With a lineup depleted by injuries and unable to even field a full lineup, North Dakota was looking help from anyone tonight.
UND found it again in the form of its freshmen class. As in Friday's 4-4 tie with Harvard, the freshman class contributed four more goals tonight in an impressive 7-3 victory over the Crimson at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The all-freshman line of Brendan O'Donnell (Winnipeg, Manitoba), Connor Gaarder (Edina, MN.) and Mark MacMillan (Penticton, B.C.) led the way. Each player had a goal with Gaarder setting the pace with two assists to go with his second goal in two games. Freshman Michael Parks (St. Louis, Mo.) chipped in with a goal as well.
UND could only dress 11 healthy forwards and 5 defensemen, one under the norm at each position.
One of the veterans in the lineup, junior right wing Danny Kristo (Eden Prairie, Mn.) led the way with two goals and one assist to join Gaarder and junior Joe Gleason (Edina, Mn.) with a three-point night. All are right wingers.
"I thought he was the leader of our team tonight,'' UND coach Dave Hakstol said of Kristo. "Not by anything he said, just by his actions on the ice and the level he played at. Most importantly, he had that high will level in him that we've seen before.''
In Kristo's case, where there's a will, there's a way.
UND rallied from an early 1-0 deficit to take the lead on goals by O'Donnell and Gaarder at 7:02 and 8:47 of the first period.
That's when Kristo tilted the game UND's way permanently.
He showed great patience to beat Harvard goalie Steve Michalek with a sizzling wrister at 13:31 and came back with a power-play goal at 15:13 when freshman defenseman Nick Mattson (Chanhassen, Mn.) set him up all alone;
That 4-1 lead was all UND needed to run its record to 6-1-1 over the last eight games. UND improved to 10-8-2 overall while Harvard dropped to 4-4-4.
The seven goals tied the most this season, matching the total of a 7-6 win over Colorado College on Nov. 25.
Sophomore Brock Nelson (Warroad, Minn.) completed UND's scoring with his team-best 15th goal of the season late in the third period.
Being short in the lineup proved to be no obstacle for the Sioux, who came out with an edge after kicking away a two-goal lead in the last period in Friday's tie.
"Having a lot of guys out of the lineup is hard to do,'' Gaarder said. "A lot of guys came out and stepped up and made some big plays tonight,'' Gaarder said. "Freshmen had to step up and play big.''
Kristo said the team was still smarting earlier in the day after giving up the lead in Friday's tie. "We kind of gave that game away yeterday and everyone was pretty upset about it. So basically the mentality was to come in hard and play Fighting Sioux hockey and come back and get a victory tonight;''
The Sioux played without injured players Corban Knight (High River, Alberta), Derek Rodwell (Taber, Alberta) and Mario Lamoureux (Grand Forks). Also missing was defenseman Derek Forbort (Duluth, Minn.), who is playing in the World Junior Tournament currently going on in Canada.
"With Knighter, Mario and Rods out, guys needed to step up,'' Kristo said. "Our freshmen did a great job this weekend. Hats off to those guys.''
Hakstol said the depeted lineup was never an issue. "Our mindset was pretty focused on how important this game was and how critical it was to get the win,'' Hakstol said.
A win an a tie against Harvard from the ECAC could provide a key edge later in the season when the 16-team NCAA tournament field is picked. Currently, neither UND nor Harvard rank in the top 16 in the Pairwise Rankings, which mimic the process the NCAA uses to pick its 16-team field.
Gaarder has played in just over half of UND's games (11 of 20), but his role has increased dramatically of late, and his contributions have been noticeable.
"It's kind of been an interesting transition for him,'' Hakstol said. "He came in and didn't play a lot early. He kept working for more opportunity. Every time he gets more opportunity, he takes advantage and does some positive things for our team.''
Gaarder's one-timer from the right point just six seconds into a power play gave UND a 2-1 lead and put it ahead to stay.
Players on all three of UND's full lines contributed at least one goal with the top two lines leading the way with three scores each.
"Tonight we got a little bit from everybody,'' Hakstol said. "I thought our young guys had their best weekend offensively.''