GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux spotted the University of Maine Black Bears the game-opening goal before responding with three unanswered goals including Ben Blood’s game-winner with 5:25 remaining and Corban Knight’s insurance goal four minutes later as North Dakota posted a 3-1 men’s hockey victory.
North Dakota, ranked sixth in the country, is now 2-1 while No. 17 Maine fell to 1-2.
North Dakota snapped a four-game losing streak at the hands of the Black Bears and won at home after having an eight-game home winning streak broken by Boston College in BC’s 6-2 win last weekend.
Maine and North Dakota will conclude their series Saturday night at 8:07.
With the score tied 1-1, the Black Bears went on the power play with 5:34 remaining in the third period but, just six seconds into the power play, Joey Diamond was assessed his third penalty of the period and it proved costly.
Diamond was called for a boarding penalty at the expense of Blood to make it a four-on-four and, on the ensuing faceoff, the puck was drawn back to Blood by Knight and he wristed the puck through a screen that sailed over the glove of Maine goalie Martin Ouellette and into the short side corner.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead, who noted that Knight won 16 of his 22 face-offs, called Diamond’s penalty “the turning point in the game” and said Diamond would be benched for Saturday night’s game.
Maine had killed off two third-period power plays created by Diamond penalties.
“We played very well. It’s a shame to play that well (and lose). We held them to 21 shots on their own ice,” said Whitehead, whose team outshot North Dakota 31-21.
“We played a great game,” concurred Maine senior defenseman and co-captain Will O’Neill. “We came out flying and stuck to the game plan. We had a great effort. I was proud of the way we played.”
Knight cemented the win with a tap-in off the deflection of a Blood shot.
North Dakota senior goalie Brad Eidsness finished with 30 saves and was named the game’s number one star by the media.
“He deserved it,” said Whitehead. “He made some great stops. He kept them in it.”
“He played pretty well. But he saw most of the shots. We’ve got to do a better job getting in front of him and taking his eyes away,” said O’Neill.
Maine dominated the first two periods, outshooting North Dakota 26-14.
Maine took a 1-0 lead early in the second period as Spencer Abbott capitalized on the power play.
Kyle Beattie won a faceoff back to O’Neill and he slid the puck over to Abbott, whose one-timer beat Eidsness.
Freshman Michael Parks equalized later in the period when he chased down his own rebound, circled the net and beat Ouellette with a wrap-around.
Abbott had an opportunity to regain the one-goal lead early in the third period on a partial break-in only to have Eidsness, a two-time All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association selection, rob him with the pad.
O’Neill sympathized with Diamond’s plight.
“He’s one of our hardest workers. He always gives 150 percent. He’s one of our best players,” said O’Neill. “I love going to battle with him (on my side). Nobody feels worse about this than he does. But he’ll come back and be a force.”
Sophomore Dan Sullivan will start in goal for Maine on Saturday night, according to Whitehead.