UND wins exhibition

UND defeats U.S. Under-18 team after Caggiula’s injury takes him out of game.

Sophomore forward Colten St. Clair handles the puck Saturday evening against the U.S. Under-18 team at Ralph Engelstad Arena.  Photo by Chester Beltowski.

When Drake Caggiula lay motionless on the ice, the hockey game suddenly lost its importance.

Saturday evening, North Dakota faced off in an exhibition matchup against the U.S. Under-18 team, claiming a 4-1 victory at Ralph Engelstad Arena that took a UND skater out of the lineup for part of the game.

As the clock read 15:16 remaining in the second period, Caggiula collided with a Team USA skater and went down head first on the ice. North Dakota then watched a valuable part of its team being taken off the ice on a stretcher.

“It was really tough,” sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi said. “I was kind of tearing up for him. I’ve never seen anything like that in my life, so it’s tough for all of us to see, and obviously our thoughts and prayers are going out to him.”

Caggiula was released from the hospital following the game as all serious  tests came back negative, but that didn’t stop the team from giving its all for a player whose determination is always evident.

“When you see a fellow teammate go down like that, we’re obviously pretty upset,” Grimaldi said. “But we just wanted to play the rest of the game for him and give him our all because he does everything for our team. He gives it all in every practice, every game.”

Nearly 90 seconds of play later, Mitch MacMillan took a shot from the corner and the puck slipped in the net to put UND on the board first at 6:04 of the first period.

At 7:59, Mark MacMillan picked up Grimaldi’s pass along the end wall and sent it up the slot for a quick goal by Brendon O’Donnell.

After a goaltender change from Zane Gothberg (eight saves) to Clarke Saunders (10 saves) at 6:16, North Dakota wasn’t finished as it tallied a third goal with seconds remaining on the clock from a tip in the net by Jordan Schmaltz at 19:57.

Despite an impressive score on the board, the Green and White’s thoughts were still with Caggiula.

“It puts everything secondary,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought our guys did a good job of just going back to work and closing out a pretty good second period. A lot of credit to them, it’s not the easiest thing to do as you’re going through that experience, so a lot of credit to the young guys on our bench.”

Team USA came back strong in the third period, posting a goal at 10:46 with a tip from Sonny Milano that slowly slid into the net past Saunders.

With an empty net for Team USA and an opportunity for North Dakota, Coltyn Sanderson rushed down the ice and shot the puck in the empty net in sync with the final buzzer to secure a 4-1 victory.

New opportunities

For Derek Rodwell and Sanderson, this is the first time they have seen ice time this season.

“I thought they both really worked their way into the game,” Hakstol said. “It’s hard when you haven’t played in such a long time. For Coltyn, it’s been almost a year since he’s played.

“But I wouldn’t have had either of them on the ice in the last couple minutes of a two goal game unless I thought they were playing solid hockey.”

The ups and downs throughout the game came in spurts, but Hakstol said he is impressed with both sides of the ice as Team USA came into the matchup after defeating the Fargo Force (USHL) 4-1 the night before.

“Real good second period (for us),” Hakstol said. “A lot of positives there. Up and down first and second period. We got to the third period, and it was a matter of just running out the 20 minutes — from our standpoint — and certainly we give them a lot of credit. They played a game last night, and they played good hockey in the third period, which was their sixth period of the weekend. So a lot of credit to those young guys over there.”

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