GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Friday night at Engelstad Arena, the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs and the Fighting Sioux of UND demonstrated the parity that exists in the WCHA this season. In game one of the teams’ first-round playoff series, tenth-seeded Duluth beat top seed UND 3-2 in a game plagued by poorly timed penalties and missed opportunities for the WCHA regular-season champion Sioux.
Duluth center Mark Gunderson scored the game-winner at 17:48 of the third period, breaking a 2-2 tie and sealing the game for Duluth. The goal came on a pass from Drew Otten that Gunderson flipped high over North Dakota netminder Karl Goehring for the goal.
First-period momentum swung to the Bulldogs, with UND catching up later; both clubs had little to show for their efforts, though a number of scoring opportunities for Duluth kept Goehring busy early.
Goehring would finish with 24 saves in the contest, and in the first period the UND goaltender turned away 13 shots, including two rushes that found him sprawled on his back. Duluth had numerous close shots and goalmouth scrums, but was stopped each time.
The Sioux also had chances on the odd-man rush. Duluth found UND blowing through the defense with trademark speed more than once, but was able to stymie the Sioux as Duluth goalie Rob Anderson, who had a 4.13 goals against average and a .889 save percentage record going into this weekend, saw the puck well, finding many shots that appeared to be screened.
Sioux forwards Jeff Panzer and Ryan Bayda both had open-net opportunities, only to have the shots go wide after being tied up by Duluth defensemen.
The second period featured a more physical style as both teams seemed frustrated at the missed opportunities. Still, in evidence was a lack of momentum that has been a staple of the UND offense this season.
“We got our goal in the second, but then we got into penalties. We need to keep four lines on the ice,” said David Lundbohm.
UND looked to open the scoring first, only to have the goal disallowed. Bryan Lundbohm, under tight Duluth coverage, tipped the puck in with a clenched hand. Referee Mike Schmitt whistled no goal however, and dashed North Dakota’s hopes of an early goal.
The hopes would not be dashed for long, however as the Sioux rebounded quickly. to score less than one minute later on a rush. David Lundbohm took a perfect pass from sophomore Jason Notermann and one-timed a hard shot past Anderson for the goal.
Play slowed down after that, however, and became noticeably rougher as the second period saw 11 penalties for a total of 38 penalty minutes. UND star and Hobey Baker candidate Panzer even took a rare undisciplined penalty when he chopped forward Judd Medak after being held down in the corner — Panzer then compounded matters by cross-checking Medak after the whistle. Ryan Bayda and Ryan Coole exchanged shoves on the play, and also received minors.
UND continued to be plagued by penalties, and at 8:44 of the period freshman Quinn Fylling was whistled for checking from behind when he took a Duluth forward Derek Derow into the boards along the corner. Quinn was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct, a penalty that would prove to be somewhat of a turning point in the game.
Duluth took advantage of the penalty at 12:17 of the period when Matt Mathias netted his third goal of the season to tie the game at one. The Duluth native buried a rebound from the corner for the tally. Ryan Holstol and Junior Lessard had assists on the effort.
Duluth struck again at 15:13 of the second, making the most of a weak UND offense. Senior Ryan Homstol tipped the shot past Goehring for the goal. Assists went to Mark Gunderson and Drew Otten.
Homstol played his 129th straight game as a Bulldog, and leads the team in career scoring.
The third period saw UND sophomore Ryan Bayda tie the game at 11:14 of Wes Dorey and Trevor Hammer assists. Bayda swung in on the doorstep and drove home a loose puck that dribbled free on a rebound.
That, however, only set up Gunderson’s winner.
“You don’t give up a goal with 2:30 left in playoff hockey,” said David Lundbohm.
UND seemed ill-prepared for the intensity of the Bulldogs, who played an emotional game to come up with the one-goal win.
“We just got beat, I guess — we battled hard, and have to come back tomorrow with a little better effort,” said Lundbohm.
“I think tonight we wanted it more. We did all the little things, and the little things get you big things like wins,” said Duluth’s Anderson.
The teams face off again Saturday night at 7:35, and on Sunday at 7:05 if necessary.