GRAND FORKS, N.D. – North Dakota took out five-plus years of frustration against the Gophers on Saturday night, most of it during one five-minute power play.
Gophers defenseman Jack Glover took a major penalty for checking from behind, drawing Minnesota’s third game misconduct of the young season.
By the time his penalty box substitute returned to the ice, North Dakota had scored three times, paving the way to a 4-0 victory cruise before a sellout crowd of 11,890 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The loss ended the Gophers’ seven-game unbeaten streak (5-0-2) against their archrival that dated to 2012.
“It’s just so frustrating — the penalties, it’s just ongoing,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “This is a very difficult place to play — it’s hard enough, and we have the parade to the penalty box. We didn’t give ourselves a chance.”
No. 4 North Dakota (4-1-1) plays the same goal song as the Chicago Blackhawks, The Fratellis’ “Chelsea Dagger,” and the jam-packed student section almost looked tired from singing “Doo-doo-doo!” on repeat during Glover’s penalty.
The No. 8 Gophers (3-3) had to wonder how the game might have been different with more discipline. Remove the five-minute major, and Minnesota actually played better than it did in Friday’s 2-1 victory.
North Dakota outshot the Gophers 35-18 in that first game only to get stonewalled by goalie Eric Schierhorn. This time, the shots were 22-18 in Minnesota’s favor.
Major penalties and special teams play have been big issues for the Gophers so far this season. First, the power play: Minnesota went 0-for-6 on Saturday, 0-for-11 on the weekend, and is 3-for-31 on the season.
“We’re not getting pucks to the net, we’re not shooting off the pass and our puck possession’s just not there right now,” Gophers captain Tyler Sheehy said. “We’re losing too many draws on the power play and when they clear a puck that kills seven, 10 seconds.”
Then, there’s the penalty kill: In their opponents’ 33 power-play chances, the Gophers have allowed 10 goals, including three in nine chances Saturday.
Major penalties are especially taxing for teams because the man advantage doesn’t expire when the team on the power play scores.
Ryan Lindgren got a game misconduct (and five-minute major) for contact to the head in a 2-0 win over Union on Oct. 7. Six days later, Leon Bristedt took a checking-from-behind penalty in a 3-1 loss to Penn State, getting a game-misconduct, a five-minute major and a one-game suspension from the Big Ten.
Saturday the Gophers were already in a 1-0 hole late in the first period, when Glover decked North Dakota freshman Collin Adams with his stick in front of the Fighting Hawks bench.
“I’m not sure that was a five[-minute major], but they called it,” Lucia said. “But you just can’t make that hit there.”
The five-minute power play started with a 4-on-3, as Lindgren (cross-checking) and UND’s Shane Gersich (roughing) had just gone to the box at the same time.
With 40.7 seconds left in the first period, Christian Wolanin made it 2-0 on a shot that appeared to deflect off a defender.
North Dakota then brought out the dagger early in the second period. Colton Poolman wristed a shot past a screened Schierhorn, and Wolanin scored on another slapshot with two seconds left on Glover’s penalty.
“Our effort was there tonight; it was just our discipline that put us in trouble,” Sheehy said.