ST. CLOUD, Minn. — There are times in this sport when momentum is everything, even when it’s spread over a 20-hour period.
If one needs proof, just ask any one of the coaches or players dressed in Bulldog colors Saturday night in St. Cloud. Minnesota-Duluth put 20 shots on net in the third period of their Friday night loss to the Huskies, scoring twice and almost coming back from an early 3-0 deficit in Duluth.
They carried that play southwest, into the National Hockey Center for the rematch, building a 2-0 lead after the first and hanging on for a 4-2 win over St. Cloud State.
“You never know over a period of hours what’s going to happen,” said Bulldog head coach Scott Sandelin. “But we came out and played a very solid game from start to finish and picked up a tough two points.”
They got on the board early, which Sandelin also noted to being one of the keys from building on the night before.
After St. Cloud defensemen Ryan LaMere was caught pinching in, Junior Lessard picked up the puck, eluded a poke check from Jeff Finger, and skated in alone on Jake Moreland, beating him with a backhand stick side just 1:31 into the game.
“We needed that,” said Lessard. “It gave our team an immediate lift.”
Brett Hammond finished off a nice feed from Matt Mathias to make it 2-0 with 5:50 left in the first, sending the Bulldogs to the dressing room with something that had eluded them for the entire 60 minutes the night before: a lead.
But it only lasted 2:46. The Huskies beat Isaac Reichmuth on their first two shots of the second period. Ryan Malone hit a streaking Joe Motzko 1:52 in and Jon Cullen wristed home a shot from the top of the circles only 54 seconds later to tie it.
The Bulldogs had an answer, though, and it came off the stick of Marco Peluso. After an errant turnover in the Husky end, Peluso picked up the puck about 15 feet to Moreland’s blocker side and blasted a shot the somehow squeezed through the Husky netminder.
“We were ready for the second period but they just got two quick breaks and took advantage of them,” said Lessard. “We stayed calm and played our game, but Peluso’s goal really gave us a lift.”
The Bulldogs got another break at the 15:46 mark of the second when Neil Petruic’s shot from the left circle ricochet out of Moreland’s glove and then, in an attempt to catch it again, was swatted into the back of the net by Moreland himself, who lost for the first time this season.
“Everybody’s going to say oh your first period you gave up two, but we scored two in the second, and really it should have been 2-2 going into the third,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “And I really though we were going to come back in the third and we did really get after it and tried to tie that baby up but we just couldn’t get it done…and their goaltender was awesome.”
Spectacular might be a better phrase. Reichmuth finished the night with 27 saves, 11 of which came in a frantic third, but made a pair of amazing stops to keep his team alive.
First he flattened his stick up against the goal post to rob Malone of a no-doubter, then midway through the third, he snatched a Motzko wraparound chance with his glove while the puck on was on the ice.
“I was just trying to get something over there (on Motzko’s attempt),” said Reichmuth, who evened his record at 4-4-1 with the win. “I though he was going to comeback short side but he went all the way around and I just tried to get something over there.”
“(Reichmuth) gives us a chance to win every night and you can’t ask for anything more,” said Sandelin. “It nice to finally get some offensive support for him, he’s only given up eight goals in the last four games so it was nice to score and get him a win.”
Now it’s time to see if momentum can last a week as the Bulldogs prepare for a home series with struggling Alaska-Anchorage. St. Cloud State is idle next weekend and returns to action in two weeks with a trip to North Dakota.