- Associated Press - Friday, February 17, 2017

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) - Four is the magic number for the North Dakota men’s hockey team and it didn’t come close to four goals against Western Michigan goalie Ben Blacker on Friday.

Blacker made 32 saves to lead the eighth-ranked Broncos to a 4-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference win over the Fighting Hawks.

“The boys played really hard today. We knew it was going to be a battle playing the defending national champion,” Black said. “The boys made the sacrifices, blocking pucks.”

WMU’s defense blocked 17 shots.

Sheldon Dries scored the game-winner late in the third period and Colt Conrad added an empty-netter for the Broncos (17-8-4, 10-8-1-0 NCHC) who beat UND for the first time ever at home.

UND dropped to 5-12-2 in games that it scores fewer than four goals. It is 10-0-1 when it reaches the four-goal mark.

“It was big, heavy, hard game tonight. . Not a lot of room,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “It was one of those games where you try to sustain momentum as long as you could. The guys battled hard.”

Conrad assisted on Neal Goff’s goal in the second period as WMU handed defending national champion UND (15-12-3, 8-10-1-0) its fifth loss in seven games.

Rhett Gardner had a short-handed goal and Cole Smith also scored for the Fighting Hawks.

UND goalie Cam Johnson made 37 saves but suffered his first loss (5-1-0) to Western Michigan.

The Broncos solidified their hold on third place in the NCHC, while the loss leaves UND in fifth place in the NCHC with five games remaining. The top four teams play at home in the first round of the conference playoffs, something UND has done 14 straight years.

UND got off to a good start. It not only killed off the only Western Michigan power play it faced in the first period, it scored a goal while doing so.

With just three seconds left in the power play, Gardner skated down the slot and took a feed from Trevor Olson along the right boards. Gardner quickly beat Blacker for a 1-0 lead at 18:30.

Western Michigan came right back in the second period to take a 2-1 lead.

Just 1:11 into the second period, Goff scored on a shot through traffic from the left point. UND goal Johnson was blocked from the shot.

At 5:58, Michael Rebry scored his second goal of the season - both against UND - to give the Broncos a 2-1 advantage. Rebry outmuscled Tucker Poolman to the puck in front of the net and stuck it under Johnson’s pads.

UND got the equalizer by Smith at 6:34 of the third. Ludvig Hoff made a diving pass to Smith coming in from the backside and Smith had an open net.

But the tie lasted just minutes before Dries scored for the Broncos. Dries took a long pass from Cam Lee and attacked the net. He pulled up to get Christian Wolanin out of position and beat Johnson with a wrister at 13:08.

Conrad’s goal at 18:30 of the third period was a backhanded slap that rolled into the UND net.

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