Minnesota Duluth was the last team to defeat North Dakota in 2015-16, and now the Bulldogs are the first to derail the defending NCAA champions in 2016-17.
Alex Iafallo had a lot to do with the latter.
The senior left winger scored three times and assisted on another goal in No. 2 UMD's 5-2 home takedown of top-ranked North Dakota on Friday night in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference opener for both clubs. Iafallo picked up one goal in each of the three periods to become the first Bulldog to record a hat trick since current Tampa Bay Lightning winger J.T. Brown put up a four-spot on Alaska Anchorage on Feb. 3, 2012. The Bulldogs, who never trailed the entire night, improved to 4-1-2 overall while North Dakota, which lost for only the second time in eight lifetime visits to AMSOIL Arena fell to 5-1-0.
The Bulldogs built a 3-0 lead, sandwiching two of Iafallo's goals between sophomore center Adam Johnson's fifth tally of the season, before the Fighting Hawks began chipping away, striking twice within a two-minute span late in the second period. Sophomore defenseman Neal Pionk put UMD up 4-2 at 8:32 of the third period on a power-play bomb from the high slot, and Iafallo then sealed the triumph with an empty netter with 28.6 seconds to go in regulation.
"It's a great feeling, especially — and most importantly — getting the win," said Iafallo, who now has five goals in 2016-17. "It felt good to beat these guys because they are the defending champs."
UMD rookie netminder Hunter Miska, in his fourth collegiate start, made 24 saves to stay unbeaten this season (3-0-0) and played a big part in holding North Dakota to just one goal in six power-play opportunities. His counterpart, Cam Johnson, made 33 stops — including 12 in the first period when the Fighting Hawks were outshot 13-5
Watch a condensed version of the Friday night game between U... https://t.co/MQcYKltkTb— North Dakota MHockey (@UNDmhockey) October 29, 2016
"We got that first goal then build off it," said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. "North Dakota got some life with those two quick goals in the second, but our guys came out and played a good third period."
The two teams will meet again on Saturday night at AMSOIL Arena.
Notes: Adam Johnson, who also had an assist Friday, has collected at least one point in all seven games to date ... The Bulldogs have won eight of their last nine home games going back to last March ... Alex Iafallo, who set a career-high with his four-point night, has five goals on the season ... UMD matched a 2016-17 single-game best by blocking 18 shots ... Friday marked the first time in its 73-year history the Bulldogs hosted a No. 1 and No. 2 confronation ... The Bulldogs are 61-1-6 in the last 68 games they've struck for more than three goals ... UMD hasn't swept North Dakota since the 1994-95 season and hasn't done so in Duluth since 1992-93.