GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The No. 14 ranked Niagara hockey team fell to seventh-ranked North Dakota with a 2-1 decision in its NCAA West Regional semifinal game Friday at the Van Andel Arena.
After Jason Beattie pushed the Purple Eagles ahead by a goal heading into the final period of play, North Dakota scored a pair of quick goals in the third frame and buckled down defensively to cut Niagara’s fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament short.
“It was a great run for our team and for our program,” head coach David Burkholder said. “I am really proud of how we played tonight. After 40 minutes it was a great college hockey game and then the penalty parade took us out of our game and we’re going home”
“These guys are incredible. What a ride this season has been from the streak we had midseason and winning the regular season. These guys get and deserve a banner, and the NCAA banner that will be hung at Dwyer.”
The opening period remained scoreless as both goalies came up big between the pipes. NU netminder Carsen Chubak made his best save of the first 20 minutes six minutes into the contest as UND rushed into the NU defensive zone on a 3-on-1. North Dakota’s Carter Rowney ripped a shot towards the left post, but Chubak gloved it, holding onto the puck despite North Dakota crashing the net.
The teams traded penalties after the midway point of the frame, but both penalty killing units came up big to keep the game scoreless heading into the first intermission. UND held an 11-6 advantage in shots.
The second period saw the teams get into penalty trouble, leading to four-on-four action. While playing four aside, both squads saw some quality chances stymied by the goaltenders. Chubak sprawled across the blue paint to rob Rocco Grimaldi on the one-timer while Niagara and North Dakota skated four aside. Niagara countered with a scoring opportunity from Patrick Divjak as the centerman sped down the left boards, slapping a long shot that was gloved down by Gothberg.
The first goal horn of the evening sounded at 6:27 as Beattie tallied his third of the season, and second of the postseason to make it a 1-0 game. Matt Williams connected with Beattie on the rush and the senior captain saw his wrister from the right circle beat Gothberg five-hole.
The Purple Eagles began to control the tempo of the game after the first goal of the game, continuing to pepper the UND net to jump out to a 14-13 advantage in shots.
Niagara almost doubled their lead extend to two with five minutes remaining in the stanza as Ryan Murphy broke free from the UND defense and skated in on Gothberg on a breakaway. The junior’s back hand attempt tipped off the goaltender’s glove before going wide.
The third period saw a pair of quick goals from North Dakota to put it ahead 2-1 with 17:07 remaining in the final frame. Andrew MacWilliam started the scoring for UND just under two minutes played. Chubak got a piece of MacWilliam’s shot from the left circle, but the puck hit the crossbar and dropped behind the goal line to tie the game.
Fifty-seven seconds later Danny Kristo gave North Dakota its first lead of the game as the right winger picked up his own rebound and netted a wraparound for the eventual game-winning score.
“I thought the second period we outshot them and outhit them. Obviously the shot clock says we did as well,” Burkholder added.” We were finishing all our checks and they couldn’t get anything going. North Dakota is a great team. They got a goal to start the third which got them in it and one of their best players made a great play on the wrap around. There were a lot of momentum swings in this game.”
Chubak wrapped up the game with 41 saves.
Niagara ends the 2012-13 season with an overall 23-10-5 record, and an Atlantic Hockey regular season title.