GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. – Near the end of the second period Friday, North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol sensed a change in his team’s NCAA West Regional game against Niagara. The Purple Eagles had controlled much of the period as they took a 1-0 lead at Van Andel Arena, but a strong shift by North Dakota’s fourth line made Hakstol think the third period would be different.
His team proved him right. No. 7-ranked North Dakota scored twice in the first three minutes of the final period to defeat Niagara 2-1, earning a place in Saturday’s West Regional final. Andrew MacWilliam pulled North Dakota even at 1 minute, 56 seconds of the third when his shot from the left point struck a Purple Eagles player and bounced past goalie Carsen Chubak. Only 57 seconds later, Danny Kristo scored the winning goal on a wraparound.
The regional final matches North Dakota (22-12-7) against Yale, which upset the Gophers in the first game of the West Regional.
Chubak, one of 10 Hobey Baker Award finalists, stopped 41 shots for No. 14 Niagara (23-10-5). The Purple Eagles led 1-0 after Jason Beattie’s goal at 6:27 of the second period.
“Niagara had a real good push in the second period, but I thought we turned the game a little bit in the last few minutes,’’ Hakstol said. “The [Stephane] Pattyn line had one good shift, and that turned into a couple of good shifts. We were able to generate a little pressure. We survived their push, and the tying goal seemed to really energize our team.’’