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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service , Published March 14 2014

UND rallies for men's hockey win in NCHC playoffs

GRAND FORKS – The start wasn’t pretty, but in the end, the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Thanks to a four-goal rally, UND was the only home team to win in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs Friday night, posting a 4-2 victory over Colorado College in front of 10,217 in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Top-seeded St. Cloud State, third-seeded Nebraska Omaha and fourth-seeded Minnesota Duluth all fell, and UND nearly joined them after falling behind 2-0 in the opening 7 minutes, 5 seconds of the game. But thanks to goals from Drake Caggiula, Michael Parks, Bryn Chyzyk and Brendan O’Donnell to take Game 1 of the NCHC first-round playoff series.

UND has a chance to earn a 12th consecutive trip to the Twin Cities if it wins Game 2 at 7:08 p.m. tonight.

“That’s the way the league is,” Hakstol said after being informed of the results around the NCHC. “I said it coming in. These playoff series are going to look an awful lot like the regular season. There’s very little separation between any two teams in this league.”

That includes UND, which improved to 21-11-3, and Colorado College, which dropped to 6-23-6.

The Tigers overwhelmed UND early. UND didn’t get a shot on goal for the opening 6:28 while Colorado College led in shots 6-0. They also built a lead on a tip-in goal by Sam Rothstein and a point shot by defenseman Aaron Harstad.

UND, which hadn’t lost a Game 1 in a first-round series since 2006, battled back with one goal in the first, two in the second and one in the third.

“I thought we skated well and executed our plan,” Colorado College coach Scott Owens said. “We took advantage and scored a couple of goals early. From our perspective, it’s a little bit like our season in that we weren’t able to parlay our good early work into anything more. We made a few mistakes not taking care of the puck against a team that forechecks well and they convert.”

The key sequence in the game happened midway through the first. With the Tigers leading 2-0, Jeff Collett had a breakaway, but UND defenseman Jordan Schmaltz was able to break it up with a strong backcheck. UND went the other way with the puck and Caggiula blasted a wrist shot glove side at 12:11 to cut the lead and inject some life into Ralph Engelstad Arena.

“The crowd got into it and every time the crowd gets into it, we start to get a little more amped up,” Caggiula said. “It would have been terrible to go into the first intermission 2-0. It was a lucky goal we got there, and we were able to continue with that play throughout the second and third.”

In the second period, Mark MacMillan (two assists) fed an open Parks down low at 7:14 for a goal. Parks outwaited the goalie and went top shelf with a shot from in tight.

With just 1:53 left in the second, Chyzyk gave UND the lead for good. Tigers forward Christian Heil couldn’t corral a pass at his feet and Chyzyk picked up a loose puck and blasted it glove side for his first goal in 16 games – since Colorado College’s last trip to The Ralph.

In the third period, UND tacked on one more goal when O’Donnell converted a turnaround shot from the right circle.

“We dug ourselves a hole,” Hakstol said. “The most important part is that we found a way to dig ourselves out of that. It’s a credit to our guys. We weren’t ready to play off the drop of the puck, but we fought our way back, even though nothing was coming easy.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, CC, Rothstein (Stoykewych, Olofsson) 1:15. 2, CC, Harstad (Slavin, Rothstein) 7:05. 3, UND, Caggiula (MacMillan, LaDue) 12:11.

SECOND PERIOD: 4, UND, Parks (MacMillan, Caggiula) 7:14 (pp). 5, UND, Chyzyk 18:07.

THIRD PERIOD: 6, UND, O’Donnell (Schmaltz, Rodwell) 8:08.

SAVES: UND, Gothberg 9-5-6–20. CC, Thorimbert 6-8-4–18.


Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald