OMAHA, Neb. -- Grant Mismash did his share of procrastinating Saturday.
He waited until the very end to deliver his game-winning goal against Minnesota Duluth in Baxter Arena. The University of North Dakota senior forward re-directed a point shot from Jacob Bernard-Docker past Bulldog goalie Ryan Fanti with just 48.8 seconds left to give the Fighting Hawks a critical 2-1 win in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Pod.
Mismash then rushed back to the team's Aksarben Village hotel to beat the buzzer again.
"I still have to go back to the hotel and write a 10-page paper," he said after the game. "Today's the last day.
"Obviously, I procrastinated until the last second."
That method worked out just fine on the ice.
Mismash's fourth goal of the season gave the Fighting Hawks a regular-season series win over Minnesota Duluth (1-0-1). The two teams, who entered Saturday's game ranked No. 3 (Bulldogs) and No. 4 (Fighting Hawks) nationally, do not play the rest of the regular season.
Just when it appeared like the game was headed for overtime like the first meeting between the teams in the Pod, UND forward Collin Adams dug the puck off the wall and sent it back to Bernard-Docker at the point. The junior defenseman blasted one to the high slot, where Mismash perfectly executed the tip.
"Honestly, I'm still trying to process it," Mismash said. "It was a back-and-forth game, not much going on. Jacob got it at the point and I just didn't want to get tied up in front of the net. They do a good job of fronting and blocking shots, so I figured if I could get in front of that D-man and get a stick on it, there would be a good chance of it going in. I was lucky enough it went in.
"I didn't know how much time was left. We were just playing and I didn't realize there were only like 40 seconds left."
UND's Pod experience may not have been exactly conventional considering the odd start times, the frequency of games and the inability to fill out a full lineup due to injuries and players gone at the World Junior Championship.
But UND will close out the Pod at 8:05 p.m. Sunday night against Miami with a chance to leave Omaha in first place.
"We talked about that after the game right away," UND coach Brad Berry said. "You want to make sure you enjoy this game for about 10 or 15 minutes, get your bodies healed and rested for tomorrow, but mentally turn the page.
"I think what you see going on in this Pod or bubble is when there's a big emotional game or emotional win, sometimes, there's a situation where there's a game where there's a little bit of a letdown mentally being ready for that (next) game by the team that won. We want to make sure that doesn't happen. That's human nature a little bit. But we've got to get dialed in right away."
The Fighting Hawks (6-2-1) won their third-straight game, despite navigating injuries and final exams this week.
Defenseman Ethan Frisch returned to the lineup Saturday afternoon to give UND six blue liners for the first time in a week. Forward Judd Caulfield was back, though in a limited role. He alternated shifts with Carson Albrecht on right wing of the fourth line.
"We pointed those guys out in the locker room after the game," Berry said. "When we desperately needed guys to come in the lineup, they both dug in and helped us out immensely today with a lot of good, hard shifts. That's a big deal. Guys see that. That's a big boost in the arm for all of us here."
Captain Kawaguchi's words
Scoring the first goal of the game has been critical for UND, which is now 5-0-0 when getting the first one and 1-2-1 when it doesn't.
It got the first goal Saturday thanks to a power-play tally by Adams in the second period.
Defenseman Matt Kiersted and forward Jordan Kawaguchi moved the puck around the outside of the zone to Adams, who was stationed along the goal line. Adams walked it a step and whipped a puck inside the far post on Fanti for his third goal of the season with 6:45 left in the second.
The Bulldogs made a big push at the start of the third, creating traffic in front of UND goalie Adam Scheel (23 saves). It eventually paid off when captain Noah Cates buried a rebound of a Luke Mylymok shot at 7:12.
UND regrouped immediately after the goal. The Bulldogs had just one shot on goal in the final 12:48. They were unable to pull Fanti (17 saves) for the extra attacker at the end.
"Jordan Kawaguchi did a really good job tonight, I thought, on the bench," Berry said. "During one of the media timeouts, he grabbed the team right away after the 10-minute mark. Duluth made a big push in the first part of the third period. He goes, 'Hey, we've got this. We can make plays. Let's get back to our game and let's close this thing out.' The words of encouragement coming from a player resonates with the rest of the bench. I thought he did a good job of leading our team."
The Bulldogs left the Pod with a 5-2-2 record and 18 points in the NCHC standings. They will make up a game against Colorado College later in the season.
UND is 6-2-1 with 17 points in the standings. The Fighting Hawks will drive back to Grand Forks overnight Sunday.
"We've got to turn the page and go tomorrow," Berry said. "Have one more 60-minute game -- hopefully it's a 60-minute game -- and then everybody gets to take a breath physically and mentally here."