DULUTH, Minn. — Someone apparently forgot to tell Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota they sit in the bottom half of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings.
Both put on a top-rate show Friday night when ninth-place UMD captured a 3-2 victory over the eighth-place Fighting Sioux in front of 4,773 at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. Mark Carlson scored the game-winner for the Bulldogs with 8:52 remaining in the final period. It capped off a back and forth, hard-hitting, spirited affair that kept those in attendance at the edge of their seats much of the night.
Junior Lessard added a goal and an assist and Judd Medak also notched two assists in the Duluth (13-19-5 overall, 6-16-3 WCHA) victory, while Rob Anderson stopped 33 North Dakota (14-16-2 overall, 9-14-2 WCHA) shots to earn his ninth win of the year.
Andy Kollar made 32 saves for the Sioux in a losing effort, while North Dakota’s goals came from Ryan Bayda and Kevin Spiewak.
North Dakota would open up the scoring near the midway point of the opening period. The first goal came moments after the Sioux killed off UMD’s first power play of the night. In fact, it was the man who was responsible for creating that man-advantage opportunity who would do the damage.
Ryan Bayda exited the penalty box and received a pinpoint breakout pass across the neutral zone from Tim Skarperud. Bayda then broke in, deked to his left around Anderson and tucked it in behind the goaltender to make it 1-0, at the 8:56 mark.
North Dakota would retain that lead through the remainder of the period and finish the span with a 12-11 advantage in shots.
“The way that first period started, the pace of the game, they dictated it,” said Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin. “It was a pretty good pace, they had us back on our heels.”
Two power-play goals would give UMD its first lead of the game in the second period. The Bulldogs tied the game at the 2:38 mark when Lessard deflected in Medak’s shot from the blue line. That gave Lessard his team-leading 15th red-lighter of the season.
It became 2-1 on UMD’s next man-advantage situation. This time, Medak and Lessard would hook connect in setting up Tom Nelson, for Nelson’s 11th goal of the year. Medak set up the play when he skated through a maze of defenders in front of the North Dakota net and fired a shot that Kollar would save. Nelson then swatted in the rebound to give Duluth its first lead of the game at 13:56.
North Dakota would tie the game one more time 6:15 into the third period. The Sioux converted a 3-on-1 break after some nifty passing among two of the three players. Spiewak would trade the puck with Derek Faul before he fired the puck past Anderson from just below the right wing faceoff circle.
Both teams would follow with some strong offensive pressure that tested their respective goaltenders. Anderson would pass the toughest portion of his test — a one-timer Matt Jones beautifully set up with a centering pass from Brian Canady. Anderson followed the pass and blocked the puck with his midsection.
UMD would then gather the puck and send pressure the other way. Nelson would get a crack at his second goal when he re-directed a pass from the left wing boards toward Kollar, but the goaltender pokechecked the puck just enough to send it sailing over his net.
But UMD would not let up, and Carlson scored to make it 3-2 when he popped in a rebound of a shot from Jon Francisco at the 11:08 mark. Drew Otten also assisted on Carlson’s seventh goal of the season.
Sandelin says Anderson’s save played a key role in setting up UMD’s go-ahead goal.
“Big saves are like goals…those are momentum changers too,” said the second year head coach.
A Jay Hardwick penalty with 4:53 remaining would give North Dakota another shot at tying the game. But despite some strong offensive pressure, only one shot would make its way to Anderson during the two-minute man-advantage.
North Dakota finished without a goal in five extra-man situations. UMD, possessor of the nation’s eighth ranked power-play, converted two of its five chances.
The Fighting Sioux ended up pulling Kollar for a sixth attacker for the game’s final 1:23 and forced Anderson to make even more saves to preserve the victory. UMD ended up outshooting the Sioux 35-33.
North Dakota head coach Dean Blais says his team was victimized by missed opportunities.
“We had a chance tonight where a guy missed a wide-open net, he couldn’t get his stick on it,” said Blais. “Another player skated in, instead of getting his stick on the ice, he had his stick up by his waist, [otherwise] that’s a goal.”
Sandelin was also happy with how his team never seemed to give up after allowing a goal.
“It’s a good sign; earlier in the year we would score a goal and we’d turn it into one or two against,” said Sandelin. “There’s no panic on the bench, if the [opposing] team scores, we just try to get back on it.”
The win gives Sandelin his second victory since leaving North Dakota as an assistant following the 1999-2000 season to take the head coaching job in Duluth. He’ll go for his first sweep against his old team Saturday night.
North Dakota came into the weekend tied with Alaska-Anchorage for seventh place. However the Seawolves victory over Colorado College Friday, combined with the Sioux loss drops UND into eighth place, two points behind UAA. UMD now sits five points behind North Dakota.