By Brad Schlossman
MINNEAPOLIS — After the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team set the record for most goals ever scored in 3M Arena at Mariucci by an opponent Thursday — on Cole Smith’s wrist shot for the ninth goal of the evening — Fox Sports North color commentator Ben Clymer pondered whether UND was rubbing salt in the wound against rival Minnesota.
But that would discount one quality that this UND team has had going back to last season.
With few exceptions, UND has been relentless no matter the situation. Even last season, when the goals weren’t going in, and the results weren’t coming, the Fighting Hawks would come back the next day with the same effort. No level of frustration took UND out of its game. That lasted all the way to the final minutes in Denver last March when they outshot the Pioneers 42-18 and lost.
Now, the puck is going in the net for UND and the results are coming. But letting off the gas pedal still hasn’t entered this team’s DNA.
We saw that the first weekend of the season. UND held a commanding lead on Canisius College in the third period Saturday night, but they never stopped bringing it. By the time it was over, UND had scored eight goals and won the game 8-1.
On Thanksgiving Day, it was the same.
On some nights, the puck will go in for UND. On other nights, it might not. But no matter the type of game, for the last two seasons, this team hasn’t been wired to relax.
“The question was asked before, ‘Are you guys back?'” UND coach Brad Berry said. “Well, I feel like we never left in the fact that what we try to accomplish on a daily basis in practices and games. . . we’ve gotten the most, I think, out of everybody. It’s just that, for whatever reason, last year, we didn’t finish on some plays, which eliminated us from the tournament. This year, the beauty of it is that everybody’s doing it.”
Game coverage from the weekend
Thursday game story: UND issues historic beatdown of rival Minnesota
Thursday rewind: More numbers behind UND’s 9-3 drubbing of rival Minnesota
Accomplishing rare feats
UND has already pulled off several rare feats this season.
> The Fighting Hawks are on an 11-game home winning streak, one shy of tying the longest home winning streak in Ralph Engelstad Arena, which opened in 2001. UND will have a chance to match and surpass that record with a home series against Alabama Huntsville on Jan. 3-4.
> UND won a series in Denver’s Magness Arena for the first time since 2003.
> UND swept Minnesota in Minneapolis for the second time in 40 seasons (the other was 2006-07). During Thursday’s 9-3 win, the Fighting Hawks set the record for most goals ever scored by an opponent in Mariucci, which opened in 1993.
> In the last 17 years, only one UND team has had 12 wins by the end of November: the 2015-16 NCAA national title team.
> Jordan Kawaguchi became the first UND players in 30 years to have three OT winners in his career when he got one against St. Cloud State.
Notes and thoughts from UND’s Game 2 win over Minnesota
> Obviously, Minnesota played significantly better Friday night than Thursday. In fact, the Gophers became the second team this season to outshoot UND. Final shots were 25-22. The other game where an opponent outshot the Fighting Hawks was the Saturday night game at Denver, where the Pioneers had two five-minute major power plays and almost three minutes of 5-on-3 time.
> UND ranks third nationally in shot margin per game, averaging an 9.73 shots on goal advantage a night. UMass (12.64) and Penn State (9.93) are ahead of the Fighting Hawks in that category.
> Judd Caulfield has four points on the season. All four have been terrific plays by Caulfield to set up a teammate. On Friday, he stole the puck from Gopher defenseman Jackson LaCombe behind the net and set up Shane Pinto. Caulfield had two assists over the weekend. He forced turnovers before setting up teammates on both plays.
> Kawaguchi scored the eventual game-winner. He had four game-winning goals in the month of November alone. He had more game-winning goals in the month of November than any UND player did all of last season (Mark Senden led the way with three).
> UND’s streak of seven-straight games with a power-play goal is over. The Fighting Hawks never got a full power play in the game. Minnesota took just two penalties — and both of them were while on the power play. So, UND’s advantages were just 1:08 and :40.
> NCHC’s plus-minus leaders: 1. Collin Adams, 2. Kawaguchi, 3. Matt Kiersted, 4t. Ethan Frisch, 4t. Andrew Peski, 6t. Jacob Bernard-Docker, 6t. Westin Michaud, 6t. Grant Mismash, 9t. Colton Poolman, 9t. Pinto, 11t. Harrison Blaisdell, 11t. Tyler Ward (DU).
> Goalie Adam Scheel is 3-0 in the North Dakota-Minnesota rivalry.
Brad Schlossman (@SchlossmanGF) can be reached at BSchlossman@gfherald.com