BEMIDJI, Minn. – Finally, the University of North Dakota hockey team produced the ever-elusive fast start.
Senior captain Austin Poganski scored just 18 seconds into the game, spurring the seventh-ranked Fighting Hawks (12-6-5) to a 5-1 win over host Bemidji State tonight at the Sanford Center.
North Dakota players and coaches and have harped all year on the team’s penchant for sputtering starts and early deficits. Captain Poganski delivered the tonic tonight, banging a Rhett Gardner centering pass through BSU goalie Michael Bitzer on the game’s opening shift.
The early goal didn’t exactly put the visiting Fighting Hawks in cruise control – BSU’s Kyle Bauman evened the score eight-and-half minutes later and UND was still stuck on that first shot on goal midway through the opening period.
It did, however, mean that UND would not have to “chase” yet another game. The Fighting Hawks had given up the opening goal 11 times this season and won just three of those games. On the other side of the ledger, UND improved to 9-1-2 when striking first.
The Poganski and Bauman goals held up until midway through the second period when Nick Jones gave UND the lead for good, deftly tipping a Matt Kiersted point blast from the bottom of the left faceoff circle at 11:30 of the frame.
Poganski pushed the lead to 3-1 with his second of the game three minutes later, finding himself all alone on the doorstep with the puck and outwaiting Bitzer, the reigning WCHA Goaltender of the Week.
Jones would add his second of the game, this time a power-play goal, just 1:33 into the third period and then senior Trevor Olson got in on the act, scoring his first of the year with an empty-net effort with just over three minutes remaining.
“We were able to come out flying,” said Jones. “We had the goal obviously in the first. The second there we had a real hard first shift. And in the third we got a goal on the power play. Good starts carried us through each period.”
It was a significant non-conference win for UND, currently ninth in the PairWise rankings.
“That’s huge from our team if we are getting consistent scoring from different lines,” said Poganski, who moved into a tie for the team goal scoring lead with eight.
“Having a big Friday road win is huge and we’ve just got to do the same thing tomorrow.”
Senior Cam Johnson was steady between the pipes, kicking aside 28 of 29 shots.
UND thwarted three Beaver power-play chances, while getting the second Jones goal in two opportunities.
The same two teams will play again Saturday night in Grand Forks, the final non-conference game of the regular season for UND.
“We’ve got to carry that mentality that we had tonight over to tomorrow,” said Jones.
The puck drops at 7:07 p.m.
Notes: Jones, Poganski and Bauman were named the game’s three stars … Attendance was 4,483, a sellout … Junior forward Shane Gersich skated in his 100th collegiate game and had a pair of assists … Johnson’s win was the 52nd of his career, tying him with Jon Casey (1980-84) and Toby Kvalevog (1993-97) for sixth-all time at UND.