NORTH DAKOTA COMPLETES WEEKEND SWEEP OF COLORADO COLLEGE WITH 4-3 WIN
Sophomore forward Brock Nelson scores goal and two assists for Fighting Sioux
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Although it's still early in the college hockey season, North Dakota's 4-3 victory over fourth-ranked Colorado College Saturday and its first sweep of the season could be just what the team needs to get back on track.
"We took a step forward tonight," UND coach Dave Hakstol of the WCHA series sweep in front of 11,236 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena. "It was a highly competitive series, and I liked the way everyone played."
The sweep improves UND to 6-7-1 overall and 4-6-0 in the WCHA. The Sioux moved into ninth place in the league, just one point behind Wisconsin and St. Cloud State. CC falls to 7-4-0 overall and 5-4-0 in league play.
"It's a great feeling, that's for sure, "said sophomore forward Brock Nelson (Warroad, Minn.), who was named the game's first star with a goal and two assists. "Getting the first one out of the way, it's kind of a relief."
Junior forward Danny Kristo (Eden Prairie, Minn.), who notched the game-winner and had an assist, was named third star of the game.
"That was a long time coming, I think," Kristo said of the sweep. "All the boys are pretty pumped up right now, as we should be. CC is a good team, too. I thought we deserved it. I thought we played well."
After downing the Tigers 7-6 in a wild shootout Friday, the Fighting Sioux continued their mastery of CC in one-goal games. Over the last three seasons, six of the last eight contests between the two teams have been decided by a single goal - and UND has won all of them.
"It was a huge stepping stone in our season," said junior goalie Aaron Dell (Airdrie, Alberta) of the win.
He was pulled after giving up six goals in Friday's game, but came back with a strong performance. "You've just got to shake it off and come back ready for the next night," he said.
CC junior forward Rylan Schwartz was named the No. 2 star of the game after collecting back-to-back hat tricks. Since the WCHA Final Five Tournament last season, he has scored eight goals in eight periods of play against UND.
CC struck just 40 seconds into the game when Schwartz did a spin move in the right circle and slid the puck past Dell. It took the Sioux just five seconds to capitalize on their first power play. Nelson tied it at 5:07 when he jammed the rebound of his own shot through the pads of CC junior goalie Joe Howe.
Schwartz answered for CC on the power play goal make it a 2-1 game at the 15:36 mark by tipping in junior forward Scott Winkler's shot from the left point. The Sioux kept the pressure on and it paid off. UND sophomore forward Derek Rodwell (Taber, Alberta) netted his first goal of the season by tipping in Ben Blood's one-time slapper from the right point with 18 seconds left in the opening stanza.
The second period remained scoreless until the final 35 seconds when UND junior center Corban Knight notched his sixth goal of the season. Nelson's attempted wraparound went through the crease, off a skate and directly to Knight who pounded it home to give the Sioux a 3-2 lead.
"That's definitely big momentum swings when you can get the last one there in the final minute," Nelson said. "That we got one in there two times, it kind of takes a little wind out of their team."
The third period got off to an inauspicious start when UND took three consecutive penalties that resulted in the Tigers getting 1:09 of 5-on-3 power play time. The Sioux not only killed the first two penalties, but also scored the game-winner on the third.
"I thought it was huge," Dell said of killing all three penalties. "We've had a hard time with 5-on-3s this year. That was probably the biggest kill of the game - huge momentum swing there."
Kristo's shorthanded goal at 6:09 gave UND a 4-2 lead that it would not relinquish. When a CC defender mishandled a Sioux clearing attempt, Kristo chipped the puck out of the zone, gathered it in and sped down the right side.
"I just tried to catch the goalie off guard with a quick snapshot that beat him short side," Kristo said.
Schwartz struck for his third goal to cut UND's lead to one at 13:25. Despite being outshot 11-4 by the Tigers in the last period, the Sioux forecheck stymied the potent CC offense for most of the remainder of the game. The Tigers had one last chance to tie it when Howe was pulled for the extra attack with 1:14 left in the game. Dell made one final big save and the Sioux had their first sweep of the season.
Each team had 29 shots on goal. Dell had 26 saves and Howe had 25. The Sioux went 1-6 on the power play while the Tigers were 1-5.
"It was a great weekend for the team, a great weekend for the team's confidence," Kristo said. "I think we've got to keep building off that."
UND next plays a two-game WCHA series at Alaska Anchorage Dec. 2-3.