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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service , Published February 09 2013

Bad ice delays UND's win in outdoor men's hockey game

OMAHA, Neb. – The day was long and filled with delays.

But the end made it all worthwhile.

The University of North Dakota men’s hockey team walked off of TD Ameritrade Park’s infield on Saturday night, a sweep in hand, looking up at hundreds of fans that had congregated above the dugout, roaring and chanting.

Captain Andrew MacWilliam was the first to reach the tunnel. He paused, looked up at the fans and let out a scream.

The huge UND contingent in Omaha roared back, creating a wild scene as the players left the field with a 5-2 win over Nebraska-Omaha in the program’s first-ever outdoor game in front of 13,650.

“It’s tough to explain really,” UND goalie Zane Gothberg said. “It’s an incredible feeling. I’ve never experienced something like that in my life, of that amplitude, with that much support – everyone pulling for one common goal.”

Corban Knight, who had a goal and an assist, said: “I think that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced being a Sioux. It puts a smile on your face even thinking about it. Our fans are crazy. They’re one of a kind. They’re the best you could ever ask for.”

UND coach Dave Hakstol said: “It sends shivers up and down your spine. I don’t know if there’s any real way to describe it. Anybody that was here today understands. Not a word needs to be said. You can feel it.”

The fans were able to thoroughly enjoy the outdoor experience thanks to another strong performance by a UND team that’s now on a five-game unbeaten streak and has lost just three times in the last 17 games.

Knight and Danny Kristo each had a goal and an assist, while Jordan Schmaltz, Nick Mattson and Mitch MacMillan added tallies to help UND improve to 16-8-6 overall and 11-5-6 in Western Collegiate Hockey Association play.

UND moved alone into second place in the league standings, three back of leading St. Cloud State, while jumping to No. 6 in the Pairwise Rankings.

“The guys deserved the results this weekend,” Hakstol said. “They worked very hard, played a complete 120 minutes and did that against a very good hockey team. To win games back to back on the road, you have to have some bounces go your way. I thought we had that this weekend. But to take advantage of those breaks and bounces is another thing.”

The ice was less than stellar and the game was delayed two-and-a-half hours after United States Hockey League players carved it up during an afternoon game.

But after a rousing national anthem by renowned singer Jim Cornelison, UND stormed Omaha with three goals in the opening 10 minutes, 32 seconds of the game to take a commanding lead.

Schmaltz blasted a one-timer at 6:51 on the power play, Mattson followed up a Rocco Grimaldi for a rebound goal at 9:19 and MacMillan scored on a wraparound at 10:32 to chase starting goaltender John Faulkner, who made just two saves.

Knight added to the lead late in the second, tipping a point shot by MacWilliam, who had his first career two-point game.

FIRST PERIOD: 1, UND, Schmaltz (Mattson, Rowney) 6:51 (pp). 2, UND, Mattson (Grimaldi) 9:19. 3, UND, MacMillan (Simpson, MacWilliam) 10:32.

SECOND PERIOD: 4, UND, Knight (MacWilliam, Kristo) 19:16.

THIRD PERIOD: 5, UNO, Archibald (Young, Aneloski) 7:39 (pp). 6, UNO, Zombo (Aneloski, Walters) 10:01. 7, UND, Kristo (Knight) 18:42.

SAVES: UND, Gothberg 8-8-13–29. UNO, Faulkner 2-x-x–2, Belfour 3-7-10–20.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald