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Effort and determination for No. 8 Western Michigan helped it surge past visiting No. 13 North Dakota, 4-2, in a see-saw affair on Friday, Feb. 17, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The triumph was the Broncos’ first win at home in program history over the storied Fighting Hawks.

“To have any success in our league and if you have any aspirations of moving on, you’ve got to go through North Dakota,” said Broncos coach Andy Murray. “They’re a tremendous team and program and bring out the best in people. If you don’t play your best, you’re in trouble.”

Broncos three-year captain Sheldon Dries, who entered the game plus-6 for the season, scored the game-winner for the hosts on a snap shot goal assisted by defenseman Cam Lee at 13:08 of the third period. Teammate Colt Conrad iced it with an empty-netter at 18:30 from his knees at the far blue line.

“We talked about keywords for every player today,” said Murray. “We had one word that identified what we needed out of them tonight. Sheldon, by his number, we had the word ‘motor.’ That’s why he wears the ‘C.'”

The Broncos had difficulty early on being able to set up in the Fighting Hawks’ zone, but it seemed as if the hosts might be able to use a power play to break the scoreless stalemate, but North Dakota was able to grab a turnover and turn it into a two-on-one short-handed break with Rhett Gardner slotting the puck over the shoulder of Ben Blacker at 18:30 of the first to the far post on assists from Trevor Olson and Hayden Shaw.

Just a heartbeat into the second frame, Western Michigan defenseman Neal Goff blasted in his second goal of the year to tie the contest at 1:11 on an assist from forward Hugh McGing. The Broncos gained more momentum at 5:58 when center Michael Rebry stuffed home a five-hole goal on assists from wingers Aidan Muir and Frederik Tiffels. Western had held North Dakota inside of its own zone for well over a minute leading up to Rebry’s strike.

“It was a north-south game; a lot of physicality, a lot of speed — they played the game of hockey the way it should be played,” Murray said. “Just a lot of determination.”

Fighting Hawks forward Cole Smith tied it for the visitors at 6:34 into the third period on a backdoor feed from forward Ludvig Hoff and a secondary assist from forward Brock Boeser, who missed the first set of games between these two squads in Grand Forks back on Dec. 9-10. The Broncos had started the third period with an early power play as the Fighting Hawks’ Colton Poolman sat two minutes for holding at 3:02, but the guests were able to kill it off.

“If you lose games and you feel like you got dominated or you haven’t played well, that’s the thing that’s worrisome,” said Fighting Hawks coach Brad Berry. “What I think is frustrating now is just that we’ve been playing hard and not finding a way to get it closed out.”

NCHC roundup

No. 2 Denver 5, Miami 2
Defenseman and Hobey Baker nominee Will Butcher scored the game-winner for Denver tonight as the Pioneers defeated the Miami RedHawks, 5-2, at Steve Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio. Zach LaValle and Jared Brant scored in the third period for the hosts to tie things up at two apiece following second period goals by Dylan Gambrell and Troy Terry, but Butcher’s tally meant the difference. Gambrell’s second of the night and an empty-net goal from Emil Romig provided insurance for the Pioneers. Tanner Jaillet took the win in net with 18 saves, while his counterpart, Ryan Larkin, made 27 in the losing effort.

No. 1 Minnesota Duluth 2, Colorado College 1
Minnesota Duluth survived a third-period major penalty to Karson Kuhlman and got a late power-play goal from Adam Johnson to defeat Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Johnson’s game-winner was assisted by Alex Iafallo and Dominic Toninato. Iafallo became just the third active NCHC player with 100 points with the primary assist. Duluth’s Blake Young opened the scoring at 10:55 of the first and it was answered by CC’s Bryce Van Horn just 14 seconds shy of three minutes later. The difference-maker late for the visitors held up as the Tigers took a penalty for too many men at 18:21 of the third. Hunter Miska made 20 saves in net for the Bulldogs and Alex Leclerc collected 27 saves for CC.