As the Gophers prepared to renew their rivalry with North Dakota, they supplemented their usual game film with some scenes from the past. Several players dug up YouTube video of the series’ classic moments, just to get a sense of what to expect in the teams’ first regular-season game in three years.
Watching that highlight reel inspired them to add some footage of their own. Friday, all the tension and brutality and head-spinning thrills of the series came flooding back into Mariucci Arena, as the Gophers and Fighting Hawks played to a 5-5 tie. The No. 13 Gophers (3-2-2) fell behind by two goals in the first eight minutes, then rallied repeatedly to record only the 16th tie in a series that has spanned 292 games.
Gophers center Tommy Novak scored the second of his two goals with 1 minute, 17 seconds remaining in the third period to send the game to overtime. Three times in the third, the No. 3 Fighting Hawks (5-2-1) took a one-goal lead, only to see the Gophers pull even.
The game between the former WCHA rivals combined everything the series is known for: pugilism, drama, elite playmaking and a crowd announced at 9,939 hurling insults at one another. Even a tie couldn’t spoil the fun for players who had never experienced a regular-season game in a rivalry now 86 years old.
“We expected it to be pretty intense,’’ said Novak, who also added an assist on Tyler Sheehy’s power-play goal in the third period. “We take a lot of pride [in the rivalry]. So do they.
“It doesn’t really matter that we hadn’t played in a while. We all grew up watching it, and to play in it, we just picked up where it left off.’’
The Gophers got strong special-teams play and a stouthearted effort from all four lines. They scored three power-play goals on eight chances and killed four of five North Dakota power plays. They also outshot the Fighting Hawks 37-22, including a 15-3 margin in the first period.
The fans, like the players, fell right back into old habits. Though North Dakota changed its nickname to the Fighting Hawks last year, nearly everyone in its sizable fan contingent wore the school’s former logo — and bellowed its old nickname, shouting “Sioux!’’ when their team was introduced.
Sheehy said he had some pregame nerves for the first time in a long time. Those quickly diminished under a din so loud, he said, that players sometimes had trouble hearing instructions from the bench. It took only 2:18 for the bad blood to surface, when Sheehy and the Hawks’ Ludvig Hoff committed the first of nine roughing penalties.
Hayden Shaw and Austin Poganski scored two goals on North Dakota’s first three shots for a 2-0 lead only 7:56 into the game. But the Gophers controlled much of the first period, holding the Hawks without a shot for the final 12:04 and tying the score behind goals by Vinni Lettieri and Novak.
“We took a punch early,’’ Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “When two pucks go in on three shots, you get a little shellshocked. But our first period was really good. Our guys played a good, smart, efficient game, and they were able to keep coming back, right ’til the end.’’
After the Hawks’ Brock Boeser scored 44 seconds into the third period, Sheehy shoveled in a backhander from the slot on the power play at 7:45. Tyson Jost restored the Hawks’ lead at 11:17, only to have Brent Gates Jr. knock in a loose puck from the slot at 14:45.
North Dakota took its final lead with 1:59 remaining when Tucker Poolman’s shot hit goalie Eric Scheierhorn and flipped over him, but Novak had one last answer for the Gophers — and one more memorable moment for a series stuffed with them.
“I liked the effort from our guys,’’ Lucia said. “The only thing we didn’t do was win.’’