Column by Tom Miller
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — For big stretches of the University of North Dakota hockey team’s NCHC series opener against St. Cloud State, the No. 1 Huskies looked like the team ranked about 20 spots higher than the home team.
St. Cloud State’s deep offensive unit came in waves against the Fighting Hawks.
The equalizer was UND goalie Adam Scheel, who deserved a better fate than the 3-1 loss — finished with an empty-net goal — Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Scheel stopped a career high 33 shots, including 14 in the third period when the Huskies made a big push in a tied game.
“Adam Scheel played outstanding tonight,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “He made great saves at great times.”
He was especially sharp on the power play, where the Huskies were 1-for-4 with seven shots on net.
Scheel’s best save came in the first period to preserve a 1-0 UND lead. He gloved a clean look from St. Cloud State top liner Patrick Newell, who came in untouched when he robbed a soft defenseman-to-defenseman pass attempt by Hayden Shaw.
Scheel eventually gave up the game-winner to Newell on a rare, deep turnover by UND defenseman Colton Poolman with less than seven minutes to go in the third period.
UND fans might remember the Friday loss to the Huskies for a late no-call on St. Cloud State’s Jimmy Schuldt on a potential kneeing against Grant Mismash, who was called for a slash as he laid on the ice in considerable pain.
But Hawks fans should also remember the performance of Scheel, who is a critical need for UND in the second half of the season with the injury to backup Peter Thome.
The Fighting Hawks played with two walk-ons behind Scheel against St. Cloud State.
Scheel entered the game second in the nation among freshmen in wins and goals-against average (2.14).
Of his 11 wins, seven have come against nationally ranked teams.
He was painfully close to picking up his 12th overall and eighth win against a ranked opponent against the country’s top team.
“We had a couple of little lapses, and he was there to bail us out,” Poolman said. “That’s really a huge sign of trust for us to have a goalie back there like that. It’s awesome to have that kind of feeling behind you.”