Hunter Miska did something no University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldog had ever done -- and so did his teammates -- Saturday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The rookie netminder turned aside all 29 shots the University of North Dakota fired his way en route to becoming the first Bulldog to shut out the Fighting Hawks twice. At the other end of the rink, four different UMD scored and that 4-0 National Collegiate Conference triumph completed the Bulldogs' first four-game regular season sweep of North Dakota in program history.
"Our guys were firing on all cylinders tonight," said Miska, who blanked North Dakota 3-0 back on Oct. 28 in Duluth. "We played a great 200-foot game and I thought all 20 guys really contributed."
Sophomore right winger Adam Johnson gave the No. 4 Bulldogs all of the scoring they would need at 2:54 of the first period when he pounced on a puck near the left faceoff dot that had caromed off North Dakota defenseman Hayden Shaw's skate and blasted in a one-time for his career-high 10th goal of the season. Senior defenseman Willie Raskob, who has put up his best career numbers against the Fighting Hawks (12 of his 48 career points have come at their expense), tacked on a power play goal later in that period to make it 2-0. Following a scoreless second period in which No. 8 North Dakota outshot the visitors 14-6, senior center Dominic Toninato took advantage of a Fighting Hawk turnover by parlaying into his sixth lifetime shorthanded score 2:07 into the third. With a little under seven minutes to go in regulation, rookie left winger Riley Tufte, who scored twice in UMD's 5-3 triumph Friday night, sealed the deal with a wicked wrister from the low slot for the Bulldogs' third unassisted goal of the evening.
The shut out for Miska, who improved to 14-4-2 on the year, was his UMD-freshman record fourth of the season -- but first on the road. The school record for overall shutouts in one year is five, shared by Kasimir Kaskisuo (2015-16), Alex Stalock (2008-09) and Brant Nicklin (1997-98). Prior to tonight, North Dakota had not been held scoreless since March 21, 2014 (3-0 to Miami University in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinals) and was last shut out at home on Oct. 28, 2011 (4-0 to St. Cloud State University).
"I thought we did a good job managing the puck and that we were more consistent over the three periods," said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. "Obviously Hunter had some big saves, but everyone was on again tonight."
UMD, which owns a program-best five game winning streak against North Dakota, will take its final break from 2016-17 NCHC warfare next weekend when it competes in the North Star College Cup at St. Paul's Excel Energy Center. The Bulldogs and long-time intrastate rival University of Minnesota will meet in one first-round clash on Friday (Jan. 27) with St. Cloud State University and Bemidji State University colliding in the other.