Hockey team skates to top

UND clinches No. 1 spot in NCHC

With less than five minutes left in the third period, the 2-0 mark on the scoreboard didn’t last long.

Minutes away from a sweep over Western Michigan, the UND men’s hockey team instead watched the Broncos score two 6-on-5 goals, including one in the final 30 seconds of play, to send the teams to overtime.

In a common theme this season, North Dakota found a way to win.

The clock ticked down, and Drake Caggiula flipped in a backhand pass from Nick Mattson to award North Dakota the 3-2 win and sole possession of first place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

“There was a little bit of everything tonight,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought we had spurts where I really liked the way we played. We had some spurts where we put ourselves in bad situations … At the end of the day, a couple things stand out. We had really good goaltending, a great battle level and we made a play to win it. That’s what you have to do to win on the road in this league.”

Those bad situations led to learning points and results from a team that has been quick to forget.

“We had a little bit of a mental lapse,” Caggiula said. “We don’t want to give up goals 6-on-5. We’ve got to learn how to close out those games. Unfortunately, we let them tie it up, but we had a short memory and kept our heads high and came back and won in overtime. It’s a learning lesson for us but we’re happy to get this win.”

North Dakota clinched a 3-1 victory Friday, with Caggiula also tallying a goal.

The junior forward has 15 goals this season and two game-winners. Saturday, his efforts were nothing less than what he’s been doing all season.

“He’s been huge for us all year, and that’s just another example of that,” Mattson said.

UND is now 9-1-1 in its last 11 games and will play in its last regular season home games this weekend when it hosts St. Cloud State.

Senior weekend also serves as a motivation to close out the upcoming series on a high note in hopes of retaining control of the league and sending the seniors off with honors.

“I think we’re more comfortable in the driver’s seat rather than playing catch up,” Mattson said. “That’s all you can ask for is to put yourself in your position of strength where you control your own destiny. We’re excited. It’s senior week, that’s another thing to get excited about. We’re going to be really excited to get back to Grand Forks in front of our fans.”

North Dakota currently has a 3-point edge over Miami, where it will end its regular season on the road on March 6-7.

Despite minutes of mental lapses, North Dakota concluded last weekend’s series in the same way it has all season.

“It was disappointing to give up the lead,” Mattson said. “But good teams find a way to win those games and we battled it out.

“I don’t know how, but we got it done.”

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