Colorado College has the answers for UND
UND defenseman Christian Wolanin skated around Ralph Engelstad Arena, waving his arms to the crowd as they roared, celebrating his penalty shot goal.
The arena was buzzing and UND seemingly had all of the momentum.
It lasted 29 seconds.
Colorado College scored on the next shift and had quick, momentum-killing answers for both of UND's goals in a 4-2 Tiger win in front of 11,517 on Friday night.
It snapped Colorado College's nine-game winless streak in Grand Forks dating back to the first round of the 2014 National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs.
It also sent the Fighting Hawks into perilous territory.
UND's streak of 15 consecutive top-half finishes in league standings is suddenly in jeopardy. UND (12-9-8 overall, 6-7-4 NCHC) is tied with Minnesota Duluth for the fourth and final spot of home ice in the first round of the league playoffs, but is just one point out of sixth.
Colorado College has a chance to jump UND in the standings with a win in tonight's series finale (7:07 p.m., Ralph Engelstad Arena).
UND's streak of 15-straight NCAA tournament appearances—the second-longest run in college hockey history—also is in jeopardy. The Fighting Hawks tumbled from eighth to 13th in the Pairwise Rankings, landing right on the bubble of making the 16-team tournament if it started today.
Defensemen Christian Wolanin and Colton Poolman provided both goals for an offensively challenged UND team, which ranks last in the NCHC in offense.
And while both of them seemed to get the crowd into the game—Wolanin scored on a penalty shot and Poolman on a highlight-reel end-to-end rush to tie the game—Colorado College had quick answers to take back the lead and silence The Ralph.
"Every time we scored our goals, they came back and put one in right away," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Times in games when you have momentum, you can't give momentum away. Obviously, they took advantage of that tonight."
Poolman said: ""That's something we just can't be doing. You can't get too high, can't get too low. They were more mature than us. They rebounded right away. They were more of a team after we scored. When they scored, we kind of shook our heads and that's something you can't be doing at this time of the season, so that's kind of disappointing. We've got to bounce back tomorrow."
UND now has gone six games without a win, tying three times and losing three. And its offense has dried up, especially from the forwards. Defensemen have scored the team's last four goals. It has been nine periods since a forward has scored a goal—a Shane Gersich power-play tally against Denver.
"We dug ourselves a hole," Poolman said. "And tonight isn't helping. There's full belief in our locker room. Obviously, tonight was a tough one. I thought we played and controlled the game well, but obviously, things didn't go our way and we maybe shut down for a little bit. But we can wrap our heads around this and keep things going."
Poolman said the series finale against the Tigers is critical.
"We need this one to say the least," he said. "Every game from here on out is a must-win. Tomorrow night, it really is a must-win. We can't afford to give that one up."
The Tigers used two goals from Troy Conzo, a tally from defenseman Alex Pernitsky and an empty-netter from Westin Michaud to get the win.
It was only the second game of the season that the Tigers have won without a point from leading scorer Nick Halloran.
UND put the line of Rhett Gardner, Austin Poganski and Joel Janatuinen on that unit and shut them down. But it wasn't enough.
"You have to be ready after every goal," Wolanin said. "That's something you learn in termites. Little things cost us a big game tonight."
Notes: UND played the game without its second- and third-line centers Nick Jones and Ludvig Hoff. Jones missed his third-straight game with an undisclosed injury, while Hoff is in South Korea to play for Norway in the 2018 Winter Olympics. UND also was without defenseman Gabe Bast, who missed his fourth straight game with an injury. . . Colorado College scratched fourth-line right winger Max St. Pierre after warmups and decided to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen instead of the regular lineup of 12 forwards and eight defensemen.