LAS VEGAS (UND Athletics) -- On the University of North Dakota hockey team's first ever visit to this city, six proved to be the lucky number on Saturday night for the Fighting Hawks.
That's six as in No. 6, as in North Dakota captain Colton Poolman. The junior defenseman scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner in the third period, to vault the Hawks to a 3-1 win over Minnesota in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game at a sold-out Orleans Arena.
Poolman's two goals – the tying tally in the second period and the winner in the third – turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead and whipped a partisan North Dakota crowd into a frenzy.
"That was crazy. I'll remember that noise forever, I think," said Poolman, whose goals were his first of the season. "They made it such a cool experience and I'm so happy we all came down here and played the way we did."
Poolman's first goal was a one-timer point blast from the right circle, teeing off on a Ludvig Hoff feed to knot the game 1-1 with 5:49 left in the second period. Then he walked the blue line on the power play midway through the third frame and ripped a shot through traffic and past Minnesota netminder Mat Robson.
"Big pressure situation…could have went one way or another for a while," added Poolman. "We had that big PK, and guys really showed what they were worth."
"That PK" was a 5-minute major and game misconduct assessed to UND sophomore Grant Mismash before the second period was three minutes old. The Hawks were also penalized for too many men on the ice on the same play, giving the Gophers a 2-man advantage in a scoreless tie.
Minnesota took just 23 seconds to find the back of the net, with Brent Gates Jr. knocking home a Sampo Ranta rebound to open the scoring. Down 1-0, a fevered crowd silenced, and still facing more than four minutes of penalty kill time, UND was suddenly at a crossroads.
But the penalty-killing group smothered the Minnesota power play and escaped a dire situation down only a goal.
"It was huge," said UND head coach Brad Berry of his team's PK. "Anytime you get a 5-minute major, you have a chance of giving up multiple goals. I thought our kill did an outstanding job. Our guys battled through adversity in a bunch of different situations and I thought they handled it in the right way. We grew this weekend."
After Poolman's two goals gave the designated home team its first lead of the night, senior winger Joel Janatuine sealed the deal with an empty-net goal with :42 seconds left.
"I think we just outskated them," said Jantauinen. "We were obviously really, really physical from the get-go so I don't think they really wanted to play today."
Senior Rhett Gardner, who had an assist and went 25-11 on faceoffs, agreed with his classmate's assessment.
"I think we just outworked them. If we're going to have success against any team, we're going to have to work them. That's the first game this year we've played a full 60 (minutes)," said Gardner.
Gardner continued: "The 5-on-3 was as tough. They have a lot of guys that can zip it around. We kind of just regrouped and said, 'Alright, we'll forget about that one and not give anything up on the five minute' and we didn't."
The biggest talking point following the rivalry win was the performance of the North Dakota faithful, who constituted most of the 7,412 listed on the box score.
"That was pretty amazing. Right in warmups, to see a sea of green, it was a one-of-a-kind experience," said Janatuinen.
Berry said his team prides itself on matching the passion of its fans.
"I believe there's an obligation on the part of our program to give back to the players, to the fans that came before us. When you walk over and you see that tailgate party – hundreds and hundreds of people in there – we walked right by it today on the way to the rink and our guys didn't want to let them down."
He added: "Words can't describe it but I know our guys are going to take this as a memory for the rest of their lives."
Notes: UND outshot Minnesota 33-21 and had a 43-30 edge on faceoffs … Poolman, freshman goalie Adam Scheel and Gardner were named the three stars … Scheel stopped 20 of 21 shots for his second straight win.