January 29th, 2012
by goon

Grand Forks, ND—There is an old saying in hockey that you sweep at home and split on the road. On Saturday night, the University of North Dakota was looking for that allusive sweep against the Wisconsin Badgers. Sweeps at home have been hard to come by as of late for UND.

At the Wednesday media day, UND head coach Dave Hakstol talked about splits not being good enough anymore, they needed to get wins.

After 26 games, UND has a grand total of two series sweeps (At UAA and C.C. home). Coming into this weekend’s series against the Badgers, UND was ranked 19th in the Pairwise Ranking and looking to move up.

In hockey there is one way to move up in the Pairwise Ranking. Your team has to string together wins, and in this case UND needs to start turning their series splits into sweeps if they want to secure an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney, because they are running out of games. Unfortunately, UND has gotten splits the last three WCHA series.

The Badgers came into tonight’s series finale with a horrid road record of 1-7-1, so you had to like UND’s chances of getting the series sweep on Saturday Night.

UND’s fortunes would change tonight with a 4-2 win against the Wisconsin Badgers. UND was led by the trio of Brock Nelson, Ben Blood and Danny Kristo. Al three players had two points on the evening.

Another emerging story is the offensive contributions of junior defenseman Andrew MacWilliam. Over the course of his hockey career at UND,Andrew MacWilliam has not been known for his scoring prowess, until recently. It took him 102 games to score his first career goal; it only took him five more games to get his second career goal.

Macwilliams goal was what I would classify as a timely goal, and a good response to a fluky play that lead to the Badgers first goal.

Macwilliam was going for a puck that looked like it was going to be icing on the Badgers, when Badger forward Keegan Meuer appeared to trip MacWIlliam, who fell on the play. Meuer grabbed and shot the puck past UND goalie Brad Eidsness.

Macwilliam would get the last laugh as he would score the go ahead goal at the 02:05 mark of the second period, with a blast from outside of the blue line that went in top shelf of the Badger net.

After the game MacWilliam had this to say about his second career goal. “The first thing we said when I scored that goal, that’s karma, so I guess I got it back and we came out even. It happens, they obviously didn’t see it. They [refs] didn’t make the call, it happens. We have to forget about it going in between periods there and regroup, and that is what we did there and we came out with hard effort the rest of the game.”
Coach Hakstol was impressed with his team’s effort after the game. What was even more impressive was that his team shut down the Badgers Mark Zengerle and Justin Schultz all weekend long.

“They had some opportunities, they’re great players, but overall, we worked hard to try to minimize those. I thought we did a good job at that,” Hakstol said. “I thought we did a better job of that tonight, than we did last night, especially with Schultz. The way he jumps up, and jumps into the play.”

The coach was pleased with the series sweep of the Badgers.

“Yeah a needed result. We knew coming in that we got to sit with this result for two weeks. We got a bye week next week. So we wanted to make sure that we put our best effort on the ice tonight, and I thought we did that top to bottom. We had to grind out the first two periods again, and we came out of that with a one goal lead. I thought we played an outstanding third period, we kept our foot on the gas, we pushed pucks, we took away time and space and I don’t think we gave up a grade ‘A’ chance.”

A sweep has been a long time coming for UND.

With the win tonight UND recorded their first series sweep at home since November 25-26, 2011, when UND beat C.C. (7-6 and 4-3). This was also the first series sweep against Wisconsin at home for UND since November 22-23, 2002. With the series sweep against the Badgers, UND improved their record to 5-6-1 in the last 12 games against this opponent.

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