Team claims three points

GRIMALDI North Dakota sophomore posts big numbers in weekend series.

Sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi races toward the puck in Saturday’s battle against Vermont. Photo by Keisuke Yoshimura.

In addition to the 11,803 cheering fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday evening, Rocco Grimaldi heard the bitter clank of two crossbars.

But Grimaldi did find the back of the net in the first period, helping UND secure a 2-2 tie with Vermont on Saturday and three of four points from the weekend after defeating the Catamounts 5-3 Friday night.

The team fell short of a sweep during its regular season series opener but gained experience to carry it forward.

“It’s all about learning,” Grimaldi said. “We’ll learn and we’ll figure it out.”

The sophomore forward’s linemate, Drake Caggiula, notched a goal and an assist Saturday — matching his efforts from Friday. With less than a minute to go in the first period during Saturday night’s battle, Caggiula was able to capitalize on a chance to score.

“His goal was unbelievable,” Grimaldi said. “Absolute skill play right there. He took that guy wide and slipped a gorgeous backhand into the corner.”

While Grimaldi and Caggiula are familiar skating on a line with one another, forward Adam Tambellini is new to the mix.

But the freshman wasted no time proving himself late in the first period as he secured the puck in the neutral zone and passed to Caggiula in front of the net.

“I thought they were good,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “I’ll add Adam Tambellini into that. He doesn’t get some of that specialty team time, but Drake’s goal late in the first period was created by a good stick — by Adam Tambellini creating the turnover in the neutral zone — and then outstanding hustle getting into the scoring position.

“And if he doesn’t do either of those two things, that play turns out differently. One helluva play by Drake Caggiulla.”

Caggiula’s goal was the second of the game, following Grimaldi’s shot in the net past Mike Santaguida at 10:58 to put the Green and White on the board.

Vermont responded with two goals in the second period. North Dakota couldn’t jump back to take the lead and skated away with a 2-2 tie after battling for a victory in a five-minute overtime.

 Friday night victory

Friday night, UND found itself in a 3-1 deficit late in the second period. It wasn’t until Grimaldi’s 5-on-3 power play goal that the Green and White rallied three additional goals for a 5-3 victory over Vermont.

Tambellini registered UND’s only first-period goal at 3:26.

“I thought we created some of our own problems with penalties early,” Hakstol said. “That led us to wasting the first 10 minutes of each of the first and second periods. But we found a way to battle back.”

Grimaldi wasn’t finished after he scored North Dakota’s second goal of the game. He assisted another 5-on-3 power play goal by Mark MacMillan early in the third period, and added an assist on Caggiula’s goal at 19:52 of the third period to claim a 5-3 victory. Junior forward Brendon O’Donnel also contributed a goal at 18:50 of the second period.

Building on experience

As the first home series of the season, Hakstol said he is impressed with his team at this point.

“I liked the overall presence as a team early in the year,” Hakstol said. “I thought we had pretty good cohesion. I like what I see on the bench. I thought we got quite a few guys that are able to recognize situations and have the poise to go out there and play that next shift in that situation.”

Play in North Dakota’s new conference — the National Collegiate Hockey Conference — has not yet begun, but the Green and White’s non-conference battle proved to be a good starting point.

“Pretty good weekend overall,” Caggiula said. “Getting three of four points in a non-conference series is pretty good. We’re a young team right now, so to get through that is pretty good. I think we played a pretty solid weekend.”

North Dakota will travel to Oxford, Ohio on Friday and Saturday when it will face off against Miami.

Elizabeth Erickson is the sports editor of The Dakota Student. She can be reached at