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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service , Published January 24 2014

UND men's hockey team extends unbeaten streak to 10 games

DENVER – The last time Clarke Saunders stepped on the ice for the University of North Dakota, the team was three games under .500, wondering where this season was headed.

He was back on the ice Friday night, playing for a team that looks a bit different now.

UND extended its unbeaten streak to 10 games (9-0-1) with a 4-2 win over the University of Denver in Magness Arena.

Michael Parks, Drake Caggiula, Dillon Simpson and Rocco Grimaldi all scored goals for a relentless UND team that’s playing its best hockey of the season.

It didn’t even matter that starting goalie Zane Gothberg, who started the first nine games of UND’s current unbeaten streak, wasn’t able to make the trip after sustaining a lower-body injury in practice on Tuesday. Clarke Saunders was just fine in replacing him.

It helped that UND came out and jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first period, igniting a crowd that was more than 50 percent UND fans.

UND got the scoring started at 7:31 of the opening frame when Nick Mattson snapped a wrist shot on goal. Denver’s Sam Brittain made the save, but Parks was camped out on top of the crease and snapped the rebound inside the post.

After Pioneers captain Zac Larraza was called for elbowing Derek Rodwell at 13:00 of the first, UND capitalized on the power play to open up a two-goal lead.

Brendan O’Donnell controlled the puck in the left circle and appeared like he was about to shoot the puck. With all eyes on O’Donnell, he fired a cross-slot pass to Caggiula, who one-timed it into the open side of the net for a 2-0 lead.

The Pioneers were able to cut into that lead thanks to a major power play and a lucky bounce off the end wall.

Gage Ausmus was called for a boarding major at 14:28 of the second period after he checked Denver forward Ty Loney hard into the boards. Loney initially went to the locker room but came back to score a goal on the tail end of the power play.

Denver’s Gabe Levin rimmed the puck around the boards on a dump in, but it hit a crack in the boards behind the net and deflected the puck in front. Saunders and other UND players looked in the corner for the puck, but Loney spotted it sitting in front. He skated in and tapped it in before Saunders realized where the puck was sitting.

It didn’t take long for UND to extend its lead back to two, though.

On a shortened power play, Mark MacMillan entered the zone on the left wing and spotted Simpson jumping in the play. MacMillan made a short pass to Simpson on the inside of the left circle and the UND captain snapped it by Brittain’s glove.

In the third period, UND extended its lead with a shorthanded goal. Colten St. Clair led a rush up the left wing and spotted Grimaldi cutting to the net on a two-on-two. St. Clair threaded a perfect saucer pass to Grimaldi, who tipped it past Brittain.

Special teams were a big key of the game as UND scored on two of its first three power-play chances and added the shorthanded tally.

UND will try to earn its first sweep in Magness Arena in the last decade during the series finale at 8:07 tonight. UND’s last sweep in this building happened during the 2003-04 season.

FIRST PERIOD: 1, UND, Parks (Mattson, O’Donnell) 7:31. 2, UND, Caggiula (O’Donnell, Parks) 14:29 (pp).

SECOND PERIOD: 3, D, Loney (Levin, Makowski) 9:28 (pp). 4, UND, Simpson (MacMillan, Schmaltz) 11:15 (pp).

THIRD PERIOD: 5, UND, Grimaldi (St. Clair) 6:52 (sh). 6, D, Moore (LaLeggia, Doremus) 16:04 (pp).

SAVES: UND, Saunders 13-6-10–29. D, Brittain 14-8-7–27, Ogard x-x-1–1.


Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald