MANKATO, Minn. — Win Streak Hits Nine as Bulldogs Beat MSU
Friday night’s contest showcased two teams heading in different directions.
Flash back to March 22, 2003, as Minnesota-Duluth defeated Minnesota State 6-4 in the consolation game at the WCHA Final Five. Although neither team was playing in the championship, both had made huge strides to climb the league.
Eleven months later, No. 6 UMD is contending for the number-one spot in the WCHA. The Mavericks have gone the other way.
Friday’s 8-1 shellacking by the Bulldogs (18-8-2, 14-5-0 WCHA) made the different seasons very apparent.
The Bulldogs were led by sophomore Tim Stapleton, who registered a goal and three assists, and netminder Isaac Reichmuth, who stopped 15 of the 16 shots he faced.
Minnesota-Duluth has won its past nine games, and, thank to a loss by North Dakota Friday night, moved within a point of the WCHA-leading Sioux.
“Obviously you’re going to gain confidence as you go,” Reichmuth said. “We’ve won nine straight games and we continue to roll. We’re playing with a lot of confidence and things are going well for us.”
A big first period gave Minnesota-Duluth all the scoring it would need. At the end of the first 20 minutes of play, UMD had a 12-5 shot advantage and a 4-0 edge, despite numerous chances for the Mavericks (6-17-4, 5-13-3 WCHA).
The Bulldogs wasted little time jumping up on MSU. After both teams traded chances, Stapleton put his team on the board with an ugly goal.
From behind the net, Stapleton tried to pass the puck to a teammate in front. The puck caromed off Maverick goalie Chris Clark and into the net at 4:50 of the first.
“I just kind of threw it in front, and it hit the back of his skate and went in,” Stapleton said.
MSU had opportunities in the first, but sent shots high or wide of the net.
“We’re one minute into the game and Jake Brenk’s all alone in front, and I don’t even know if he ended up with a shot on net,” Maverick coach Troy Jutting said of one such chance.
Meanwhile, Minnesota-Duluth made few mistakes. At 15:28, UMD built the lead to 2-0.
Stapleton led a two-on-one rush down ice. He took a shot from the left side, and Clark made a kick save. However, the rebound went out to Justin Williams on the right side, who put the puck into the open net.
“Somehow I just beat a guy off the blue line, and it was a two-on-one,” Stapleton said. “I shot it, and Justin Williams puts in the rebound.”
“We got discouraged after they scored a couple of goals,” Jutting said.
At 17:21 of the period, junior Evan Schwabe made a pretty play to make the score 3-0. Trailing a three-on-three rush, Schwabe got the puck and came down the slot uncontested. The forward deked Clark to the ice and put the puck over the netminder.
Just 12 seconds later, Bryan McGregor backhanded a shot from the right circle that beat Clark five-hole.
“It wasn’t a 4-0 first period,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “We got some bounces, we got a couple of soft goals and a couple nice ones, but they certainly had some opportunities too. I told the guys after the period it could have easily been a 2-2 period.
“You get out of the period like that, you get a couple of breaks … certainly that was huge for us, especially on the road.”
In the second, UMD kept up the pressure. Defenseman Tim Hambly stole the puck from Shane Joseph in UMD’s zone and skated all the way down ice to put the puck past Clark and make the score 5-0. Hambly’s fifth of the year came at 8:06.
Brett Hammond scored on a shorthanded breakaway at 11:08 to put the Bulldogs ahead 6-0. Hammond’s goal chased Clark from the net, who gave up six goals on 23 shots. The goal was also the sixth shorthanded tally MSU has surrendered in the last seven games.
Senior Jay Hardwick also scored in the second, and Tyler Brosz scored in the third before MSU’s David Backes tallied with 7:21 left to ruin Reichmuth’s shutout.
“It’s nice to get a shutout, but as long as we win the game, it’s no big deal,” Reichmuth said.
Reichmuth faced few challenges in net. His best save came early in the second period as he robbed Adam Gerlach on a shorthanded two-on-one rush with a quick kick save. Late in the third, Reichmuth stymied Gerlach again by gloving his backhander alone in front.
“We had the puck a lot of the game. Out puck control was so good that they’re not going to generate a whole lot of offense when we have the puck. And when they did, defensively we were pretty tight in our zone,” Reichmuth said.
“Tonight we got discouraged, and we haven’t done that in the past,” Jutting said. “I don’t know if it’s just a thing that keeps adding up and you keep seeing it and you get a little discouraged. But that’s not an excuse. You gotta keep playing hard.”
The Mavericks have been outscored 24-3 in their last three home games.
The two teams will conclude their series Saturday night with game time set for 7:05 p.m. C.T.
“Our goal is to get another win, but it’s going to be a lot tougher than tonight,” Stapleton said. “Today we were just getting chances, and they were going in. Mankato’s a good team, and they’re going to come out even harder than they did this game. It’s going to be a big game, and it’s going to be a war tomorrow.”