GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota men’s hockey team is one game away from earning a trip back to the Twin Cities.
UND opened up a best-of-three first-round National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoff series with a 4-0 win over Nebraska-Omaha in front of 10,125 in Ralph Engelstad Arena on Friday.
UND will have a chance to reach the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center with a win in Game 2 tonight.
North Dakota, which has won 15 consecutive first-round series, used a goal from Shane Gersich in the first period and second-period goals by Christian Wolanin, Nick Jones and Joel Janatuinen to improve to 15-12-10.
In net, goalie Cam Johnson made 25 saves to shut out the Mavericks for the second time in 20 days.
UND opened up the scoring at 13:52 of the first period thanks to Colton Poolman and Gersich.
Poolman started the play in the neutral zone, turning the play up ice with speed. He hit Austin Poganski with a pass entering the zone and sprinted straight to the top of the crease. Poganski dropped it to Gersich, who snapped a shot through the screen.
UND added to the lead early in the second period, scoring on its first power-play chance of the game.
Moments after Rhett Gardner hit the crossbar with a shot, he got the puck back in the left circle and fed Wolanin at the top of the zone. Wolanin made a shoulder fake to get the defender out of the shooting lane, then ripped a shot off the post and in the net at 1:00.
Although UND had given up two-goal leads in five of the previous 11 games, the Fighting Hawks kept coming against the Mavericks.
UND’s Jones found himself on a one-on-one rush with UNO defender Ryan Jones after a Fredrik Olofsson pass caromed off of Hayden Shaw’s leg and out of the zone. Jones skated it to the circle, made a sharp turn toward the center of the ice to open up room and turn around Omaha’s Jones and snapped it under Evan Weninger’s arm at 12:39.
North Dakota extended it to 4-0 by the end of the second period when Janatuinen stole the puck from Omaha defender Joel Messner during a breakout, skated the puck in alone and snapped it past Weninger’s glove.