After an emotional win against Minnesota on Friday, North Dakota was brought back to earth Saturday by the Golden Gophers who delivered a 6-2 thumping to UND before 11,964 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
"We didn't have it tonight, and it's a tough thing to take, but that's the simple truth," said UND coach Dave Hakstol. "We didn't play with the speed and tenacity that we need to. It hasn't happened very often with us, and it certainly can't happen very often."
The win moved Minnesota (16-8-1 overall, 12-4-0 WCHA) into a first-place tie with Minnesota Duluth. At 12-9-2 overall and 8-8-0 in league play, UND falls to seventh place in the WCHA, one point behind Michigan Tech, two points behind Denver and Nebraska Omaha, and three points behind Colorado College.
After staking Minnesota to a 4-0 lead just 2:51 into the second period, UND battled back to make it a 4-2 game on goals by Michael Parks (St. Louis, Mo.) and Danny Kristo (Eden Prairie, Minn.). But just as it appeared the momentum might be shifting, Minnesota sophomore forward Nate Condon gave the Gophers a 5-2 lead with 39 seconds left in the second frame.
"I thought Minnesota had some really timely goals," Kristo said. "I thought when it was 4-2, we kind of had them on their heels. Making it 5-2 before the end of the second sort of really killed us."
As happened Friday, Minnesota got on the board first when the Gophers capitalized on a turnover at UND's blue line to create a 2-on-1 rush. Kyle Rau's pass sent sophomore forward Nick Bjugstad in alone on UND goalie Aaron Dell (Airdrie, Alberta). He got Dell down and sent a backhander over the goalie's pad to make it 1-0 at 2:37.
With 20 seconds left in the opening stanza, Bjugstad struck again for his 19th goal of the season, this time stuffing in the rebound off Rau's shot from the slot to put Minnesota up 2-0.
The second period didn't start any better for UND. Just 2:05 in, Minnesota freshman forward Seth Ambroz snuck a sharp-angled shot past Dell to give the Gophers a 3-0 lead. Forty-six seconds later with Minnesota on the power play, Erik Haula won a faceoff in UND's zone and sophomore defenseman Nate Schmidt blasted in a slapshot to give the Gophers a four-goal lead.
At the 9:47 mark, Parks got UND on the board when he deflected defenseman Andrew MacWilliam's (Calgary, Alberta) shot from the point past Minnesota goal Kent Patterson to make it 4-1. Kristo got UND to within two when -- on the man advantage -- his wrister through traffic beat Patterson high blocker side at 13:31.
Unfortunately, Condon made certain that the green and white would get no closer. His tally just before the end of the second period and his short-handed goal at 4:12 of the third sealed UND's fate, making the final score 6-2.
"Both the second goal at the end of the first period and the goal at the end of the second were pretty tough momentum swings against us," Hakstol said.
Through two periods, Dell stopped 19 of the 24 shots he faced. Senior goalie Brad Eidsness replaced Dell at the start of the third period, making seven saves on eight shots. UND was 1-6 on the power play while Minnesota was 1-3.
After going 8-1-1 before the loss to Minnesota, Hakstol said the team didn't match the intensity it showed during its winning streak.
"I thought we were a step slow," he said. "That's not the way our team can play and be successful. We weren't sharp with pucks in terms of completing passes and pushing pucks up ice. We just weren't sharp."
He also added, "We've played at a high intensity level for the last five, six weeks. We stubbed our toe in Bemidji, but since that point in time, we've played at a high level."
Junior center Corban Knight said the team needs to put the loss behind it and focus on its WCHA series next weekend against St. Cloud State.
"We just need to take away some positives from this weekend -- build off the momentum we had last night, come back on Monday and work on the things we need to," he said. "There's some holes in our game and they were exposed tonight. We need to work on that and improve on that."