BUFFALO, N.Y. — North Dakota entered the weekend a perfect 26-0-0 against teams currently in Atlantic Hockey.
That run started in 1966 with a win over Army in St. Paul.
It stayed alive with a come-from-behind win over Niagara in the 2013 NCAA tournament and it survived an overtime game with Air Force in 2014.
But that perfect mark came to a stunning end in downtown Buffalo on Friday night, when UND lost to Canisius College 3-1 in front of 1,511 fans in HarborCenter.
ICYMI | The #Griffs defeated No. 13 North Dakota last night thanks to this goal from senior Cameron Heath!— Canisius Hockey (@GriffsHockey) January 5, 2019
Game two of the series is tonight at 7:35 p.m. @Harborctr
Tickets are still available. They can be purchased by visiting https://t.co/AJWjnvardC or calling 716-888-TIXX pic.twitter.com/djLYvUfT6H
Canisius defenseman Cameron Heath broke a 1-1 tie early in the third on a perfectly executed three-on-one rush, while Golden Griffins netminder Blake Weyrick held off an onslaught of shots in the third period to preserve the upset victory.
Weyrick stopped 32 of 33 shots in the game, including all 17 in the third. The only time UND managed to get a puck past him was when Mark Senden scored shorthanded in the second period.
"It's not a good feeling," UND senior center Rhett Gardner said. "We're sick of splitting, especially out of conference. That's a huge loss for us. It's going to make it a lot harder on ourselves the rest of the year. We have to learn from it, come back tomorrow and make that our last hiccup of the year."
The loss could haunt UND in the Pairwise Rankings, which are used to select the NCAA tournament field. The Fighting Hawks (9-8-1) dropped four spots to No. 20 on Friday night and will need to string together wins down the stretch to avoid missing the NCAA tournament two years in a row for the first time since 1995 and 1996.
"It's pretty hard for the Pairwise," UND captain Colton Poolman said. "But it's still January. It's hard, but you've just got to think about tomorrow's game. It's hard not to think about (the Pairwise), but we have to turn the page."
UND coach Brad Berry said: "Obviously, it pushes us back a little bit here, but the biggest thing for us is making sure we go through the process of doing the things it takes to win a game. That will take care of the 'W' column, and that will take care of the Pairwise. It's one of those things where we're looking at it (the Pairwise) all the time, but we have to make sure we do the right things to give us a chance to win."
Turning possession and attempts into goals continued to be a problem for the Fighting Hawks. In six of their eight losses this season, UND has outshot its opponent by more than 10 shots.
"I've stopped going by shots right now," Poolman said. "I'm going by goals. We all have to do the same, too."
UND entered the weekend a perfect 7-0-0 all-time against Canisius and it had outscored the Golden Griffins a combined 41-5 in those games.
But Canisius had long anticipated this series — UND's first-ever trip to an Atlantic Hockey team's home venue. The game was nearly sold out, and the day before the game, Canisius coach Trevor Large said he felt his team was ready for No. 13 UND.
"It's obviously a big win for the program," Large said. "It's great for the Canisius community. It was an electric night, a special moment for our guys. I loved how we played. I thought we played together and hard all night."
The Fighting Hawks played a lackluster first period and never led the entire game.
"I just didn't think we were ready to go," Gardner said. "I thought we weren't very sharp in the first period, we took some penalties, they capitalized, and then we chased the game. Against a team like that, a hard, heavy team, that's a tough team to chase a game against."
Canisius opened the scoring with a power-play goal with just 1:39 left in the first period, when top-line left wing David Parrottino re-directed a Dylan McLaughlin point shot five-hole on UND goalie Adam Scheel (11 saves).
UND finally evened it with 3:08 left in the second period when Nick Jones set up Senden on top of the crease for a shorthanded goal.
But Canisius quickly grabbed the lead again early in the third, when UND got caught attacking the net in the offensive zone and the Golden Griffins had a two-on-one rush that turned into a three-on-one. Heath eventually finished a tic-tac-toe passing play as the trailer. That's all Weyrick needed to finish off the win.
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Canisius brought new goalie Matt Ladd to campus over Christmas break to compete for the starting job, but since then, Weyrick has made two statement starts.
Facing top-15 teams in Union and UND, Weyrick has stopped 74 of 77 shots (.961) and is 1-0-1.
The teams finish their two-game series at 6:35 p.m. Saturday in HarborCenter. It is UND's final nonconference game of the regular season.
"It's a very disappointing, obviously, the result we had tonight," Berry said. "It's one of those things where we have to turn the page, we have to get better in a few different areas tomorrow and we have to get going. We have to have more of a full-time attitude here."
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This article is written by Brad Elliott Schlossman from Grand Forks Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.