GRAND FORKS, ND — Making 37 saves, with 14 on the penalty kill, junior goaltender Jake Kupsky and the Union College men’s hockey team defeated the No. 3-ranked North Dakota Fighting Hawks, 4-1, on Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Last year’s first-ever meeting between the two teams saw North Dakota score 11 seconds into the contest. However, this meeting in North Dakota saw the Dutchmen jump out to a 2-0 lead in the first period en-route to their three-goal win.
The win is the second straight against a national-ranked opponent for the Dutchmen, having beaten No. 16 Quinnipiac the last time out. Union is now 8-6-0, winning eight of its last nine, while North Dakota drops to 8-4-3; marking the first time this season UND has lost back-to-back contests.
Coming off of Thanksgiving Day, Union took advantage of a slow start by North Dakota in the first period. Midway through the opening period, a couple of failed breakout attempts by the Fighting Hawks led to a Union goal. Brandon Estes fired a shot and Ryan Walker redirected it to put it past UND tender Peter Thome for the 1-0 lead at the 10:03 mark.
Minutes later, Union scored on its first power play of the contest to go up by two. On a dump-in, Thome came out to play the puck, but failed to keep the puck away from the Dutchmen while away from the safety of his crease. UND’s Andrew Peski blocked a shot on the unguarded net, but the rebound went to the stick of Sebastian Vidmar who buried the second chance into the, now completely open, UND goal.
North Dakota came out looking to make a statement in the second period, but a mix of solid defensive play and a little bit of puck luck made sure Union would hold onto its 2-0 lead after 40 minutes. UND out-shot Union, 19-4m during the middle frame; but Kupsky stopped all 19 shots on net, while his defensemen in front of him blocked 11 shots, and the post behind him deflected one additional UND attempt.
In the third period, North Dakota finally broke through Kupsky’s wall, scoring 3:27 into the period to cut Union’s lead in half. However, less than a minute later defenseman Vas Kolias scored his first goal of the season on a breakaway to put the Dutchmen back up by two.
The Fighting Hawks opted for an extra attacker in the final minutes of play, but after Union cleared the puck out of the zone, Brendan Taylor clinched the win for the Dutchmen, scoring on the empty net with 1:07 remaining in the game.
Union blocked a total of 21 shots in the game, second most this season, while also going a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. North Dakota out-shot the Dutchmen, 38-21, in the contest, but Kupsky made 37 saves for his second win of the season, while Thome conceded three goals on 17 saves for his second loss of the year.
The Dutchmen and Fighting Hawks finish off the weekend series tomorrow night back at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Puck drop is slated for 8:07 p.m. (ET).