By Brad Schlossman
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Jordan Kawaguchi scored the overtime winner Saturday night.
He skated to the corner and celebrated with his teammates.
They jumped in the air to the beat of Chelsea Dagger as the University of North Dakota goal song blasted through Ralph Engelstad Arena’s speakers and the 11,747 in attendance roared.
This is old habit now for Kawaguchi and his teammates.
The UND junior forward has become one of the most reliable big-goal scorers in the program’s recent times, and he did it once again in a 2-1 overtime win over St. Cloud State.
Kawaguchi re-directed a Matt Kiersted pass into the back of the net with 1:19 left in the extra session to give UND its 11th-straight home — a streak that dates back to last season.
It marks the first time that UND has taken a perfect home record (8-0) to Christmas break since 1964, when it swept the Brandon Wheat Kings, South St. Paul Steers and Michigan Tech Huskies before break.
And it’s just the latest highlight for Kawaguchi in a big moment at home.
Consider these stats: UND played 16 home games in the calendar year of 2019.
Kawaguchi scored three overtime winners (against Colorado College, Omaha and now St. Cloud State).
In two other games, he scored a game-tying goal with less than six minutes remaining. UND went on to win both in overtime (one against Colorado College, one against Bemidji State).
And in another game earlier this month, he broke a 1-1 tie with less than eight minutes left in the third period and gave the Fighting Hawks a home win. That one came against Michigan Tech.
“I couldn’t really tell you,” Kawaguchi said when asked what’s going on. “Obviously, it’s fun winning games and I’m surrounded by some pretty good players. That makes things a little bit easier and it was a good team win.”
Jacob Bernard-Docker, who scored UND’s other goal on a second-period major power play, said: “I just think he’s a good player and obviously comes up in big moments for us.”
Kawaguchi is UND’s leading scorer, and the NCHC’s second-leading scorer, with 18 points in 13 games. He’s only eight points shy of the team-leading 26 he posted last season.
“He’s moved up from an underclassman to an upperclassman as a junior,” said UND coach Brad Berry, who earned his 100th-career win Saturday. “He’s taken ownership of our team — him and a lot of other guys — the juniors and seniors who feel like they have to raise the bar to get to where we need to go.”
No. 5 UND moved to 10-1-2 overall and 5-0-1 in National Collegiate Hockey Conference play by sweeping the two-time Penrose Cup champion Huskies, who fell to 2-6-4 overall and 0-4 in league play.
The Fighting Hawks have four games left before Christmas break — all on the road. They play rival Minnesota on Thursday and Friday, then travel to Western Michigan the following week.
UND will take the nation’s longest unbeaten streak of nine games on the road. UND’s only loss was a 2-1 defeat to No. 1-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato on Oct. 19.
“Here’s the deal, everyone (says), ‘they’re back’ and everything like that,” Berry said. “I don’t think we left. Last year, we had trouble scoring goals. We haven’t changed the way we play in five years here. Now, we’re starting to get some goal production from guys and that’s a big deal. I don’t think it’s a surprise. I don’t think we were ever gone and I don’t think we’re back. I think we’re a good team that’s going to keep building.”
Offense didn’t come easy for either team Saturday.
Final shots on goal were a mere 20-12 in favor of UND.
St. Cloud State’s lone goal by Jack Ahcan came after UND goalie Adam Scheel (11 saves) misplayed a puck behind the net at 13:20 of the first period.
Bernard-Docker evened it at 8:09 of the second period, burying a power-play goal on a point shot through a Cole Smith screen. It marked the sixth-straight game with a power-play goal for UND.
In the third period, UND dominated possession and limited the Huskies to just one shot. Then, Kawaguchi came through in overtime.
“We’re obviously rolling right now,” Bernard-Docker said. “We’re going to enjoy these wins. But at the same time, we have to keep building. We haven’t accomplished anything yet at the end of the day. We have to keep getting better every day, and get back to work on Monday, and get after the Gophers.”
UND 2, ST. CLOUD STATE 1, OT
First period — 1. SCSU, Jack Ahcan 3 (Easton Brodzinski 7, Sam Hentges 12) 13:20
Second period — 2. UND, Jacob Bernard-Docker 2 PP (Jordan Kawaguchi 14, Colton Poolman 7) 8:09
Third period — No scoring
Overtime — 3. UND, Kawaguchi 4 (Matt Kiersted 8, Collin Adams 6) 3:41
Penalties — Harrison Blaisdell, UND, hooking 2:04 first; Micah Miller, SCSU, tripping 9:23 first; Blaisdell, UND, hooking 15:42 first; Jack Poehling, SCSU, holding the stick 1:55 second; Kevin Fitzgerald, SCSU, checking from behind 3:31 second; Fitzgerald, SCSU, game misconduct 3:31 second; Shane Pinto, UND, hooking 4:07 second; Ondrej Trejbal, SCSU, holding 12:07 second; Poehling, SCSU, hooking 12:26 second; Grant mismash, UND, cross-checking 14:51 second
Goalie saves — UND: Adam Scheel 4-4-1-2—11; SCSU: David hrenak 5-6-6-1—18
Penalties-minutes — UND 4-8, SCSU 6-23
Power plays — UND 1-6, SCSU 0-3
Attendance — 11,747
Referees — Cameron Voss and Nathan Wieler
Linesmen — Justin Hills and Tyler Liffrig