ST. CLOUD, Minnesota — North Dakota's late season surge has it on the verge of winning the first Penrose Cup.
Connor Gaarder scored twice in a five-goal second period to lead North Dakota over St. Cloud State 5-2 in a key National Collegiate Hockey Conference game Friday. UND is 15-2-1 in its last 18 games.
Brendan O'Donnell added three assists as 10th-ranked UND (19-9-3, 14-7-0) took over sole possession of first place with three games to play. Mark MacMillan, Luke Johnson and Drake Caggiula also scored for UND in the second period.
Eleven different UND players notched points in the second period.
"We didn't say a lot (between periods)," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "We had a pretty good first period and wanted to do a couple things better. You've got to get some garbage goals and we got some garbage in the second period."
North Dakota has already clinched home-ice advantage for the NCHC quarterfinals. It is the 12th straight year that UND will play at home in the playoffs.
UND goalie Zane Gothberg made 22 saves to extend his career-best unbeaten streak to 14 games (12-0-2). His last loss was on Nov. 16.
Joey Benik's power-play goal at 10:43 of the first period gave fifth-ranked St. Cloud State (18-8-5, 12-6-3) a 1-0 lead, and Kevin Gravel scored late in the third period. Benik set up to left of UND goalie Zane Gothberg and took a feed before scoring under Gothberg's pads.
The lead lasted until early in the second period when UND scored three times, including two goals in 50 seconds on carbon-copy plays for a 3-1 lead.
"I really like the first three goals," Hakstol said. "We found rebounds in tight."
Gaarder evened the score for UND when it caught St. Cloud State on a defensive change. Gaarder took a feed from O'Donnell at the top of the left circle and beat Faragher high over his left shoulder at 5:10.
Johnson scored on a rebound at 9:27 and MacMillan scored on a rebound at 10:17. On each play, the UND scorer was alone on the back side charging the net and put in rebounds.
Huskies goalie Ryan Faragher made 21 saves but was replaced at the start of the third period. Charlie Lindgren made eight saves in the third period.
St. Cloud State was 4-0-1 in its last five games against UND, including a sweep earlier this season in Grand Forks, North Dakota