Dean Blais was in Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday night. He appeared on the brand new center-hung scoreboard and smiled about as wide as humanly possible.
Of course, he was enjoying it.
There were six goals scored in the first period alone, nine in total, the two goalies’ save percentages were a combined .827, one of them was pulled for an extra attacker at the end of the game and the University of North Dakota came away with a win.
Could there be a better tribute to the legendary UND coach?
In the most Dean Blais fashion possible, UND beat Miami 5-4 to secure a series sweep in a building that Blais helped get built.
It marked the ninth consecutive win in The Ralph for the Fighting Hawks — the second-longest streak since the building opened in 2001. UND is three home wins shy of matching the 12-straight home victories that spanned the 2016 NCAA national championship season and the one that followed.
Like Blais’s high-flying teams of the 1990s, UND’s sudden offensive resurgence continued Saturday night with two goals from junior Collin Adams and one each from Jasper Weatherby, Jordan Kawaguchi and Westin Michaud.
Kawaguchi had three points on the night and six on the weekend as the Fighting Hawks improved to 7-1-1.
“It’s nice to see the offense is clicking now,” said Adams, who has four goals on the year, doubling his total from a season ago. “I think it’s because we’re sticking to the process and knowing ourselves and making plays and burying on our chances.”
A year after offensive struggles constantly plagued UND, the Fighting Hawks are consistently racking up impressive offensive totals.
They have scored 39 goals this season, which ranks second nationally. The only team that has scored more goals is Providence (41).
Last season, UND didn’t score its 39th goal of the season until Dec. 1.
“I think it’s the habits and the details that each and every one of the guys are trying to drill down on,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “We’ve got a different group this year. Guys have taken as step, like the Kawaguchi, Adams and (Grant) Mismash line. We’ve got some good young players. We’ve got Michaud and (Shane) Pinto that’s come into our lineup here.
“So, we have some different personnel, but I think mostly, it’s just the mentality.”
The series finale wasn't all smooth.
UND, which had allowed just four goals in the last four games combined, gave up four to a Miami team that matched its season high in offensive output. Fighting Hawks goalie Adam Scheel (19 saves) entered the night with the best goals-against average in the country (1.35), but allowed two even-strength goals in the first period, one in the second and a power-play goal in the third.
"Our coverage was a little bit loose at certain times of both games," Berry said. "That's something we want to shore up. We'll go through video and watch a little bit more of it. That's our trademark: good defensive play in our system here in North Dakota. We have to make sure we're hitting on all cylinders next weekend here."
Things are about to get more difficult.
UND travels to No. 1-ranked Denver next weekend for a two-game series. A year ago, UND went 0-3-1 in Magness Arena and got swept out of the first round of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs there.
UND has only scored five goals in its last five games in Magness Arena, but this team has a different look to it.
"I think last year guys were holding their sticks a little tight," Weatherby said. "This year, we're just playing hockey. We've got a lot of good guys on the roster. Every night, we have a belief that the puck's going to go in the net. And if we work hard, good things happen."
UND has played four two-game series so far this season, earning sweeps in three of them. The Fighting Hawks have reached the 12-goal mark in two of those four weekends as well -- perfectly to Blais's liking.
"I thought that was so cool that they had him on the Jumbotron," Berry said. "They had him up there to recognize him. That's a way to show him respect. He's one of the cornerstones of this program."
UND 5, Miami 4
First period — 1. UND, Collin Adams 3 (Jordan Kawaguchi 9, Colton Poolman 5) 3:28; 2. MIA, Ryan Savage 2 (John Sladic 2, Bray Crowder 3) 4:52; 3. UND, Jasper Weatherby 2 (Westin Michaud 3, Matt Kiersted 6) 10:20 (pp); 4. MIA, Phil Knies 2 (Monte Graham 2) 12:00; 5. UND, Kawaguchi 3 (Grant Mismash 3, Poolman 6) 15:40; 6. UND, Michaud 5 (Harrison Blaisdell 5, Jacob Bernard-Docker 7) 15:51
Second period — 7. Adams 4 (Kawaguchi 10, Andrew Peski 3) 7:50; 8. MIA, Chaz Switzer 1 (Graham 3, Gordie Green 6) 9:47
Third period — 9. MIA, Derek Daschke 2 (Savage 1, Green 7) 12:15 (pp)
Penalties — Crowder, MIA, hooking, 8:55 first; Bench minor, UND, too many on ice, 12:49 first; Blaisdell, UND, high sticking, 19:29 first; Switzer, MIA, slashing, 10:11 second; Chase Pletzke, MIA, slashing, 12:47 second; Brian Hawkinson, MIA, tripping, 15:18 second; Ethan Frisch, UND, cross-checking, 17:41 second; Mark Senden, UND, tripping, 19:18 second; Graham, MIA, tripping, :17 third; Gavin Hain, UND, boarding major, 7:12 third; Cole Smith, UND, tripping, 11:10 third; Rourke Russell, MIA, tripping, 20:00 third
Goalie saves — UND: Adam Scheel 7-6-6 — 19; MIA: Ryan Larkin 10-12-2 — 24
Penalties-minutes — UND 6-15, MIA 6-12
Power plays — UND 1-5, MIA 1-6
Attendance — 10,775
Referees — Ryan Hersey and Joe Sullivan
Linesmen — Andy Dokken and Mike Eslinger