EAST LANSING, Mich. — UND’s first game at Michigan State since 1980 ended the same way the last one did — with a North Dakota victory.
UND moved to 11-2-2 with an efficient victory and continued its run of responding to losses in a masterful way. Since late November 2013, UND is unbelievably 22-1-1 after a loss or a tie. The only back-to-back loss stretch during that span was last year’s Frozen Faceoff. The back-to-back ties were this year against Maine and BSU.
Therefore, it has been a real long time since this team has hit a real, actual stretch of adversity. That would have been November 2013, when this team went on a four-game winless streak.
The last in that streak was a home loss to St. Lawrence. The team stayed in the locker room for more than an hour after that loss, figuring out how they would turn that season around. They ended up in the Frozen Four that year.
After last weekend’s 6-1 loss to St. Cloud State, UND responded with a convincing 3-1 win over Michigan State in a game that the F-Hawks largely controlled from the start.
In my game story, I wrote a little bit about captain Gage Ausmus, who gave a speech to his team during their Thanksgiving evening meal in East Lansing (they had steak – their turkey dinner was Wednesday).
I also touch on the continued dominance of UND’s top line, which registered a pair of goals and now has a combined 25 points in the last five games.
The Lansing State Journal story is here. Michigan State coach Tom Anastos says that UND is the kind of team he wants his team to become.
My three keys to the game were:
1. Let Tucker Poolman bomb away from the point. He did that and scored just 95 seconds into the game — his first goal of the year.
2. Stay out of the penalty box. UND generally did a great job of this. Michigan State only had one power play until late in the third period. Rhett Gardner has now been called twice this year for using his hand on a faceoff — a new rule.
3. Get two goals from outside the top line. UND only got one, so I’d still like to see a little more there Sunday, but they are facing a top-notch goalie.
Other notes and comments:
- Christian Wolanin said he would be playing with a chip on his shoulder because Michigan State did not call him during recruiting process. He played a terrific game all around. He was a major factor all night. UND’s first goal came because Wolanin didn’t force a puck when there was no shooting lane, instead giving it to his D-partner.
- Cam Johnson was solid in his return. I think he left too many rebounds in the second period, but some rust is expected after a long layoff. I’d guess Matt Hrynkiw goes back in on Sunday.
- Keaton Thompson was out on Friday night, but I also would guess he will be back in. Probably for Hayden Shaw. He had a few turnovers and Wolanin was really good.
- The atmosphere was fairly quiet. A lot of that had to do with UND taking the lead early and leading the entire game. Michigan State didn’t generate a ton of chances. Also, it’s Thanksgiving weekend, so there aren’t many students around.
- Michigan State defenseman Travis Walsh blocked a remarkable nine shots. He leads the nation with 48. Gage Ausmus is second in the country with 37. Ausmus led UND with four blocks on Friday.
- UND is 15-1-3 in its last 19 nonconference games dating back to last season and is 6-1-2 this season.
- Nick Schmaltz and Drake Caggiula ranked 1-2 in the nation in plus-minus at +20 and +19. Brock Boeser is fourth at +17. Schmaltz is on pace for about 51 assists this season and Caggiula is six points shy of 100 for his career.