DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota-Duluth’s inaugural hockey game at the DECC in 1966 couldn’t have been any more of a thrill for the hometown fans than win No. 400 in the building Friday night.
UMD powered past Minnesota 6-1 before a standing room-only crowd of 5,406 to remain tied for first in the WCHA, while stretching its nation-leading unbeaten streak to 11 games at 10-0-1. The Bulldogs debuted at the DECC on Nov. 19, 1966, with an 8-1 win over Minnesota.
UMD (19-8-3, 15-5-1 in the WCHA), sparked by a four-goal second period, has won 10 consecutive home games, is 15-3-2 in its past 20 overall, and has four straight wins against Minnesota. Two-time defending NCAA champion Minnesota (18-10-3, 11-9-1) suffered its worst loss in more than two years — since an 8-3 defeat at Wisconsin on Jan. 11, 2002.
The Gophers had a five-game win streak broken and were held to their fewest goals since a 4-0 season-opening loss to Maine.
UMD’s top line of Tyler Brosz, Evan Schwabe and Junior Lessard contributed four goals, including three in six minutes late in the second period to provide a five-goal advantage. There was no scoring in the final period.
“The atmosphere was great and I credit our fans with giving us a little more incentive to play well. We were ready,” said left winger Brosz, who had a career-best four points with two goals and two assists. “We got some bounces and played solid defense, but that’s the way things have been going for us the last 11 games.”
UMD led just 35-33 in shots on goal, but got strong goaltending from sophomore Isaac Reichmuth (14-1-1 in the WCHA) and never trailed. Minnesota freshman goalie Kellen Briggs was replaced after two periods by Justin Johnson. After allowing just seven goals during their five-game win streak, the Gophers gave up their most goals of the season against the No. 2-scoring team in Division I.
“We played hard for a while, but we played stupid,” said Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard. “If that’s not a wakeup call, I don’t know what is.”
Winger Nick Anderson got UMD going 2:03 into the game by taking a T.J. Caig pass from the left corner and burying a shot from the slot. Brosz converted on UMD’s second power play, with 9:27 left in the first period, from the right circle.
Reichmuth then stopped Matt Koalska on a power play and gloved a Tyler Hirsch shot 10 seconds later. Just after the power play expired, Barry Tallackson scored. That was as close as Minnesota would come at 2-1, as Reichmuth turned away Troy Riddle twice in the final 70 seconds in a four-on-four shift.
Gophers scoring leader Thomas Vanek hit Jesse Unklesbay at neutral ice at the end of the first period, leading to a number of skirmishes and four minutes of a UMD power play to start the second period. Bulldogs captain Beau Geisler tucked in a Schwabe pass from the left edge at 3:34 for a 3-1 lead.
“Getting a goal there kind of took the wind out of Minnesota’s sails,” said Geisler, who has eight goals this season. “We took off from there and kept rolling.”
The Bulldogs did roll with three goals in the final six minutes of the period, two just 74 seconds apart. A hustling play by Lessard behind the Minnesota net set up Brosz at the crease with 5:16 left, and Schwabe added a power-play goal with 4:02 left. Lessard’s 20th goal of the season punctuated the second period as he drove down the slot with a Neil Petruic pass with 90 seconds remaining.
The largest home crowd of the season was roaring and the Gophers were reeling.
“I can’t remember a game when it was over in the second period,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “They were better than us in every phase of the game. We had a lot of guys who struggled tonight. We kind of laid an egg.”
The Bulldogs didn’t give Minnesota much to build on in the third period as the teams went scoreless. It was UMD’s most lopsided win over the Gophers since a 7-2 victory Jan. 6, 1984, in Minneapolis. UMD held the nation’s No. 1 power play without a goal in five chances, while the Bulldogs scored three with a man advantage.
It also clinched the season series between the teams — and the Taconite Trophy — which will come to Duluth for the first time since 1993.
“We were getting good opportunities and we were finding the net,” Reichmuth said. “Minnesota generated a lot of good chances on its power play, but we played them very well five-on-five.”
The teams entered the series tied for No. 4 in the PairWise Rankings, which mimic the NCAA tournament selection process. They’ll continue to battle to stay among the Division I elite in Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. rematch.
“All four of our lines played well and the Schwabe line played very well,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “I can usually tell if we’re ready to play by the first few shifts, and when Tim Stapleton got a breakaway in the first minute, I knew we were ready.”
North Dakota remained tied with UMD for first place in the WCHA with a 5-2 home win over Colorado College.