DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota-Duluth knew what it was facing Friday night at the DECC — the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s best defensive team.
The Bulldogs remedied that situation by scoring four first-period goals on the way to a 4-3 win over Colorado College in a WCHA men’s game before a crowd of 4,338.
The No. 2 offense in the league had overcome the No. 1 defense in one of the league’s more entertaining games of the season. Bulldog scoring leader Junior Lessard and plus-minus leader Tim Hambly had goals 31 seconds apart in the final minute of the first period to spark the effort.
No. 12-ranked UMD (14-8-2 and 10-5 in the WCHA) has won five straight games overall, six straight at home, and is 10-3-1 the past 14. Defending regular-season champion No. 11 Colorado College (11-7-3 and 4-7-2) is 3-6 the past nine games.
“They have two of the top goalies in the league and you always think, ‘What if these guys are that good?’” said Hambly, a junior defenseman. “But in that first period we found out we could score and that took away any pressure we were expecting.’”
The Bulldogs had to fall behind, before getting to the Tigers. Winger Joey Crabb scored 17 seconds into the game following a faceoff and UMD responded on its first power play. Tyler Brosz connected on UMD’s first shot on goal at 1:13, on an assist that extended Evan Schwabe’s point streak to 12 games. The exchange continued as UMD’s Nick Anderson scored 92 seconds later and former Proctor High School star Aaron Slattengren tied it with his first of two goals at 5:48.
The game’s defining point came in the final 38 seconds of the first period. After a Colorado College turnover, Lessard had a 2-on-1 break and came in on right wing. He knocked the puck off the juncture of the right post and crossbar, and past Colorado College All-American junior goalie Curtis McElhinney with 38 seconds left. It was his 16th goal of the season.
Seconds later, inside the offensive zone, center T.J. Caig pushed along the right boards, whiffed on a pass, and the puck got to Hambly at the left point. With UMD’s Anderson screening McElhinney, a Hambly shot got between the goalie’s legs with seven seconds to go.
“We’ve been learning how to win some close games lately and those wins are giving us confidence,” said Lessard. “Scoring twice there was a gamebreaker and we were able to be a little more careful the rest of the way.”
The four goals are the most allowed in a period this season by Colorado College, which has been giving up just 2.10 goals a game. McElhinney was replaced after the period by freshman Matt Zaba, who starts in tonight’s rematch. Zaba held the Bulldogs without a goal as the Tigers were outshot 26-24 for the game.
While his stats aren’t quite as impressive, UMD sophomore goalie Isaac Reichmuth does lead the WCHA in one category, victories. He’s 9-1 in the league and has 29 victories overall in two seasons.
“Any time you give up any goals in the last minute of a period you’re in trouble, and we gave up two,” said Colorado College coach Scott Owens. “I thought Curtis was back in his net a little, and I wanted to give us a change in feeling. We were a little demoralized there.
“We played better, but Duluth is a veteran team with a lot of confidence, and they weathered it.”
A six-goal first period was followed by a scoreless second. Just 4:13 into the third Slattengren connected again, from the crease on a quick shot for his 10th goal of the season. UMD would later kill one of only two power plays in the final period, making Colorado College 0-of-4 on the night and zero on its last 17 man-advantage shifts.
The Bulldogs went to 12-0 this season when leading after the second period, and momentarily stepped by St. Cloud State into third in the WCHA with 20 points. St. Cloud State played at Alaska Anchorage later Friday.
“After that first period I thought it had the makings of an 8-7, 9-8 or 10-9 game, but we did a good job defensively as the game went on,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin, whose team is averaging 4.1 goals a game.