Strong start lifts North Dakota to sweep of Omaha


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Coming into the weekend, No. 4 North Dakota was fighting for the top spot in the NCHC and No. 13 Nebraska-Omaha was battling to stay in the top half of the conference standings. Following Saturday night, it was the road team that got the desired results.

North Dakota scored the first three goals and held onto the lead the rest of the way, cruising to a 4-1 win in Omaha.

It was another strong second period for the Fighting Hawks, who added two of their goals to make it 3-0. Troy Stecher provided the key assist on the third one, after returning from his suspension that was served Friday.

“It’s great to have him back in the lineup,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “I thought last night our guys did a good job when he wasn’t in the lineup, taking more piece of the pie there.”

UND got started deep in the first period at the 15:31 mark when Keaton Thompson took a pass from Johnny Simonson and fired a shot that went in, with Joel Janatuinen screening the net.

In the second, Drake Caggiula shot a blast from within the left circle that sent the puck tumbling up in the air. Caggiula followed it and slapped it forward before it hit the ice for the second goal of the game at 6:22 in the second.

Later at 13:17, the Fighting Hawks struck again. Bryn Chyzyk scored from the bottom of the left circle on a pass straight away from Troy Stecher coming from the top of the right circle.

Up 3-0 with the game becoming out of reach, the Mavericks showed some life. Luc Snuggerud sent a blast in from the blue line on a pass from Ryan Galt that was deflected in by Nogard for the score at 17:37 in the second.

In the third, both sides struggled to put the puck in the net until North Dakota got the dagger. Omaha couldn’t clear it from the defensive zone, both near the back boards and in front of the net, and Brock Boeser scored sliding in from his knees to put UND up 4-1.

It was another disappointing home series for the Mavericks, who have been swept in Baxter Arena in four of their last five series.

“They were a better team this weekend,” Omaha coach Dean Blais said. “We’ve had a tough time winning in Baxter Arena this second half. We’re playing good teams obviously and we’re not that far away but we’ve got to get a win here before the playoffs or it’s just going to be two-and-out.”

With home ice out of reach, the Mavericks have one final series on the road against Denver to get some much need rejuvenation to carry into the NCHC playoffs.

“We just have to turn it around and that’s up to the guys in the dressing room, they have to decide if they want to be a contender or a pretender,” Blais said. “We have the possibility of doing something, but if we don’t have a total team commitment, we’re pretty average and young.”

North Dakota has now won six of its last eight games and clinched a share of the NCHC regular season championship. The Fighting Hawks close out the regular season at home against Western Michigan, which sits seventh in the conference.

“Obviously, it was one of goals that we have on the outside of the year, and I’m proud of our guys of battling,” Berry said. “It’s a tougher environment to win in here in Omaha and we want to move on to the next one now. It’s a nice accolade and goal to attain, but we want to make sure we move on to that next goal.”