HOUGHTON - North Dakota's top line lived up to its billing Friday night, taking advantage of many defensive breakdowns and accounting for nine points in a 6-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association win over Michigan Tech.
"It's no secret, defensively we were pitiful - forwards, defense, everybody. Just a terrible effort," said sophomore forward Blake Pietila, who scored Tech's only goal early in the second period.
Senior UND forward Corban Knight scored two goals, tallied two assists - the first career four-point game in his now-118-point career - and won 13 of his 21 faceoffs in the victory. He now has 13 points in 11 career games against Tech as UND polished off its sixth straight win at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
North Dakota defenseman Joe Gleason skates with the puck as Michigan Tech forward Milos Gordic pursues. Gleason was one of three UND players with at least three points in Friday’s 6-1 win over the Huskies at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
"I'm very impressed with North Dakota. Their top high-end guys are very good, they don't miss, they don't make mistakes in front of the net," Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "They had the easy goals. We sort of left (goaltender) Kevin (Genoe) out to dry, but they're a good team and you can't give them those opportunities."
Genoe saved 23 of 28 shots before being pulled after two periods in favor of freshman Jamie Phillips, but it was more the breakdowns in front of the senior goaltender that did in the Huskies.
"We have to think defense first. I thought we were on the wrong side of the puck a lot tonight," Pearson said. "We played three pretty good road games, and our road record is 2-1-2 in the last five, and we come home and we think we're going to put on a show, like we have to put on a show. I thought we were thinking about offense too much.
North Dakota 2 3 1 - 6
Michigan Tech 0 1 0 - 1
First period 1, UND, Rocco Grimaldi (Corban Knight, Joe Gleason), 14:57 PP; 2, UND, Knight (Danny Kristo, Jordan Schmaltz), 19:59. Penalties UND Andrew MacWilliam (boarding), 10:45; MTU, Dennis Rix (tripping), 13:06; UND, Brendan O'Donnell (tripping), 15:35; MTU, Jake Johnstone (slashing), 17:49.
Second period 3, MTU, Blake Pietila 10 (David Johnstone), 5:17; 4, UND, Gleason (Knight, Dillon Simpson), 10:15 PP; 5, UND, Kristo (MacMillan, Gleason), 16:17; 6, UND, Knight (MacMillan, Kristo), 19:39. Penalties UND, Derek Forbort (hooking), 2:24; UND, Andrew Panzarella (cross checking), 7:27; MTU, Walker Hyland (slashing), 8:23; MTU, Carl Nielsen (holding), 17:34.
Third period 7, UND, Derek Rodwell (Dan Senkbeil, Stephane Pattyn), 7:12. Penalties UND, Kristo (boarding), 4:23; MTU, Steven Seigo (slashing), 12:55.
Goalies UND, Clarke Saunders (35 shots, 34 saves); MTU, Kevin Genoe (28 shots, 23 saves), Jamie Phillips (10 shots, 9 saves).
"They beat us, they beat us pretty good."
Freshman sensation Rocco Grimaldi opened the scoring just five minutes in with a power play goal, sniping a backdoor one-timer after receiving a pass from, guess who: Knight.
With time winding down in the period, Tech forward Dennis Rix led a two-on-one, but his shot was deflected - into the netting above the glass - but the puck bounced quickly back to the ice without a whistle, and UND generated a rush. Several Huskies slowed their play with the assumption the period would end, but Knight fired a shot from the right faceoff dot that beat Genoe in the last second of the first period.
"We had a chance with about five seconds left to eat the puck in the corner," Pearson said. "You have to manage the puck, you have to understand where you're at, what time of the game and what the circumstances are, and I didn't think we did a very good job of that tonight, all over the ice."
But after that potentially deflating goal, Tech bounced back out of the blue. UND carried play to start the second period, but David Johnstone forced a defensive zone turnover with the puck going straight to Pietila, who beat NoDak goaltender Clarke Saunders 5:17 into the period. It's his team-leading 10th goal of the season, matching his freshman output, in 24 fewer games.
Another similar UND turnover turned into an Alex Petan breakaway, but Tech's freshman forward fired high. Huskies defenseman Brad Stebner fired a shot off the post moments later.
Altogether, Tech was only outshot 38-35, but couldn't bury several grade-A chances. Saunders came up big on several others, and UND came right back after Pietila's goal and pulled away for good.
Joe Gleason made it 3-1 at the 10:15 mark, on the power play.
"They forced us into some turnovers in the second period. Fortunately enough we were able to settle it down and get that third goal, which was probably the biggest goal of the hockey game," UND coach Dave Hakstol said.
Danny Kristo notched a goal at 16:17 - he had a three-point night - and the Husky destroyer, Knight, made it 4-1, this time with only 21 seconds left in the period.
"You look at some of the goals I scored, and both my linemates set me up in point-blank places, so they've been playing awesome, we've all been cycling the puck," Knight said. "We're working hard and kind of getting rewarded for it right now, something we can't take for granted. ... I don't think the score indicates what it actually was out there."
Derek Rodwell capped off the scoring 7:12 into the third period. Phillips stopped the other nine shots he faced, but Saunders quietly stole the show by saving 34 of the 35 against him.
"We didn't buzz him around the net a lot ... but he made some great saves," Pearson said of Saunders. "We can't bring this one back, but we have a say about (tonight's game). It's our last game before the break. It'd be really nice if we could send everybody home feeling good about themselves."
Faceoff between Tech (4-9-3, 3-7-3 WCHA) and North Dakota (9-5-3, 6-2-3 WCHA) tonight is slated for 7:07 p.m.