EAST LANSING, Mich. — If you were to ask me the five worst UND men’s hockey games I’ve watched during my decade-plus of covering games, I would start with the 2008 Great Lakes Invitational and move right on to a 1-0 loss at Bemidji State in 2012.
They have a common theme.
Two of them were played on lazy Sunday afternoons, and North Dakota showed up and played a lazy, boring, losing hockey game on those occasions.
Through the first 10 minutes on this particular Sunday afternoon, I started to wonder if I was in for another one of those performances. But then Joel Janatuinen scored a huge goal to spark UND and that prolific top line did the rest.
UND 4, Michigan State 1.
UND is now 12-2-2 as it heads back home for a big showdown against rival Denver in The Ralph. I filed a couple of stories from East Lansing today.
No. 1 — Game story. In that one, I detail the top line and just how dominant they’ve been lately.
No. 2 — Background story. UND had dinner Saturday night at the childhood home of a two-time Stanley Cup champion. I’m guessing you may know who I’m talking about.
A few other notes from Sunday afternoon:
- UND went back to Cam Johnson in net and he came through in a big way. He stopped 33 of 34 shots, highlighted by a glove save on a point-blank chance for Spartan captain Michael Ferrantino. Easily Johnson’s best game at UND. Look for more on him in my Monday follow-up.
- As incredible as UND’s first-line statistics are, it still needs to find scoring from other sources. UND’s second line this weekend was Bryn Chyzyk, Luke Johnson and Chris Wilkie. That trio combined had four points in November, same as Rhett Gardner himself. If they can start flowing in some goals, UND will be really tough to beat.
- UND took way too many penalties over the weekend and clearly some of the players talked at the officials too much because there were some penalties of that sort. Coach Brad Berry wasn’t happy with the number of penalties Sunday (10).
- Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was in the house to watch Tucker Poolman. He had two assists in the game.
- Janatuinen said it was a big relief to get his first-career goal. The only skaters on the team who haven’t scored a college goal yet are senior forward Coltyn Sanderson and freshman defenseman Hayden Shaw. Both were out of the lineup Sunday.
- Nick Schmaltz is on pace for more than 50 assists this season, which is especially incredible when you consider that UND’s back-to-back Frozen Four teams of 2014 and 2015 didn’t even have a guy with 40 points — yes points — on the roster.
- Michigan State scratched leading scorer J.T. Stenglein for the game.
- The NCHC went 14-1-1 vs. Big Ten this regular season. There’s only one potential NCHC-Big Ten matchup left and that would be Minnesota vs. SCSU at the North Star College Cup, but that one isn’t guaranteed. Who has the win and tie for the Big Ten? Wisconsin and Wisconsin.