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Perhaps the most intriguing matchup among the non-tournament games on New Year’s Eve was a non-conference battle between No. 8 North Dakota and No. 10 Union.
The game marked the first meeting between two of the past three national champions – North Dakota won in April, while Union triumphed in 2014 – and it didn’t disappoint.
The long trek to Schenectady, N.Y., did little to phase North Dakota, which defeated the Dutchmen, 3-1.
Despite the Fighting Hawks having a longer holiday layoff, they needed just 11 seconds to score the first goal.
Rhett Gardner skated around the net, feeding Austin Poganski from the corner. Poganski fought off a defender in front of the crease to fire it home.
Union had two excellent opportunities in the second period to tie it, but it couldn’t convert on a breakaway and it fanned on a crossing pass during a power play with the weak side of the net wide open.
Early in the third, a similar play gave North Dakota a 2-0 lead. Poganski fought off a defender in the corner with a hard check and passed the loose puck to the front, where Shane Gersich collected it and easily put it past Alex Sakellaropoulos.
Union’s heavy pressure finally paid off with 2:41 left in the game. Off a faceoff deep in North Dakota’s zone, the puck was fed back to the left point by Ryan Scarfo. From there, J.C. Brassard’s slap shot was deflected in by Spencer Foo. The goal extended Foo’s points streak to 18 games.
The Fighting Hawks sealed the win with an empty-net goal by Polanski, who shot the puck off the boards deep in his own zone.
Cam Johnson made 32 saves for the win while Sakellaropoulos stopped 26.
The rest of Saturday’s non-tournament games included three league matches and three shutouts.
Air Force 3, at Sacred Heart 2
Air Force completed an Atlantic Hockey sweep over Sacred Heart by scoring three goals for the second day in a row. The Falcons fell behind 2-1 after two periods before Kyle Haak and Erik Baskin scored in the first 4:34 of the final period. Shane Starrett made made 14 saves for Air Force, which outshot the Pioneers, 30-16.
Holy Cross 3, Canisius 0
Friday, Canisius shut out Holy Cross, 3-0. Saturday, Holy Cross returned the favor by the same score to earn the series split. Paul Berrafato made 18 saves for the whitewash. Danny Lopez, Scott Pooley, and Mitch Collett scored.
No. 15 Bemidji State 1, at Alaska Anchorage 0
Bemidji State managed just a single goal for the second day in a row, but the Beavers overcame Alaska Anchorage to earn a series split thanks to Michael Bitzer’s 17-save shutout. Leo Fitzgerald scored the only goal at 12:24 of the first period. Neither team scored on a combined 10 power-play opportunities.
Providence 3, No. 2 Denver 1
Providence took three of four points from the weekend series against Denver. The teams traded second-period, power-play goals before Josh Wilkins scored 1:16 into the third on a power play and Conor McPhee scored the clincher with 5:40 to go. Hayden Hawkey stopped 21 shots for the Friars, who outshot the Pioneers, 36-22.
Miami 6, at No. 9 Ohio State 3
After falling behind 2-0 and 3-2, Miami reeled off four consecutive goals in 4:52 span of the third period to defeat Ohio State. Kiefer Sherwood scored twice in 53 seconds in between goals by Gordie Green and Scott Dornbrock (empty netter). Mason Jobst had a goal and an assist for the Buckeyes, who were outshot, 29-15.
No. 13 Vermont 3, Bentley 1
Trey Phillips and Jarrid Privitera scored third-period goals to break a 1-1 deadlock as Vermont completed a sweep of Bentley. Mike Santaguida made 17 saves for the Catamounts, who allowed just one goal each game. Freshman goalie Aidan Pelino made 43 saves for the Falcons.
No. 12 Notre Dame 5, Alaska 0
Cal Petersen made 34 saves for the shutout, and Dylan Malmquist scored the first and last goals for Notre Dame in the first game of the series. Cam Morrison, Andrew Oglevie and Cal Burke also struck for the Fighting Irish, who went 2 for 5 on the power play. The teams will play again Sunday.
No. 20 Omaha 5, Lake Superior State 3
Omaha needed a furious third-period rally to sweep visiting Lake Superior State. The Mavericks scored all five of their goals after falling behind 2-0 after two periods. Max Humitz (first period) and Luke Morgan (second) staked the Lakers to that lead before Omaha tied it in the third goals by David Pope and Tristan Keck. Collin Saccoman put Lake Superior ahead again on a 5-on-3 power play with 9:17 to play before UNO’s offense erupted. Twenty-three seconds later, Jordan Klehr made it 3-3 with a short-handed. Exactly four minutes later, Tyler Vesel gave Omaha the lead for good. Austin Ortega, who had assisted on Klehr’s and Vesel’s goals, clinched it with an empty netter.