GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Fourth-ranked Minnesota Duluth handed sixth-ranked and league-leading North Dakota its first loss in NCHC play of 2021-22 via a 4-1 victory on Friday at a sold-out Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The Bulldogs (8-2-1 overall, 3-1-1 NCHC) were perfect on the penalty kill for a fourth consecutive game, going 6-for-6 on Friday while also keeping the Fighting Hawks (8-4, 4-1) off the scoreboard when their net was empty for 2:07 late in the game.
“Our killers did a really good job again,” said Scott Sandelin, whose Bulldogs play the Hawks again at 6:07 p.m. Saturday in Grand Forks. “We got some timely goals and some important kills.”
Fifth-year senior forward Casey Gilling doubled his scoring total Friday with a pair of goals. The transfer out of Miami tied the game at 1-1 midway through the first period on the power play and extended UMD’s lead from one to two goals 12:53 into the second.
Both goals came off the stick of the centerman between the faceoff circles. Gilling’s third goal of the season came off a faceoff and rebound from a blast by fifth-year senior wing Koby Bender. Gilling picked up a loose puck in traffic to fire through his fourth goal at UMD. He credited senior captain Noah Cates for knocking a stick out of his way, creating a clean shot.
“I got to give credit to all my linemates,” Gilling said of his goals. “They made the plays happen. The puck just happened to bounce to me. That’s really all it was, just them working hard and keeping it in the zone.”
UMD fell behind 2:30 into Friday’s game when North Dakota senior and Grand Rapids native Gavin Hain scored on a two-on-one breakaway. The goal ended the shutout streak of UMD junior goaltender Ryan Fanti at three games, nine periods (plus an OT) and 188 minutes.
Freshman center Dominic James put the Bulldogs on top 2-1 with a hair under eight minutes remaining in the second with just his second goal of the season. James batted the puck out of the air to the far post past North Dakota senior goalie Zach Driscoll — a former Bemidji State Beaver — to cap off a quick give-and-go with fifth-year senior wing Kobe Roth.
“They scored the first one pretty quick there,” Roth said. “We knew their crowd was going to be into it, so that was something we had to weather. I thought we had a good response. It was a full team effort. Our PK was unbelievable tonight. That was huge.”
Fanti finished with 23 saves on Friday for UMD after having to only make four stops during the second period. Driscoll also made 23 saves for the Hawks.
North Dakota was without star sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson on Friday. He was one of a number of Fighting Hawks who were out of the lineup or playing through a non-COVID illness.
The Bulldogs were without sophomore defenseman Connor Kelley, who is out this weekend due to injury. Freshman forward Kyler Kleven and junior forward Luke Loheit both returned from injury.
Minnesota Duluth 2-1-1—4
North Dakota 1-0-0—1
Saves — Ryan Fanti, UMD, 23; Zach Driscoll, ND, 23.
Power play — UMD 1-6; ND 0-6. Penalties — UMD 8-16; ND 9-29.