HOUGHTON, Mich. — No. 8 North Dakota earned a 4-1 victory over Michigan Tech tonight by building an early lead and holding on. The game started with a flurry as each team put a goal on the board in the first two minutes. UND scored the eventual game winner at the 6:47 mark of the first before adding two more in the second.
Just 90 seconds into the game, Colten St. Clair dove and chipped the puck past Kevin Genoe. Connor Gaarder was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the goal celebration, resulting in a Huskies' power play.
It took the hosts just 28 seconds to even the score. Ryan Furne slapped a shot from the point. It rebounded off UND goalie Clarke Saunders and Tech's Jujhar Khaira before David Johnstone stuffed it home. The marker was Johnstone's fourth of the season and the Huskies' first on the power play since Dec. 4 at Northern Michigan.
The teams skated hard through the rest of the period. North Dakota took a 2-1 lead at the 6:47 mark. The visitors won the faceoff, made one pass and scored high over Genoe's glove from the right circle.
North Dakota made it a 3-1 score six minutes into the second period as the teams were skating four-on-four. They added another 10 minutes later for a three-goal advantage.
Tech had a golden opportunity to climb back into the contest late in the second. UND was called for a penalty at the 17:58 mark. During the delayed call, C.J. Eick was tripped on a clean breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. Dennis Rix ended up taking the penalty shot (the first by a Tech player since 1997) and was stopped by Saunders.
The Huskies had 1:20 of power play before being called for too many men at 19:18, ending the threat.
The teams skated through the third period without any more scoring despite a combined 26 shots. North Dakota was 0-for-6 on the man advantage including five power plays in the final frame. Tech finished 1-for-5 on the power play.
"It was a tough game," said head coach Mel Pearson. "Give credit to North Dakota. They're a championship caliber team. Our guys worked hard, but we got a little away from our game in the third period when we were trying to make a comeback.
Genoe played all 60 minutes in net and made 40 saves. Saunders posted 31 stops for UND.
Michigan Tech will now have two weeks off before hosting the 48th annual Great Lakes Invitational at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
"The break comes at a good time for us," said Pearson. "We need to get healthy and spend some time away from the game and refocus."
The Huskies will face Michigan in the GLI semifinal Dec. 29 at 7 p.m.
Notes: Tech's last penalty shot was taken by Craig Perrett on Oct. 27, 1997, vs. Denver (he was stopped by Stephen Wagner) … Khaira and Furne had the two assists on the Huskies' goal, giving them 12 and 7 points on the season, respectively.