UND moves alone into first place with sweep of Minnesota Duluth
Carson Albrecht and Dane Montgomery scored their first-career goals as a depleted Fighting Hawks squad beat the Bulldogs.
DULUTH, Minn. — Brad Berry finished his postgame television interview near his team's bench, then turned to walk across the ice to the locker room.
UND fans, who were gathered on one end of the arena, began roaring in approval.
Berry turned toward them, raised his fist above his head and gave it a few pumps in the air. The fans roared back louder, celebrating a weekend few of them probably expected.
With star defenseman Jake Sanderson in China, star forward Riese Gaber sitting in Row 3 with an injury, alternate captain Gavin Hain in a leg brace, defenseman Brady Ferner in Grand Forks and captain Mark Senden planted on the bench too injured to play but dressed to provide moral support, the Fighting Hawks beat Minnesota Duluth 3-2 to sweep the weekend series.
In fitting fashion for a team getting contributions from everyone, junior Carson Albrecht scored his first-career goal in the first period, Grand Forks native Dane Montgomery scored his first-career goal in the second period and Louis Jamernik added a goal and an assist.
There was also this stunning fact: A UND team that had to replace 14 players from last year's team, eight on NHL contracts, walked out of AmsOil Arena on Saturday in the driver's seat in the chase for the Penrose Cup.
The Fighting Hawks, who have won the National Collegiate Hockey Conference the last two seasons, enter the last four games of the season with a one-point lead over Denver.
UND closes with a home series against Western Michigan and a road series at Omaha. Denver plays at Omaha and a home-and-home against Colorado College.
"When opportunities like this come," Jamernik said, "where we're down bodies, we have no option and it's up to us, deep down as players and people to just look in the mirror and get the job done. That just shows the character we've got."
UND (19-11-1, 14-5-1 NCHC) also moved up to No. 6 in the Pairwise Rankings, which are used to selected and seed the NCAA tournament.
"It's belief," said UND coach Brad Berry, whose team has collected league points in eight straight. "It's guys that really care about each other. You don't do what we did this weekend — or what we did through the course of the second half of the season — if you don't care about each other and want to play for each other. I think that's a big deal."
It marked UND's first sweep over the Bulldogs since the 2015-16 NCAA national championship team did it twice — once in Grand Forks and once in Duluth.
"That's huge," Albrecht said. "It's not easy playing here. That's a great team over there, too. Six points is massive. I think that pushes is to first place, too, so the boys are happy. It's unreal."
On Saturday night, UND not only received clutch goals from its third and fourth lines, it also received yet another terrific goaltending performance by Zach Driscoll.
The fifth-year senior, who was named the NCHC's goalie of the week the previous two weeks, stopped 33 of 35 shots. The most impressive stop was a glove save on Minnesota Duluth's Koby Bender in the final minutes of the game on a backdoor look.
In his last seven appearances, Driscoll has a .945 save percentage.
Driscoll also was aided by his teammates blocking 23 shots — eight by Tyler Kleven and five by Ethan Frisch.
"All these defensemen, all these forwards blocking shots, giving up their body. Schmaltzy (Jake Schmaltz) puts his hand on a puck on a rocket shot on the palm of his hand. Those are things that win games and they're doing it all consistently. It's great to see."
UND became the first NCHC team to sweep Minnesota Duluth this season.
"We were the team that lost (Friday), but they came out like the team that lost," Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said.
After opening the calendar year with four losses, UND has now taken 21 of 24 possible points in a four-week span.
"It's funny; seasons are all different," Berry said. "I remember a few seasons ago, you play your tails off and you can't find ways to win. Now, you're doing the same thing and you're finding ways to win. I don't know. It's just chemistry. Guys are just doing whatever it takes."