By BRAD ELLIOTT SCHLOSSMAN
Forum News Service
GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Bemidji State played its game to near-perfection Friday night.
The Beavers wanted a slugfest against North Dakota in their Western Collegiate Hockey Association series opener, and they got it – not much flow, not a lot of scoring chances and only three power plays in the game.
BSU, however, couldn’t sustain that pace for long.
Thanks to a three-goal third period, UND rallied to a 4-2 win over BSU. Mark MacMillan scored twice, his brother Mitch MacMillan scored once and defenseman Joe Gleason added another to power UND.
“I was really happy with our effort,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. “There wasn’t any easy ice out there. There wasn’t. Overall, I thought we did a good job back-pressuring them and had good numbers in the neutral zone. And so did they. That’s what happens. I thought tonight’s game was pretty much a turf war.”
Cory Ward and Radoslav Illo each scored for BSU (6-18-7, 5-14-6 WCHA), which extended its winless streak in Grand Forks to 16 games (0-15-1). The Beavers last won here in 1970.
“We knew it would be that way,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said of the tightly checked game. “Every game is a little bit different, but we played pretty hard tonight. Guys dug down deep. I thought we were maybe a little sluggish for the first 10 minutes. But after that, we dug down deep, played the type of game we had to against a good team, and we generated the win.”
With their loss and Michigan Tech’s loss to St. Cloud State, the teams remain tied for tenth place in the league standings with 16 points each.
North Dakota, meanwhile, sits alone in second place. UND improved to 18-9-6 overall and 13-6-6 in the WCHA standings; they have 32 points while St. Cloud sits in first with 35.
UND, which is one point ahead of Minnesota, can clinch home ice during tonight’s series finale (7:07 p.m., Ralph Engelstad Arena) with a win and a loss or tie by either Wisconsin or Denver.
“I’m not getting caught up in the standings,” Hakstol said. “We haven’t all year. I’m not going to start now. We’re just going to try to worry about ourselves, come back tomorrow night and try to play good hockey.”
The Beavers briefly held a lead in the second period when Ward snapped home a goal from the high slot at 5:39, but the lead only lasted 15 seconds.
Right after the faceoff, Mark MacMillan rushed the puck up the right wing and took it hard to the net.
BSU goaltender Andrew Walsh slid back into his own net and Mark was able to go top-shelf after his brother pushed the loose puck back into the crease.
Early in the third period, the brothers converted again.
Mark led a rush into the zone up the middle of the ice. He flipped a pass to Mitch, who was flying up the left wing. Mitch held the puck until he got to the circle, then snapped a shot short side past Walsh to make it 2-1 at 2:42.
UND extended the lead with 5:21 left, when Joe Gleason’s point shot went off the skate of a Beaver defender. Then UND’s Rocco Grimaldi fed Mark for an empty-net goal in the waning minutes.
“That’s a huge win for us, no matter what the standings are,” Mitch said. “They’re always a tough team to play against. They always work hard. So it’s nice to get the two points.”
BSU’s Illo rounded out the scoring with an awkward backhand from the outside of the circle that beat UND goalie Clarke Saunders (17 saves) high, but it was too little too late.
“Obviously, the second and third goals were killers,” Serratore said. “We probably could have prevented those goals. But then again, they made some great plays on them.”
Walsh finished the game with 24 saves. Ward also assisted on Illo’s goal, giving him two points on the night.
Brad Elliott Schlossman is a reporter for the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald.