KALAMAZOO, Mich. (UND Athletics) -- North Dakota finished the first half of the season with a 13-game unbeaten streak after an 8-2 win at 17th-ranked Western Michigan Saturday evening at Lawson Ice Arena.
No. 3 North Dakota (14-1-2, 7-0-1-1 NCHC) goes into the Christmas break with an unblemished mark in the NCHC for the first time and has its best overall winning percentage (.882) since the 2002-03 season (17-1-1, .921).
UND took a 4-0 lead through two periods then piled on four more goals in the third period to earn the win.
"Pretty special," UND head coach Brad Berry said about the run his team is on after the first half. "We knew we had a pretty special team here with a lot of returning players that took a step and a lot of good freshmen. Our team has grown a lot. When you look back at all the teams we've had at North Dakota, this probably ranks up there as one of the ones that are really special. We made a pact to our guys in the locker room here after the game to keep this this rolling."
Shane Pinto won a clean draw in the WMU (7-7-2, 3-4-1-1) end and Andrew Peski fired a shot from the point that was blocked out of the zone. Peski re-collected and left the puck for Judd Caulfield, who wound up and blasted one past Brandon Bussi just 93 seconds into the game. It was Caulfield's first career goal as he became the 20th UND player to tally a goal this season.
Six minutes later, Jasper Weatherby got in on the action. After he caused a turnover on the UND blueline, the puck squirted free in the air and Weatherby batted it down to Zach Yon. He then raced through the neutral zone and dropped a pass to Weatherby for a shot from the top of the right circle that bounced off of Bussi's pads and right back to Weatherby who whacked it home for a 2-0 advantage.
A minute later, UND went on a 5-minute power play after a charging hit to Westin Michaud. North Dakota cashed in on the man advantage at the 9:58 mark when Matt Kiersted whistled a pass to Jordan Kawaguchi on the right dot. He unloaded a screamer towards the net that Caulfield re-directed in front for his second goal of the night and a comfy 3-0 lead.
That would chase Bussi in favor of Ben Blacker. Bussi made just four saves and allowed three goals in just under 10 minutes.
Blacker momentarily stopped the bleeding, going the rest of the period unscathed, making four saves. Intermission would come early as a hit on the boards directly in front of the penalty boxes broke the interior partition glass, halting play to allow for cleanup. The teams went to their respective locker rooms with 3:15 still remaining in the first period and they would pick that up after the replacement, cleanup and ice resurfacing.
Late in the second, Pinto sped ahead, wristing a shot past Blacker to make it 4-0. WMU broke the shutout streak just 55 seconds into the third period but Pinto answered 22 seconds later then UND added three goals (Matt Kiersted, Dixon Bowen, Westin Michaud) in the final four minutes for the win.
Adam Scheel made 27 saves for his 14th win of the season.
North Dakota breaks for the semester and will return to action in three weeks with an exhibition. UND will make the trek back to Michigan for a Dec. 28 exhibition against the U.S.-Under 18 National Team in Plymouth, Mich.
Notes: UND runs its unbeaten streak to 13 straight ... The Michaud-Pinto-Caulfield line contributed nine combined points in the win and all three players scored.