DULUTH, Minn. — Northern Minnesota does not have its own amusement park, but that didn’t keep the people attending the weekend non-conference series between Minnesota-Duluth and No. 15 Rensselaer from riding a roller-coaster. The two-game set concluded Saturday night with UMD winning another come-from-behind, see-saw battle, 6-5, to sweep the series.
Evan Schwabe scored the game-winner on the power play just over a minute into the third period. Mark Carlson set up the play with a nice pass from the left faceoff circle that found Schwabe all alone in the slot, and Schwabe finished the play with a wrist shot past RPI goaltender Kevin Kurk.
“The thing that most impressed me tonight was that guys elevated their play,” said Bulldog head coach Scott Sandelin, who was also impressed by Schwabe’s winning goal.
“It was a great pass by Carly, with a guy goin’ to the net with his stick down. It wasn’t your typical power-play goal.”
It also wasn’t your typical game, especially in the second period when each team combined to score eight goals during the 20-minute span, and failed to have a shot go off-target. Every second period shot either went on goal, in the net, or was blocked by a defender.
UMD’s effort was again led by Judd Medak, as the Bulldog captain fired in a goal and added three assists, giving him a total of seven points for the weekend.
“He’s been consistent from day one,” said Sandelin.
“He’s been our best forward, he wears the ‘C’, he’s been our leader, he’s stepped it up.”
His linemate, Jon Francisco also stepped up with two goals in Saturday’s game, and four points on the weekend.
RPI’s effort was led by Marc Cavosie, who registered three assists. He blames a lack of concentration for the loss.
“We came out determined to play our game, but we lost our focus,” said Cavosie.
“[In the second period] we didn’t play our system, and that allowed them some breathing room.”
Special teams again played a major role. UMD converted two of its five power-play opportunities, while RPI scored three on six attempts.
However, Saturday night’s game didn’t start out looking like an offensive showcase. The two teams began with little offensive pressure during the first half of the opening period with only one shot-on-goal coming on the first three power-play situations. Then RPI took control when UMD took a bad penalty with less than three minutes to go.
Neil Petruic was whistled for interference on a play at his own blue line at the 17:37 mark. The Engineers wasted little time, as Nolan Graham scored just nine seconds later on a wrist shot that went through Rob Anderson’s pads.
That goal got the wheel’s of the roller-coaster turning. RPI took advantage of another UMD penalty early in the second period to make it 2-0. A too many men on the ice call set up Matt Murley’s goal. Murley sent in his fourth goal of the season when the puck popped out in his direction from the middle of a scramble in front of the Bulldog net.
UMD started to turn things around less than two minutes later. A scramble in front of the RPI net resulted in a loose puck swatted in by Tyler Brosz, to make it 2-1. That was followed by Medak’s goal, just 18 seconds later. The captain fired in a one-timer from the bottom of the right face off circle after a nice pass from the left point by Petruic.
A series of penalties then seemed to slow things down for a bit. RPI even had a 5-on-3 advantage for a short time, but it was lowered to a 4-on-3 when Eric Cavosie was caught hooking Beau Geisler in the neutral zone. UMD killed off the remaining time on that power play then went to work on its own.
Francisco netted his first goal of the night after taking in a pass from Medak as the two skated toward the RPI goal. It was 4-2 just 1:26 later when Nick Anderson batted in his first goal of the year when he knocked a rebound out of mid-air past Kurk.
The scenario reflected what happened on Friday night. The Engineers went from being up by a certain amount, to being down by a the same amount within just a matter of minutes.
“The wheels fell off,” said RPI head coach Dan Fridgen.
“We get a two-man advantage and then again we’re in the penalty box, I thought that was the turning point.”
And like Friday night, RPI responded by tying the game again. They made it 4-3 about a minute after Anderson’s goal on the power play. A Cavosie shot from the right point deflected wide, then caromed off the end boards directly to Graham, who jammed the puck into a wide open net.
Cavosie then set up the tying goal. Skating in on a 2-on-2, the junior center slipped a smooth backhand pass through the slot to Steve Munn. Munn then fired the puck past Anderson on the stick side.
But UMD would get the advantage of one more loop on the roller-coaster before the period was over. Jon Francisco scored the game’s most controversial goal with 1:01 remaining. Francisco fired a shot that Kurk got a piece of, but the puck sat in the crease and Medak ended up knocking it in the net with his skate. The referee ruled it was inadvertently pushed into the net, and allowed the goal to stand giving the Bulldogs a 5-4 lead going into the final period.
Then came Schwabe’s eventual game-winner at the 1:08 mark of the third. Murley tacked on one more for RPI at 8:35, but Duluth held on the rest of the way to send most of the 3,542 people at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center home happy.
As for RPI, it continued its road woes against WCHA opponents. The Engineers have not beaten a WCHA team on the road since 1988. The loss lowers its overall record to 1-3. Rensselaer will return to action Nov. 9 when it opens its ECAC schedule at Colgate.
Meanwhile UMD continued its dominance against non-conference foes. The Bulldogs are 4-2 with all four victories coming outside of the WCHA. Duluth will visit Alaska-Anchorage for two WCHA games next weekend.