UND headed to Frozen Faceoff after furious finish in Omaha
The Fighting Hawks scored three times in the span of 1:42 late in the third period to beat the Mavericks in a decisive Game 3 of their NCHC quarterfinal series.
OMAHA, Neb. — Gavin Hain scored late in the third period Sunday night.
The UND senior skated to the glass to celebrate with his teammates. After seeing Omaha fans gesture to him, he put up his gloves like a boxer, threw three jabs at the glass and turned around.
The Fighting Hawks delivered a stunning knockout blow, scoring three times in the span of 1 minute, 42 seconds late in the third period to turn a 2-2 tie into a 5-2 victory in a decisive Game 3 of their National Collegiate Hockey Conference quarterfinal series.
First, it was Griffin Ness scoring from the slot with 5:14 left. Then, defenseman Tyler Kleven followed with a wrist shot from the circle with 3:49 to go. On the next shift, Judd Caulfield set up Hain to complete the barrage.
"Oh my gosh," Kleven said. "It was electric."
"It was elation," UND coach Brad Berry said. "It was a culmination of a year where we've had some ups and downs and now we're finally finding a way to play as a team and play together and find ways to win."
The Fighting Hawks won their first road playoff series since 1995 — they've only played three total since then — by rallying to win Games 2 and 3 in Baxter Arena.
They'll advance to take on St. Cloud State in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff on Friday in St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center. Game times will be announced Monday.
UND needs to win the Frozen Faceoff to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.
"Our job isn't finished," Berry said. "We still have work ahead of us. In order to get to where we need to go — the ultimate goal of getting to Tampa — we have to go through St. Paul. We have to win two games there. I think our guys are very happy and excited, but they know they have a business-like mindset. It's a business trip and we have to win two games. Our guys are up for the challenge."
UND (18-14-6) has lost just once in the last nine games and looks nothing like the team that stumbled early this season.
Remember when goaltending was an issue?
Drew DeRidder is now 10-4-2 with a .916 save percentage since Dec. 5. He turned aside 62 of 67 shots (.928) in the three-game series against the Mavericks.
"When you have a goaltender that gives you a chance every night, you feed off of it," Berry said. "Guys believe. They have confidence. Everyone got a taste of it tonight. Everybody contributed."
Remember when the team's defense was an issue?
UND has allowed more than two goals in just once in the last eight games. On Sunday, the Fighting Hawks limited the Mavericks to just 14 shots on goal.
"I thought that was one of our best games all year," Berry said. "I think just coming out of the chute and having all four lines going, all six 'D' playing the right way, I commend them. It's tough. Losing the first game, do you have enough mental toughness? Do you have enough mental grit? We sure do in that locker room and you can tell."
Remember when UND repeatedly lost leads in the third period?
On Sunday, the Fighting Hawks rallied from one-goal deficits in the first and second thanks to goals from Jake Schmaltz and Dylan James. Then, they dominated the third.
With the season on the line, UND outshot Omaha 14-3 in the final 20 minutes. It scored as many goals as Omaha had shots in the third.
"We stuck with it," UND senior defenseman Ethan Frisch said. "All game, I thought we played really well. We had a couple of lapses on defense, but for the most part, we were playing really well. I think the floodgates opened for us once we got one. I think it was a culmination of the effort we put in all game."
The Fighting Hawks broke through thanks to the fourth line.
UND defenseman Chris Jandric started a play with an excellent breakout pass from behind his own net to send Carson Albrecht on a rush. Albrecht pulled up in the zone on the left side and tried to feed defenseman Ryan Sidorski cutting down the slot.
Sidorski lost it, but Ness was following close behind. He picked it up and snapped it past Omaha goalie Simon Latkoczy, who had fallen down on the play. It was his first goal since Dec. 2.
"I happened to be there at the right time and put it home," Ness said. "I blacked out after that. I'm not sure what happened after that. Right place, right time. It was one of the coolest goals I've scored, for sure."
UND didn't sit back after that.
Kleven got behind a defender on the right side and rifled a shot past Latkoczy's glove for his second goal of the weekend, making it 4-2.
"We could have pulled back and played defensive all night and tried to push it to overtime," Kleven said. "But I think we put our foot on the gas all night, playing with a lot of passion. Obviously, we got the job done."
Just 17 seconds later, Caulfield got behind Omaha defenseman Kirby Proctor to start a two-on-one rush. The Grand Forks native pulled Latkoczy out of position, dipped below the goal line and left a pass in the crease for Hain, who battled through Maverick defenders to tap it home.
"I thought we played a good game for the entire three periods," Hain said. "We just had more energy, more juice, more jump. I think we wore them down and finally had a few bounces that went our way."
UND added to Omaha's playoff misery.
The Mavericks are now 3-17 in the NCHC playoffs. They're the only team who has never advanced to the Frozen Faceoff in the 10-year history of the league.
Omaha entered last weekend in position to make the NCAA tournament, but UND beat the Mavericks four times in five games to end their season.
"I’m proud of (the guys)," Omaha coach Mike Gabinet said. "They’ve faced adversity all season long and found a way to have a great regular season. Just wish we could’ve found a way to get to (St. Paul)."
UND is now two wins shy of its second Frozen Faceoff title in three years.
"We're feeling really good about our game right now," Frisch said. "It's a situation where we want to keep it going. We know the job's not finished. We'll re-attack this weekend and get after St. Cloud on Friday."