North Dakota Takes Opener, 4-3
GRAND FORKS, ND. - More than any other sport, the game of hockey is decided by bounce here, or a bounce there. Friday night both teams caught their share, but it was North Dakota who undoubtedly was the beneficiary of the most important bounce of the night.
With the game tied at three with less than two minutes to play in third period, UND's Swiss army knife Joe Gleason sent a pass to the back door that was deflected and came straight to UND captain Mario Lamoureux in the slot.
With Wisconsin net-minder Joel Rumpel having to re-adjust, Lamoureux fired one on net. Rumpel, the athletic goaltender from Swift Current, Saskatchewan made an incredible play to get to the post to deny Lamoureux's shot.
Unfortunately for Rumpel and the Badgers, the rebound shot right back to Lamoureux who fired a pass back door to Stephane Pattyn who was able to tap it into the net with multiple Badgers near by.
The goal would be the eventual game winner for UND. An empty netter by Brock Nelson with less than a second remaining sealed the deal on opening game of a two game series between the WCHA conference foes.
North Dakota got the scoring started early in the game scoring just 31 seconds into the first period. After UND center Carter Rowney won the faceoff in North Dakota's offensive zone, a blown coverage by the Badgers saw UND freshman Michael Parks pick up the puck just inside the faceoff circle and whistle one by Rumpel for the first tally of the night.
With the Badgers on their heels and on the penalty kill, UND took advantage once again four minutes later. UND sophomore Brock Nelson picked the puck up along the boards and walked to the center of the ice before firing a long range shot that hit North Dakota's Danny Kristo out front and found it's way to the back of the Badger net.
One would be remiss if the thought of a blowout at that point didn't cross their mind. UND had seemingly all the momentum and a young Wisconsin squad playing on the road where they have struggled all season looked like a deer in the headlights.
That's when Wisconsin got the bounce that they needed to get back into the hockey game.
Badger sophomore Mark Zengerle navigated down the right wing after taking a feed from Justin Schultz and found a streaking Tyler Barnes coming down the slot. Zengerle fed one to Barnes who threw a backhander at the UND goal. The shot appeared to be heading wide of the net but the puck happened to catch the leg of 6'1, 210 pound winger Michael Mersch on the side of the cage and plopped across the goal line.
The Badgers would tie it later in the first period on a hard working goal. With freshman Brendan Woods and junior Ryan Little battling with a UND defenseman behind the net for the puck, Madison native Keegan Meuer found some open space in front of the North Dakota goal.
Woods would eventually come out of the scrum with the puck and found Meuer out front who beat UND net-minder Aaron Dell short side to tie the game at two.
In the second period, both teams would exchange blows with each squad netting a goal.
UND took the lead back from the Badgers 3-2 when a Dillon Simpson rocket from the point on the power play beat a screened Rumpel.
Three minutes later, Mersch would get that one back for the Badgers.
A bouncing puck skipped over the stick of a UND defenseman and what originally seemed like a harmless play turned out to be a strike for the Badgers. Mersch was able to corral the puck right out front and swatted it through Dell's five hole on a bounce to bring the teams back to even.
The third period saw both teams playing to not make a mistake. Unfortunately for the Badgers, they made a major one by not picking up Pattyn on the back door before he popped home the game winner in front of 11,769 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The goal was the first of Pattyn's career, and just happened to come on his 21st birthday.
Not a bad present.
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