the locker room after the game,” said Berry. “There’s no excuses in this group. It’s just a next-man-up mentality. [They] believe in each other. Just playing for each other. What you’re seeing now is a team that’s doing whatever it takes to win.”
Sophpmore forward Zach Yon, who moved up to UND’s top line after Janatuinen left the game, agreed.
“We really emphasize urgency. We use that word a lot around the locker room. We play with desperation and that’s been successful for us.”
UND returns home next weekend to host Miami in NCHC action.