Brad Dokken / Forum News Service, Published February 08 2013
Defensive effort lifts UND over Nebraska-Omaha
A Nebraska-Omaha forward had a wide-open net to shoot at and tie the game with six minutes left.
Enter Andrew MacWilliam.
The University of North Dakota senior captain dove in front of the net, blocked the shot and helped UND preserve a 2-1 victory over Omaha in the CenturyLink Center on Friday night in front of 9,487 fans – half of which were cheering for UND.
Many of the fans made the trip to experience UND’s outdoor game today against Omaha at TD Ameritrade Field, home of the College World Series, but they were treated to an exciting opener.
“It was a real intense hockey game,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “It had a little bit of everything. It was well played on both sides and very close right down to the end.”
MacWilliam’s play highlighted yet another strong defensive effort by a UND team that’s allowed just five goals in the last four games.
“That was a game-changer,” said UND forward Rocco Grimaldi, who scored a goal on his 20th birthday. “He’s our leader. He’s our captain and obviously a warrior back there. That was a big play. It possibly saved us two points.”
“Typical Mac,” said Danny Kristo, who scored UND’s game-winning goal in the second period and added an assist. “He’ll do whatever it takes to win. He’s a character guy. He puts everything on the line every single night. He’s our captain, our fearless leader. That was a great block by him. I expect that every night because that’s the type of guy he is.”
Nebraska-Omaha entered the game as the Western Collegiate Hockey
Association’s highest-scoring team, yet UND limited the Mavericks to just one goal, tying their season low.
Part of it was because of plays like MacWilliam’s. UND blocked 18 shots in the game to Omaha’s six.
The other part was due to the continued stellar play of Gothberg, who has allowed just one goal in each of his last three starts. On Friday, he stopped 33 shots, including 14 in the third period as the Mavericks pushed for the tying goal.
“Really fun,” Gothberg said of the game. “Both teams played really good tonight. I thought we did a good job containing them and limiting our turnovers. The little things were the key to the game.”
And that’s especially true of MacWilliam’s big play.
“He definitely deserves the hard hat after that one,” Gothberg said of the award that’s given to UND’s unsung hero of the game. “He did his job very, very well tonight.”
UND improved to 15-8-6 overall and 10-5-6 in league play, moving into a second-place tie with Omaha and Minnesota. Immediately after the game, UND was seventh in the Pairwise Rankings.
Omaha fell to 16-11-2 overall and 12-7-2 in league play. The Mavericks were ranked 21st in the Pairwise.
“We’re both fighting for our lives like everyone else,” said Omaha coach Dean Blais, who previously coached at UND. “Every win is so important and every loss is so devastating at this time of year.”
Blais made a surprising move starting goalie Dayn Belfour, who hadn’t played in a game since Jan. 21, 2012. Belfour, the son of former UND great and Hockey Hall of Famer Ed Belfour, responded by stopping 34 of 36 shots with his father in attendance.
Omaha got off to a quick start, outshooting UND 7-1 in the opening eight minutes of the game, and taking a lead on a goal by Hobey Baker Award candidate Ryan Walters.
UND responded quick, though. Kristo made a strong play at the blue line to hold a puck in the zone. Corban Knight chipped a pass to Grimaldi, who scored on his backhand down low just 67 seconds after Walters’ goal.
Kristo scored the eventual game-winner midway through the second. The play started in the defensive zone with Kristo stripping an Omaha player of the puck. Eventually, he got the puck and sped up the left wing on a rush with Carter Rowney and Knight.
Kristo had a chance down low and a chance on a wraparound attempt before he pounced on a rebound at 11:34. Gothberg and the defense made that stand.
The teams will conclude the two-game series with the outdoor game, the first-ever for both programs.
FIRST PERIOD: 1, NO, Walters (Raubenheimer, Archibald), 7:53. 2, UND, Grimaldi (Gleason, Kristo), 9:00.
SECOND PERIOD: 3, UND, Kristo (Rowney), 11:34.
THIRD PERIOD: No scoring
SAVES: UND, Gothberg 13-6-14–33. NO, Belfour 13-14-7–34.
Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald