DULUTH, Minn. — Rob Anderson waited patiently and found that patience can indeed be a virtue. Minnesota-Duluth’s junior netminder made his first start in goal in nearly a month Friday night, and it resulted in a stellar 43-save performance that led his Bulldogs to a 4-2 victory over Alaska-Anchorage.
Evan Schwabe scored what turned out to be the game-winner late in the second period, while Jon Francisco added three assists, as the Bulldogs (9-17-1, 2-14-1 WCHA) collected their first home conference victory.
The win snaps a three-game losing streak for UMD, while UAA saw its four-game road unbeaten streak end.
Anderson saw pucks flying in several different directions and was making saves in a variety of ways, especially in the last minute. With his team up by a goal, Anderson made four saves in about a 10 second span, all of which came from within about ten feet in front of him.
Anderson’s strategy: Get in front of the puck.
“Do whatever you can, get big, throw things,” quipped Anderson. “It doesn’t matter, just stop it, make sure it doesn’t go in the net.”
It was Anderson’s first start since Dec. 29, when he was pulled in the middle of a UMD loss to Boston College. Adam Coole started between the pipes in the six games in between.
Anderson says during that time, he tried to stay as positive as he could.
“You just gotta be workin’ hard, there’s not a lot you can do,” said Anderson. “Just come to practice early, stay late, work extra hard, and I think it paid off tonight.”
UMD saw continuous offensive pressure from UAA (7-11-5, 6-9-4 WCHA) throughout the night, as the Seawolves outshot the Bulldogs 45-25. That statistic gave Anchorage head coach John Hill something positive to take from the game.
“I’m pleased with the way we played,” said Hill.
“Certainly, you get the number of scoring opportunities we do, you can’t be unhappy with your play, and I’m really not.”
Yet it was Duluth that managed to bury its chances during the first two periods. The Bulldogs built up a rare 3-0 lead over the opening 40 minutes.
The scoring started halfway through the opening session. Judd Medak took a breakout pass from Junior Lessard at center ice and swept toward the right side as he crossed the Anchorage blue line. Medak then worked a back hand shot from the right face-off circle that bounced off goaltender Kevin Reiter’s right leg pad and into the net’s upper left hand corner.
UMD made it 2-0 early in the second period through one of its most effective tools of the season — the power play. With Dallas Steward in the box serving a minor boarding penalty, Francisco and Tom Nelson connected in setting up Andy Reierson’s goal at the 2:21 mark. Reierson’s rocket from the point appeared to deflect off of a defender and then through Reiter’s legs.
That goal was followed by Schwabe’s goal with five minutes left in the second. The freshman pounced on a rebound of a shot by Tyler Brosz that appeared to pull Reiter out of position. It was Schwabe’s sixth goal of the season.
The Bulldogs finished 1-for-2 with the extra man. The team’s power play continues to click at 23.7%, good enough for ninth in the country.
On the other hand, UAA maintains some problems with the man advantage. Anchorage failed to score on all three of its opportunities, two of which came at critical points of the game. UAA’s power play sits at second to last in the WCHA.
“We get set up and we move the puck around all right, but we have a hard time getting shots to the net and we don’t seem to pounce on rebounds,” said Hill.
“You hope it can come up big for you, especially during the five or six minute mark of the third period, but I don’t fault the guys. I thought they got set up and we had some good looks, we just didn’t capitalize.”
Anderson could be blamed for keeping the Seawolves scoreless with the extra man. As Michael Miskovich served a two-minute penalty for interference at 7:04 of the second, the junior netminder whipped out his glove hand to snag Gregg Zaporzan’s shot from the right face-off circle that seemed destined for the upper right-hand corner. On another power-play in the third period, Anderson used the same glove to deny Vladimir Novak’s shot from the left face-off circle.
Anchorage started its comeback in between those two saves. Moments after being denied a second time on a point-blank shot, Zaporzan found the net with a little help from Anderson. The senior winger scored an unassisted goal when his shot from behind the right extended goal line deflected off the back of Anderson’s leg and into the net, to make it 3-1 at 9:25 of the third.
The Seawolves continued massive offensive pressure, outshooting UMD 24-7 during the game’s final 20 minutes. They narrowed the gap to one when Zaporzan and Steve Cygan connected to set up Mike Scott in the slot, who ripped a shot past Anderson’s glove hand with only 3:38 left to play.
“I think they came out with a lot of fire and we kinda watched,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin of the third period. “We were very tentative and they were hungrier with the puck and we weathered that with some saves, and got some breaks, finally.”
If things started to look familiar to UMD at this point, it’s with good reason. The Bulldogs saw a similar lead against Alaska-Anchorage evaporate in a game in Anchorage earlier this season. The Seawolves wound up tying that game with 10 seconds left and winning in overtime. It was one of three comebacks UAA staged in the final minute this season.
Yet Anderson was up to the task, holding off the onslaught of last-minute shots as Anchorage played with a sixth attacker. His cover with 39 seconds left set up the faceoff that led to Duluth’s final goal, an empty-netter from Nelson with just 30 ticks left on the clock.
Going into this weekend, Sandelin had planned on starting Anderson and Adam Coole an equal amount over the remaining 12 games. Sandelin says he’s sticking to that, but wouldn’t tip his hand as to who would start Saturday’s rematch.