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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co. , Published November 09 2012

UND men's hockey ends its St. Cloud State opener drought

ST. CLOUD, Minn. – The streak is over.

For the first time since 1998, the University of North Dakota won a Friday night game in the National Hockey Center.

UND scored in the opening minute of the first and second periods and rode an outstanding, 32-save performance by Clarke Saunders to a 3-0 victory over St. Cloud State in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series opener.

It snapped a 12-game winless drought (0-8-4) in series openers in this building.

UND took the lead just 48 seconds into the game and never let the crowd of 4,738, which came to watch a Huskies team off to its best start in nine years, get into the game.

“It is a momentum building,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “They have a great student section. It’s a loud building when things get rolling. I thought a couple of our penalty kills were important. We bent a little but didn’t break. Those are times of the game where momentum can really swing one way or another. Fortunately for us, we were able to keep the lid on it.”

UND, which is 10-0 on Saturday nights in this building during the last decade, will try for its first sweep of the season at 7:07 tonight.

Brendan O’Donnell, Carter Rowney and Mark MacMillan scored for UND, which improved to 4-2-1 overall and 2-0-1 in league play. But Saunders was the No. 1 star. He made 14 saves in the opening period and kept UND in the game during a furious push by the Huskies (5-4, 3-2 WCHA).

Saunders improved his goals-against average to 1.39 and his save percentage to .949.

“Unbelievable,” MacMillan said of Saunders’ performance. “If not for him in the first period, we don’t have the game we had tonight. Every time we made a mistake or every time they had a good shot, Clarkie was there.”

Hakstol added: “There were a couple of flurries around him, in particular, where he did a good job.”

UND got off to a great start, scoring in the opening minute of the game. Sophomore forward Connor Gaarder led a rush up the right wing and centered a pass to the slot area, where O’Donnell was cutting. O’Donnell re-directed the pass between the pads of Huskies goaltender Ryan Faragher (23 saves) for his first of the year.

Again, UND struck in the opening minute of the second period. After putting on a ton of pressure, Corban Knight finished a cycle play by setting up Rowney on top of the crease. Rowney snapped his shot home at the 43-second mark to make it 2-0.

MacMillan iced the game late in the third with a short-handed goal. The sophomore beat St. Cloud State defenseman Nick Jensen to a loose puck, went in alone from the right circle and sniped the stick-side corner of the net.

“I thought we played a perfect team game,” said Saunders, who is believed to be the first UND goalie to have shutouts in his first two road starts. “All four lines, all the ‘D’ and I thought I played solid back there, too.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, UND, O’Donnell (Gaarder and MacMillan), 0:48.

SECOND PERIOD: 2, UND, Rowney (Knight and Forbort), 0:43.

THIRD PERIOD: 3, UND, MacMillan (Mattson), 17:33 (sh).

SAVES: UND, Saunders 32. SC, Faragher 23.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald