When goals are scarce, a strong defensive effort sometimes lead to victory.
It did tonight for the UND Fighting Sioux men's hockey team. The Sioux limited St. Cloud State to nine shots on goal for the first 38 minutes of the game in skating to a 3-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) victory.
The Sioux, coming off a 4-0 shutout loss to the Huskies on Friday night, relied on lock-tight defense to avoid become the first Sioux team to get off to a 0-4 start in WCHA play.
"I think it was our most consistent 60-minute defensive effort,'' UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "Part of what we did well was continue possession in the offensive zone. I thought we spent a lot of minutes there, and when we did have turnovers, we were in good position to track pucks.''
Along with a strong team defense that enable the Sioux to outshoot the Huskies 26-21, specialty team play was huge for UND.
The Sioux converted 2-for-4 on the power play and blanked the Huskies on their three chances, limiting them to a total of two shots on net in the trio of power plays.
Defense even figured into UND's first goal, though it was scored by freshman forward Mark MacMillan (Penticton, British Columbia.), his second of the year.
The Sioux went to a setup with three defensemen on the ice during their second power play of the game and made it pay off.
Senior defenseman Ben Blood (Plymouth, Minn.), a defensive force all game, set up the first goal at 1:13 of the second period.
Blood's wrist shot from the top of the right faceoff circle was tipped in front by MacMillan past SCS rookie goalie Ryan Faragher, who stopped all 44 Sioux shots Friday.
The set with three defense on a power play is a scheme devised by associate head coach Cary Eades.
"I give Cary a lot of credit,'' Hakstol said. "It's something we talked about a couple of weeks ago and have used a bit. Cary has done a good job building in a simple mentality to that group.'''
The mentality was to get pucks on net and perhaps get a greasy goal.
It worked to perfection. Faragher never saw Blood's shot and MacMillan's deflection broke the ice against the impressive SCSU rookie.
UND built the lead to 3-0 with a pair of goals midway through the second period.
Center Corban Knight (High River, Alberta) circled in the faceoff circle after winning an offensive faceoff and threaded his wrister past Faragher at 11:11 for Knight's fourth goal of the season.
Sophomore wing Brock Nelson (Warroad, Minn.) duplicated that goal at 12:40 with a high wrister from the opposite faceoff circle. His shot beat Faragher high on the glove side for Nelson's fourth of the season.
MacMillan said the game plan was to put more traffic around the net. "Last night we got a lot of pucks on net, too, and it didn't go our way,'' he said. "Bloody (Ben Blood) did a good job of getting it on net, and I was lucky to have it go off my stick and in. I think we were pretty happy to finally get a greasy one.''
Leading 3-1 after two periods, the Sioux killed two St. Cloud State power plays in the third period without allowing a single shot on goal.
The goal by MacMillan to break through against Faragher counted as much mentally for the Sioux as it did on the scoreboard.
"Once we go that one,'' Knight said, "it almost felt like we had a 500-pound monkey get off our back. It was definitely a relief to get one in there.''
Almost overlooked in the victory was a sound night in goal by junior Aaron Dell (Airdrie, Alberta). He finished with 20 saves, 12 of them coming in the last period when the Huskies pressed the Sioux.
Dell was beaten only by a goal-mouth tipin by Ben Hanowski at 19:34 of the second period.
Knight said the Sioux never discussed the possibility of a school-worst 0-4 start to league play.
"It didn't come up at all,'' Knight said. "Even though we'd lost a couple games in a row, we felt we've been playing good hockey. It's how the game works once in a while. You just don't get the breaks.''
So tonight, the Sioux made their own to improve to 1-3 in the WCHA and 3-4-1 overall. St. Cloud fell to 1-1 in the WCHA and 3-4-1 overall.
SIOUX NOTES: Junior wing Danny Kristo (Eden Prairie, Minn.), who assisted on Knight's goal. led the Sioux in shots on goal with six . . . UND had 10 shots on goal on its four power plays, the Huskies just two on their three power plays . . . UND lost the faceoff battle 30-27 but junior center Carter Rowney (Sexsmith, Albert) won 10 of 16.