MINNEAPOLIS — If Minnesota-Duluth slipped away with a win Friday night, the next night the Bulldogs simply reached out and grabbed one.
On Saturday, UMD took the lead early, then fended off a Minnesota comeback attempt for a 4-2 win. Isaac Reichmuth stopped 39 shots, and Friday’s heroes, Brett Hammond and T.J. Caig, scored the first two Minnesota-Duluth goals.
Minnesota, despite applying pressure late with 17 shots in the third period, could not come up with a tying goal, and fell victim to the sweep at home.
“The third period — we knew it was coming. They threw everything at us,” said Bulldog coach Scott Sandelin. “[His players] bent, but they didn’t break.”
The defeat ended Minnesota’s school-record string of 91 games without consecutive losses, a streak that spanned the Gophers’ NCAA title-winning 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons. It was also the first weekend sweep by UMD (2-2-1, 2-0-0 WCHA) over Minnesota (1-3-0, 0-2-0) in over a decade.
“We didn’t deserve to win the game tonight,” said Gopher coach Don Lucia. “For 60 minutes, we played a better game last night.”
The Bulldogs weathered a tough start to the season with a .500 record, which Sandelin said was precisely his goal for five games against a difficult group of opponents: Minnesota, Michigan State, Boston College and North Dakota.
“I didn’t say which ones were going to be the wins,” Sandelin added when his post-prediction drew a few questioning looks.
For UMD forward Luke Stauffacher, who scored an empty-netter to secure the outcome, Saturday’s performance was satisfying.
“We started with some good jump. We knew Minnesota was gonna come out firing on all cylinders,” he said.
At 8:16 of the first period, Minnesota-Duluth opened scoring with Hammond’s second goal of the weekend. Off a pass from linemate Caig, Hammond fired a shot from between the circles, then put the long rebound in the back of the net.
After a penalty to Minnesota’s P.J. Atherton, the Bulldogs made it 2-0 in the waning moments of the ensuing power play.
Despite nearly getting caught on a line change, UMD turned the play up-ice for a two-on-none. Briggs saved Tyler Brosz’s shot, but a juicy rebound to the opposite side of the slot was easily cleaned up by Tim Stapleton.
After taking another penalty, the Gophers appeared close to coming unglued. UMD’s Evan Schwabe nearly made it 3-0 off a scramble in front, but a diving Briggs stopped his stuff attempt.
“I thought Kellen was sharp tonight,” said Lucia, who added that he will evaluate the Gopher goaltender rotation later in the week.
Still shorthanded, Gino Guyer outfought two Bulldogs for the puck in the UMD zone, and roofed it over Reichmuth at 14:50 to shift the momentum and narrow the Minnesota-Duluth lead to 2-1.
Shots on goal at the end of a spirited first period were 13-10 in favor of the Bulldogs.
In the opening moments of the second, Justin Williams had a chance to put UMD back up two, but he pushed a wrister wide with a half-open net.
That signaled a stretch of missed opportunities. Guyer led a two-on-one shorthanded break, but to no avail. In the Gopher end minutes later, Williams again could not convert, double-clutching a shot on the power play and giving Briggs time to get across the crease for the save.
Ending the brief drought, UMD extended the lead to 3-1. Defenseman Ryan Geris intercepted a clearing attempt at the point and fired on net, with the puck changing direction about three times before trickling past Briggs on his blocker side. Caig, who gave the puck a final redirection from the slot, was credited with the goal at 11:22.
One minute and nine seconds into the third period, Gopher captain Grant Potulny scored what appeared to be a critical tally, sliding the puck into the left side of the net from in front. But the goal was waved off immediately due to a man in the crease, though it was not clear which Gopher was the offending party.
“You don’t see a lot of [that] five-on-five, I know that,” said Lucia.
Minnesota had another chance to narrow the gap with over a minute of four-on-three, but could not convert.
The Gophers kept coming, though, and finally got their second goal off the stick of Andy Sertich. The sophomore took a pretty feed from a prone Ryan Potulny and went to his backhand to beat Reichmuth at short range at 9:19.
Minnesota pulled Briggs with 38 seconds left on a faceoff in the neutral zone, but Stauffacher scored at 19:50 to seal the victory.
“For our guys, the thing I look at is performance, and from the first three games to this weekend we did some things better,” said Sandelin, who emphasized his team’s quality of play as much as the victories themselves.
“Keep things in perspective, and keep improving — that’s what we want to do.”
Minnesota-Duluth next hosts resurgent Alaska-Anchorage for a pair, while Minnesota gets a visit from Denver next weekend. The Gophers will do so without defenseman Keith Ballard, expected to be out with a leg injury sustained Friday, reportedly a mild sprain of the medial collateral ligament.