CINCINNATI — The clock finally struck midnight on No. 9 Northeastern’s Cinderella story Friday afternoon.
A 20-1-2 run since mid-December and a Hockey East championship win propelled the Huskies to an NCAA tournament berth, but the No. 3 Fighting Hawks of North Dakota had other ideas.
NCAA Midwest Regional
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Nolan Stevens opened the scoring in the Midwest Regional’s matchup between the first and fourth seeds not much more than three minutes into the contest, the result of a Fighting Hawks defensive mishap. The goal was Stevens’s 30th point in his last 24 games, but it proved the extent of excitement for the Huskies fans that made the trip.
North Dakota recovered and went on a tear, outshooting Northeastern 29-15 over the first 40 minutes.
Johnny Simonson notched his third goal of the season — and first since October — for the Hawks on a rebound less than two minutes after the opening score.
Tucker Poolman gave them the lead about five minutes later, and Luke Johnson buried his 10th goal of the year on the power play to close out the first-period scoring.
“It was big for our team, going down 1-0 there,” Simonson said of his goal. “It was just a simple play and a great shot to the net by Keaton Thompson.”
The “CBS line” picked up where its teammates left off in the first when Bryn Chyzyk and Brock Boeser capped the 5-0 run for the Fighting Hawks not two minutes apart in the second stanza.
“[North Dakota] moved the puck really well,” Northeastern’s Mike McMurtry said of the opposition. “They moved it well with speed in transition. It’s nothing that we haven’t seen before, playing in the league we play in, but we didn’t do a very good job of executing tonight.”
The Huskies pushed back and even registered 11 shots on goal in the final frame, but Matt Benning’s lone strike in the first few minutes of the final frame wasn’t enough.
Drake Caggiula’s 20th goal of the year sufficed to hush the Huskies at the 12:15 mark, essentially ending the game.
It was a mixed bag for Northeastern’s Ryan Ruck, who allowed just 44 goals in his previous 23 outings. Although he allowed four of the first 20 shots on net to get past him, he achieved several acrobatic saves down the stretch to finish with 30 saves.
North Dakota’s Cam Johnson locked things down at the other end, turning aside 24 of 26 Huskies shots on goal.
Eleven Fighting Hawks players registered a point, and Boeser claimed a three-point afternoon. Nick Schmaltz and Keaton Thompson finished with multi-point games as well.
Northeastern’s magical run ended with a 22-14-5 final record, a successful entry into the record books considering its horrid start to the season.
“I’m very proud of our guys,” coach Jim Madigan said. “They battled all year long … and I’m just proud that they brought the coaching staff along for the ride. I couldn’t be more happy for them.”
North Dakota improved to 31-6-4 and will attempt to advance to its eighth Frozen Four in the last 12 years with a win in Saturday’s regional final.
“Now it’s time to get our guys back to the hotel and get a little bit of rest,” North Dakota coach Brad Berry said . “The coaches … are going to do a little pre-scouting to give our guys some information on the team we’re going to play. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go tomorrow.”