NORTH DAKOTA, BEMIDJI STATE SKATE TO 2-2 TIE
Freshman defenseman Jordan Schmaltz scores game-tying goal for North Dakota
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Bemidji State threw a block party tonight for Senior Night for the University of North Dakota men's hockey team and it spoiled some of the fun.
The Beavers blocked 28 of the 80 shot attempts by UND in skating to a 2-2 overtime Western Collegiate Hockey Association tie. But BSU only blocked some of the fun, as UND was still able to accomplish one of its team goals.
UND's single point tonight was enough to clinch home ice in the first round of the league playoffs in two weeks. The top six teams in the final regular-season standings earn home ice. It will be the 11th straight year UND has hosted the first round, the longest active streak in the league.
The tie dropped UND into a two-way tie for second place in the WCHA with Minnesota with two games remaining for all 12 teams. Both UND and Minnesota trail league-leading St. Cloud State by two points heading into the final weekend.
UND put 30 shots on goal compared to 18 for the Beavers, yet UND never led.
UND needed a goal by freshman defenseman Jordan Schmaltz on a power play at 8:27 of the third period to tie it at 2-2.
The fourth goal of the season for Schmaltz was reviewed by officials after initially being waved off. Upon video review, though, it could be seen that the puck hit one post and then the inside of the net on the opposite side before coming out, so the goal counted.
"I thought it went in, I kind of hit a little part of the netting,'' Schmaltz. "Obviously they had to review it, and it stuck, so it's fortunate that it did.''
Three minutes earlier, UND defenseman Dillon Simpson hit the post flush on a power-play shot. Four minutes after Schmaltz scored, UND freshman wing Drake Caggiula had a go-ahead goal disallowed for knocking a rebound in with a high stick.
Bemidji goalie Adam Walsh was very good with 28 saves. UND freshman Zane Gothberg had just 16 stops, but one of them was a huge pad save on a breakaway by BSU's Ben Kinnie with 25 seconds left in regulation play.
A tie on a night when six UND seniors -- Joe Gleason, Corban Knight, Danny Kristo, Andrew MacWilliam, Carter Rowney and Tate Maris -- were honored in their last regular-season home game, a crowd of 12,117, second-largest in REA history, tried to will the seniors to victory.
That it didn't happen was especially emotional for seniors, including alternate captain Knight. Knight, who usually sports a brilliant smile, had to choke back tears and dig hard for a few words when talking to the media after the game.
"It's tough to explain,'' Knight said. "You put something into a program the last four years and it's coming to an end. It's definitely an emotional time for the six seniors.''
North Dakota never led.
BSU's Phil Brewer rifled a shot from close range over Gothberg's right shoulder 3:23 into the game for a 1-0 Beaver lead after one period.
UND answered on wing Mitch MacMillan's fourth goal of the season and second in two games. He took a Connor Gaarder pass on left wing and snapped a wicked wrist shot to the far side of the net to beat Walsh at 4:10 of the second period for a 1-1 tie.
One-time UND recruit Danny Mattson put the Beavers back on top again. He tipped a point shot by Sam Rendle past Gotheberg at 12:27 of the second period for a 2-1 BSU lead with Gothberg having no time to react to the deflection.
But Schmaltz came back with his blast off the post and in early in the third period to tie it one last time. Neither team mustered much in overtime.
"One point, great performance and high level of pride for the senior class,'' UND coach Dave Hakstol said.
The tie did hurt UND in the Pairwise rankings which determine the 16-team NCAA field to be announced a few weeks down the line. The tie dropped UND from fourth in the rankings earlier in the day to seventh when the UND game ended.
BSU clogged the shooting lanes all night, making it difficult for UND to get shots through to the net.
"They do a great job, they were in a lot of shooting lanes, not a lot differently than what they've done over the last couple of weeks,'' Hakstol said. "I thought early on in this game we missed a couple of real good opportunities. The last half of the game, their guy in the pipes did a real good job. We just couldn't find one of those greasy tips or rebounds. Not for lack of trying. We did enough to win the game.''
Hakstol said he does not pay attention to standings this time of the year, but focuses on his own team.
"We're healthy and we're playing well,'' he said. "I think we're hungry to get better. I haven't looked at the standings in a long time and I'm not going to start now.''
That might be a good idea, as jumbled they are for the top seven teams.
"Let's sum it up,'' Hakstol said. "It's a tight race. Let's go play next weekend.''
Hakstol couldn't fault UND's effort tonight. "We played hard and in a lot of respects we executed well,'' Hakstol said. "The only thing that stings is not getting the two points, especially on Senior Night.''
The tie was the seventh of the season for UND. now 13-6-7 in WCHA play and 18-9-6 overall. Bemidji State, in 11th place in the WCHA, is 5-14-7 in league play and 6-18-8 overall.
UND NOTES: Mitch MacMillan led UND in shots on goal with five, followed by Danny Kristo with four and Schmaltz with three . . . Knight won 18 of 27 draws and Mark MacMillan 10 of 13 as UND won the faceoff battle 39-24 . . . Kinney and Brewer led the Beavers in shots on goal with four each.
Virg Foss covered UND hockey for 35 seasons for the Grand Forks Herald until his retirement in 2005. He now reports on UND home games exclusively for UNDsports.com.