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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service , Published November 22 2013

Fast start propels Boston to win against UND in men's hockey

BOSTON – The University of North Dakota men’s hockey team admits that there’s some frustration creeping in.

“Absolutely,” forward Rocco Grimaldi said.

“It’s tough. I’m not going to lie,” defenseman Nick Mattson said. “It wears on you.”

Things didn’t get any better on Friday night, either.

Boston University jumped out to an early lead and beat UND 3-1, handing UND its sixth loss in the last eight games. A half-empty Agganis Arena crowd of 3,882 watched a UND team continue to struggle generating offense in the absence of a few key players.

UND didn’t get on the scoreboard until Grimaldi snapped a shot by Boston goalie Matt O’Connor (37 saves) with just 2 minutes, 37 seconds left. By then, it was virtually all but wrapped up.

Now, it’s up to UND to try to salvage a split at 6 tonight in the series finale.

“Every weekend you’re looking for a sweep. Two wins,” Grimaldi said. “We haven’t gotten one of those yet. We’ve gotten swept, split and tied. That’s frustrating. At North Dakota, we’re known as a winning tradition and a winning program.”

UND hasn’t had a losing season since 2001-02, the first year of the new Ralph Engelstad Arena, but it has a hill to climb to avoid that. After Friday’s loss, the team dropped to 4-6-1 overall.

“It’s tough,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “These are the times that you have to embrace that challenge. You can’t back off of it. If you’re afraid of a challenge, you’re probably in the wrong place. Our guys have bounced back. They are very resilient.”

UND’s players say they are determined to get out of the hole.

Mattson referenced his freshman year, when UND started 4-7-1, but crawled out of it and ended up as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

“You’ve just got to stay strong,” Mattson said. “A lot of us have been through this before on different teams. The common thread is that they were able to have mental strength to battle through it. So, we’ve got to dig down and start doing it. It’s about time.

“I think we have the character and we have the talent on this team. It’s just a matter of putting it together. Just because you play for North Dakota doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. We’ve got to band together and do it.”

UND’s current lineup is probably not what the coaching staff drew up before the season started. With regular forwards Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, Colten St. Clair and Derek Rodwell all sidelined with injuries, the staff moved defensemen Gage Ausmus and Andrew Panzarella up to forward for the first time.

With the makeshift lineup, UND generated a season-high 38 shots on goal, but had trouble cracking O’Connor.

“I didn’t think we had enough quality opportunities,” Hakstol said. “We generated a lot of shots on goal, but the shot ticker doesn’t always tell the story. I don’t think we generated enough from critical areas.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, B, Hohmann (Lane, Noonan) 9:14. 2, B, O’Regan (Noonan, Oksanen) 17:15 (pp).

SECOND PERIOD: No scoring.

THIRD PERIOD: 3, B, Duane (Roberto, Grzelcyk) 4:59 (pp). 4, UND, Grimaldi (Parks, Mattson) 17:23.

SAVES: UND, Saunders 14-9-11–34. B, O’Connor 12-11-14–37.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald