ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- The Penrose Cup has resided in the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center for the last two years.
But the University of North Dakota inched closer toward the possibility of nabbing it on its way out of town Saturday night with a highly entertaining 3-3 tie against St. Cloud State in Friday's series opener.
If UND wins the series finale at 6:07 p.m. Saturday and Western Michigan finishes a sweep of Minnesota Duluth in Lawson Ice Arena, the Fighting Hawks would clinch a share of the Penrose Cup for the third time in six years.
"That's obviously a goal of ours," said UND defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker, who scored a goal Friday. "It's one of those things where we've got to take it game-by-game and not really focus on that. Obviously, our ultimate goal is to get to that national championship game. But right now, it's just taking it one game at a time. Tonight, we didn't get the three points we wanted."
UND (23-3-4, 14-2-3 NCHC) extended its unbeaten streak to six games with the tie, but only came away with one point because the Huskies won the shootout. That was still enough to gain a point in the standings because second-place Minnesota Duluth lost at Western Michigan 5-3.
"You've got to try to nail it down and hammer it down to get the win," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Nonetheless, it's a point. It's a big point. It puts us nine up with five games left. We've got to come out tomorrow just a little bit sharper."
UND got a shorthanded goal from Westin Michaud in the first period, a power-play tally from Shane Pinto in the second and an even-strength goal from Bernard-Docker in the third.
St. Cloud State used a goal from defenseman Jack Ahcan and two from forward Jack Poehling -- the second one tied the game at 7:07 of the third -- to move to 11-12-6 and 8-9-2.
The game was a wildly entertaining see-saw battle with a couple of lead changes, more than 60 combined shots on net and a raucous atmosphere with UND fans and St. Cloud State fans exchanging chants.
"Obviously, it was a pretty intense game, a back-and-forth affair," Bernard-Docker said. "I think for us, it's just trying to dumb the game down a little bit and make it a little more boring tomorrow and just be tight defensively."
Junior goalie Peter Thome made his sixth-straight start and faced more shots than he's seen in nearly an entire calendar year.
St. Cloud State threw 30 shots on net and Thome made 27 saves -- his highest total since stopping 31 on March 1 of last season against Colorado College. Thome stopped 27 of those 30 on Friday. Husky goalie David Hrenak stopped 32 of 35.
"I thought two good teams came in ready to play," said Michaud, who passed his career high in goal totals by tallying No. 14. "I thought that was a fun game out there, the way hockey should be played. You've got to give them credit. They played hard. We responded. Unfortunately, I think they got a little bit more puck luck than we did. It was a fun game to watch."
UND and St. Cloud State have played three close games this season.
In Grand Forks, the Fighting Hawks won the first meeting 4-2 in November. That was a one-goal game until Cole Smith scored an empty-netter. The next night, UND used an overtime goal by Jordan Kawaguchi to win 2-1.
Friday's tie was the latest.
"I thought it was a hard-fought battle," Berry said. "Both teams went after it pretty hard there. I thought we probably could have been a little bit sharper as far as execution, especially early in the game. I thought we got better as the game went on."
A critical sequence in the game came moments after UND took a 3-2 lead on a Bernard-Docker shot with 15:54 left in the third period. The Fighting Hawks were close to springing a breakaway, but Hrenak darted out of his net to poke-check the puck out of harm's way. He ended up starting a rush the other way that ended up in a Husky goal when a puck took a big hop off the end wall and Poehling batted it out of mid-air to tie it.
After the goal, officials Nick Krebsbach and Geno Binda reviewed a Judd Caulfield check on Nick Poehling and called a five-minute major for interference. The UND coaching staff was steamed by the call, but the Fighting Hawks killed off the ensuing five-minute power play.
"I'm just trying to still get my head around the five minutes," Berry said. "I've got to watch video. It was a five-minute interference call, right? I've got to kind of go and watch that and see, but I thought our guys did a good job of responding and stepping up and getting the kill. That was very important to get the whole kill. Then, I thought we got stronger after that kill.
"We had enough chances to win the game tonight. Their goalie played well. Our goalie played well. It's one of those things where we have to capitalize a little bit earlier tomorrow."
And if UND does that, and gets some help, it might be bringing a trophy back to Ralph Engelstad Arena.
"We watch (the standings) every single day," Michaud said. "Most important, it's about us coming ready to play every single day. That's in practice, that's in games. We've got to be better tomorrow night to get a 'W.'"
Notes: UND forward Gavin Hain missed his third game in a row since suffering a lower-body injury on Feb. 1 against Colorado College. Harrison Blaisdell replaced Hain on the shutdown line with Mark Senden and Cole Smith. . . Zach Yon re-entered the lineup for the first time since Jan. 4 and grabbed an assist.
UND 3, SCSU 3
SCSU gets extra point
First period -- 1. UND, Westin Michaud 14 (Matt Kiersted 21, Harrison Blaisdell 9) 17:46 (sh)
Second period -- 2. SCSU, Jack Ahcan 7 (Jack Poehling 10, Micah Miller 9) 12:54; 3. SCSU, J. Poehling 7 (Nick Poehling 14, Miller 10) 15:07; 4. UND, Shane Pinto 15 (Michaud 12, Jordan Kawaguchi 30) 19:09 (pp)
Third period -- 5. UND, Jacob Bernard-Docker 5 (Pinto 11, Zach Yon 4) 4:06; 6. SCSU, J. Poehling 8 (Easton Brodzinski 13, N. Poehling 15) 7:07
Penalties -- N. Poehling, SCSU, slashing, 4:55 first; Kawaguchi, UND, boarding, 16:22 first; Jake Wahlin, SCSU, unsportsmanlike conduct, 20:00 first; Kiersted, UND, unsportsmanlike conduct, 20:00 first; Bench minor, UND, too many on ice, 3:06 second; Clark Kuster, SCSU, interference, 7:17 second; J. Poehling, SCSU, hooking, 18:09 second; Cole Smith, UND, roughing, 19:31; Brodzinski, SCSU, roughing, 19:31 second; Brodzinski, SCSU, holding, 19:31 second; Judd Caulfield, UND, interference major, 7:07 third
Overtime -- No scoring
Three-on-three overtime -- No scoring
Shootout -- SCSU: Brodzinski goal; UND: Kawaguchi saved
Goalie saves -- UND: Peter Thome 4-8-14-1 -- 27; SCSU: David Hrenak 10-13-4 -- 32
Penalties-minutes -- UND 5-13, SCSU 6-12
Power plays -- UND 1-4, SCSU 0-3
Attendance -- 4,794
Referees -- Nick Krebsbach and Geno Binda
Linesmen -- Dana Penkivech and Jeff Schultz