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GRAND FORKS, N.D. – On Saturday night, second-ranked North Dakota ended Colorado College’s season in what felt at times like a mercy killing.
UND fashioned a 4-0 cushion in the first 20 minutes at Ralph Engelstad Arena, with all of those goals against a clearly injured CC starting goaltender Jacob Nehama. A lingering lower-body knock, however, didn’t keep the freshman from starting in an eventual 5-1 loss to the Fighting Hawks.
With its victory on Saturday, UND clinched a sweep of the teams’ best-of-three NCHC first round playoff series. The Hawks also had little trouble Friday’s game 1 en route to a 7-1 victory.
“(Saturday’s) game started before we stepped on the ice,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “It started this morning. We talked about how tough it is to close out a team’s season. We didn’t want to go until (a potential game 3 on) Sunday.”
In game 2, UND took its foot off the gas after the Hawks found themselves ahead 5-0 early in the second period.
Before that, UND opened the scoring 3:55 into the game. Nehama, who spent much of Saturday’s first period’s breaks stretching out, stopped an initial Keaton Thompson shot but couldn’t keep Nick Schmaltz from swatting in the rebound at the far edge of the goalmouth.
The Hawks doubled their lead just 17 seconds later. After UND center Johnny Simonson carried the puck behind the net, he centered to linemate Joel Janatuinen before the Finnish freshman scored his second goal of the weekend.
That quick second goal of the night opened the floodgates.
“I didn’t mind our start,” CC coach Mike Haviland said. “But I didn’t like how after they (first) scored, we kind of stopped playing a little bit, and then the next thing you know, it’s goal-goal.
“It’s not the end of the world when one goes in, and I thought we started OK tonight, but (UND) always comes strong in that first period and they got their goals they needed, and it would’ve been nice to maybe get one in the first to get us some momentum.”
Nehama conceded another two goals before giving way to backup Derek Shatzer at the start of the second period. Haviland was asked after the game how far Nehama was from full fitness.
“I can say a long ways from 100 percent,” Haviland said. “I’m going to say a long, long way. He went in there and gave us everything he could, and we just had our trainer get him ready, and (Nehama) decided he wanted to (start), so you’ve got to like that as a coaching staff, but it’s a tough decision to start him tonight, to be honest with you, but he battled and that’s what you ask for in your kids.”
UND defenseman Hayden Shaw picked up his second goal of the season and weekend at 13:36 of the first period before Drake Caggiula made it 4-0 with 5.7 seconds left in the same frame.
The Hawks’ top line of Caggiula, Schmaltz, and Brock Boeser picked up a combined seven points in the first period. Schmaltz ended the game with a goal and three assists, while Boeser had three assists in the first period alone.
UND upped its lead to 5-0 4:18 into the second period when Austin Poganski took a centering feed from linemate Rhett Gardner. CC effectively canceled that last Hawks’ tally out when Matt Hansen put a power-play goal past UND goaltender Cam Johnson with 1:43 left before the second intermission.
During UND’s current eight-game winning streak, the Hawks have outscored their opponents 37-12. On Saturday, the Hawks (30-5-3) notched a 30th win of the season for the first time since 2011.
CC wrapped up its 2015-16 season with a 6-29-1 record.
UND will take part in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff next weekend in Minneapolis, but the idea isn’t to stop there.
“There’s a fine line between keep playing and going home,” Berry said, “and we want to keep playing until mid-April here.”