HOUGHTON, Mich. — Minnesota-Duluth finds itself just where it had hoped after the first weekend of the WCHA season.
The undefeated Bulldogs are alone in first place following a 6-3 victory over Michigan Tech on Saturday before 2,415 at MacInnes Student Ice Arena. That completed a sweep to give UMD four points to start its 40th year in the WCHA. Defending league champion North Dakota could gain only a maximum of three points after tying Friday at Minnesota State.
No. 4 UMD (3-0-1) needed an explosive third period to put the Huskies away. Goals 49 seconds apart from Ryan Geris and Brett Hammond early in the period, then goals 76 seconds apart from Mike Curry and Tim Stapleton midway through. That was four goals in 6:19 that rocketed the Bulldogs back from a two-goal deficit.
Evan Schwabe added his second goal of the game, and fourth of the series, in a 5-on-3 power play with 4:05 to play. Geris and Curry also scored on power plays as UMD had 21 shots on goal in the period.
“When we play like we can, goals can happen quickly,” said Geris, who missed nearly all of last season with a concussion. “We weren’t working in the second period; we weren’t initiating any hits.
“To change things it’s not as easy as saying ‘Let’s crank it up.’ But with the leadership we have, we can come back and start popping in some goals.”
UMD is now 8-0-2 in its past 10 WCHA road games the last two seasons and 12-2-3 in its last 16 road games overall. The Bulldogs have won eight of the past 10 meetings with the Huskies.
Michigan Tech (0-2) led for much of Friday’s opener before losing 5-4.
In the rematch, UMD outshot Michigan Tech 39-37 and scored quickly for a 1-0 lead as Schwabe connected during a split shift at 52 seconds. Freshman Blair LeFebvre’s shot from the right circle was tipped by Schwabe at the crease through the legs of Michigan Tech goalie Bryce Luker. LeFebvre had come on in a line change for left winger Marco Peluso.
Much of the rest of the opening period was highlighted by goalies Bryce Luker and Isaac Reichmuth of UMD.
Luker stopped UMD defenseman Neil Petruic on a power-play tip at 7:08 and center Matt McKnight with 2:45 left. Reichmuth turned away winger Jordan Foote on a power play with 8:52 to go and stopped Tyler Shelast at point-blank range on a power play with 7:28 remaining.
Michigan Tech was dominant in the second period, scoring twice for a 2-1 lead. The Huskies, aided by five power plays, outshot UMD 18-7 in the period and got goals from defenseman Marek Dora and center Colin Murphy, the 45th goal of his career and 102nd point.
Dora launched a power-play shot from high in the slot that got by Reichmuth with 8:47 left. On a delayed-penalty call, the Huskies hustled up ice and Chris Conner put on shot on net, the save was made and Murphy made sure on the rebound. Reichmuth kept UMD close with 16 stops in the period and 34 for the game.
“That period, and all the penalties we were taking, threw us off,” UMD’s Hammond said of the second period. “Our desperation finally kicked in and the first goal of the third period got us going. We’ve got a skilled team and with our offense, we’re never out of a game. There was energy on the bench.”
However, the momentum continued to swing in Michigan Tech’s favor 2:12 into the third period on another power play. Brandon Schwartz scored for a 3-1 lead.
Then UMD caught fire. With Luker down on a cross-ice pass, defenseman Geris had an open net goal at 4:47. Hammond followed from the slot on a pass from Matt Mcknight at 5:36. Freshman Curry got his third goal of the season from the inside edge of the right circle on at 9:50 and Stapleton caught a pass in stride in the slot for his third goal of the season.
“We have to have a goalie who steps up and makes some saves,” said Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell. “We’re a young rebuilding team and we also need to learn to play with confidence and learn how to win, especially with a two-goal lead in the third period at home.”
The reeling Huskies never regained composure, Schwabe’s second goal finished a string of five straight scores. He had four points in the game and six for the weekend.
It wasn’t a miracle comeback, yet it was a long way back for the Bulldogs.
“We’re not going to do it too many times in this league,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “Our first period was good, the second wasn’t good and then we played about 10 or 12 minutes of the third.
“I just wanted us to get some more shots, get them to the net, and see what happens. We got a good bounce to start things on Geris’ goal and that gave us a spark.”
Kevin Pates is a staff writer for the Duluth News Tribune.