ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- The day started with unwelcome news for UND.

The team’s leading scorer and Hobey Baker Award candidate Jordan Kawaguchi was forced to miss Saturday’s series finale against St. Cloud State because of an undisclosed injury. It’s not believed to be serious -- Kawaguchi is expected back next week -- but it was enough to take the nation’s second-leading scorer out of UND’s lineup.

More unwelcome news came just 3 minutes, 11 seconds into the game, when UND’s second-leading scorer, Shane Pinto, was ejected for a checking-from-behind major.

In the absence of their 30 goals, UND generated plenty of scoring chances -- outshooting St. Cloud State 26-11 over the final two periods -- but there wasn’t enough finish in their game and the Fighting Hawks fell 2-1 in front of 5,775 in Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

The loss ended UND’s six-game unbeaten streak and marked the first time UND has lost a two-game series since Oct. 18-19 at Minnesota State-Mankato.

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The Fighting Hawks, who received their lone goal from junior Collin Adams, dropped to 23-4-4 overall and 14-3-3 in league play. Coupled with Minnesota Duluth’s win over Western Michigan, UND’s lead atop the National Collegiate Hockey Conference standings shrunk to six points with four games to go.

“It wasn’t the start we wanted in the fact that we took a five-minute major, (getting) thrown on our heels and losing one of our better players,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “That’s not the way you want to enter a game. But I thought the most important thing is how we responded in the last 40 minutes. We had a focus. We had a mindset. We did everything but win the game.

“Throughout the year of hockey, sometimes things go your way and sometimes you get these games where you do everything you can in your power and you don’t end up winning the game.”

The Fighting Hawks, who dropped to 6-1 in their black jerseys, will likely lose their No. 1 ranking in the national polls come Monday, but retained the No. 1 spot in the Pairwise Rankings, which are used to pick and seed the 16-team NCAA tournament.

Brawl at the buzzer

The teams were sent to their dressing rooms without the customary postgame handshake after a brawl broke out at the buzzer.

UND defenseman Matt Kiersted shot the puck a moments after the final horn sounded and St. Cloud State forward Nick Poehling jumped on Kiersted’s back, put him in a headlock and hauled him to the ground, inciting both benches.

No game misconducts or disqualifications were handed out, but the NCHC will review the incident.

“We’ll keep it in the back of our minds if we ever see them down the road again,” UND forward Cole Smith said.

For the final 40 minutes of the game, UND used four forward lines that it hasn’t used at any time this season. Jonny Tychonick, who started the game as the extra defenseman, played forward.

“When you lose a top-six center and then obviously with Jordan Kawaguchi out of the lineup, those are two key, pivotal spots where you have to kind of move guys around,” Berry said. “I thought our guys did a good job coming in tonight. Jonny Tychonick played forward. Guys that haven’t played as much hockey or in those situations poured their hearts out. We just didn’t create enough goals to substantiate a win tonight.

“But it’s one of those things where the heart and character is there. We have to make sure we dial in next weekend.”

Excluding empty-net goals, all four regular-season matchups between UND and St. Cloud State were decided by a goal.

UND swept the Huskies in Grand Forks and St. Cloud State took five of six NCHC points from UND in St. Cloud.

“If we keep playing well, hopefully we’ll get to St. Paul for the Frozen Faceoff,” Kiersted said of the conference tournament semifinals. “That’s a good team over there, too. I think they have a chance of getting there. If we see them again, we’ll be prepared and know what we have to do.”

Playing from behind

UND gave up the first goal of the game for the first time in more than a month when the Huskies took advantage of the major penalty to Pinto, who will be forced to serve an automatic one-game suspension if he has any more game misconducts this season.

On the ensuing power play, Husky forward Chase Brand had the puck along the goal line and spotted defenseman Spencer Meier open in the left circle. Meier wired a wrist shot high glove on UND goalie Peter Thome, who stopped 17 of 19 shots in his seventh-straight start.

It marked the first time all season that UND allowed a goal on an opponent’s major power play. UND killed off the previous five, including one Friday night against the Huskies.

The Fighting Hawks evened the game at 12:32 of the second period, when Adams entered the zone on a two-on-two rush with new linemate Harrison Blaisdell. Adams pulled up in the zone while Blaisdell drove the net and Adams fired a shot through a screen for his 11th goal of the season.

“Obviously it’s a little weird at first,” Adams said of the line changes. “But we’re all good teammates and everyone’s a good player here and they’re here for a reason, so it’s kind of fun to mix up the lines a little bit.”

UND opened up the third period with an onslaught of chances, but St. Cloud State was the one that converted on a three-on-two rush.

Nick Poehling dished the puck to his brother, Jack, who was skating up the left side. Jack hammered a slap shot past Thome for the game’s decisive goal.

UND hosts Western Michigan next weekend. With a sweep, it would clinch a share of the Penrose Cup, no matter what Minnesota Duluth does at Colorado College.

“Western’s a good team,” Adams said. “They’re playing their best hockey right now. We’re going to have to be better and capitalize on our chances.”

NCHC standings Through Feb. 22, 2020
Team Points Games left NCHC record This week Final week
North Dakota 47 4 14-3-3 vs. WMU at Omaha
Minn. Duluth 41 4 13-5-2 at CC vs. SCSU
Western Michigan 35 4 10-7-3 at UND vs. Miami
Denver 34 4 9-7-4 at SCSU at/vs. CC
SCSU 30 4 9-9-2 vs. Denver at Duluth
Omaha 24 4 7-10-3 at Miami vs. UND
Colorado College 15 4 4-14-2 vs. Duluth vs./at DU
Miami 14 4 3-14-3 vs. Omaha at WMU
SOURCE: Grand Forks Herald

St. Cloud State 2, UND 1

First period -- 1. SCSU, Spencer Meier 4 (Chase Brand 7, Jami Krannila 8) 6:46 (pp)

Second period -- 2. UND, Collin Adams 11 (Ethan Frisch 3) 12:32

Third period -- 3. SCSU, Jack Poehling 9 (Nick Poehling 16, Nick Perbix 9) 5:54

Penalties -- Shane Pinto, UND, checking from behind, 3:11 first; Pinto, UND, game misconduct, 3:11 first; Jake Wahlin, SCSU, interference, 8:40 first; Jonny Tychonick, UND, tripping, 11:38 first; Sam Hentges, SCSU, roughing, 17:18 first; Cole Smith, UND, roughing, 17:18 first; Hentges, SCSU, hooking, 6:49 second; Easton Brodzinski, SCSU, hooking, 15:44 second; Hentges, SCSU, tripping, 19:49 second; Matt Kiersted, UND, roughing, 20:00 third; Kiersted, UND, 10-minute misconduct, 20:00 third; Jasper Weatherby, UND, roughing, 20:00 third; Weatherby, UND, 10-minute misconduct, 20:00 third; J. Poehling, SCSU, unsportsmanlike conduct, 20:00 third; J. Poehling, SCSU, 10-minute misconduct, 20:00 third; N. Poehling, SCSU, roughing, 20:00 third; N. Poehling, SCSU, 10-minute misconduct, 20:00 third

Goalie saves -- UND: Peter Thome 7-6-4 -- 17; SCSU: David Hrenak 4-12-13 -- 29

Penalties-minutes -- UND 8-43, SCSU 9-34

Power plays -- UND 0-4, SCSU 1-3

Attendance -- 5,575

Referees -- Geno Binda and Nick Krebsbach

Linesmen -- Dana Penkivech and Jeff Schultz