DULUTH, Minn. — The first season-opening sellout crowd for Minnesota-Duluth in nearly 20 years saw an offensive show Friday night at the DECC.
No. 3 UMD scored six second-period goals on the way to an 8-3 victory over Minnesota State to stay in first place in the WCHA. The unbeaten Bulldogs (4-0-1) were in a 1-1 tie after one period, but sprinted away with the help of superb special teams in front of 5,473.
Senior winger Marco Peluso had three goals and his center, Evan Schwabe, added three assists as UMD outshot Mankato 41-36. UMD has scored 23 goals in winning four consecutive games.
“When you see a teammate make a good play, you want to make a play. We feed off each other, and that’s part of our chemistry,” said Peluso, who had one hat trick last season as well. “We came ready to play, which we haven’t done that in every game this season, and we could feel that the building was rocking. When we started to score, you could feel we were taking all the momentum.”
For the fourth time in five games, the opposition scored first. UMD trailed 1-0 halfway through the first period on a David Backes power-play score. The Mavericks (0-2-1) had gone 0-for-15 on power plays in their opening series against North Dakota. Bulldogs winger Justin Williams tied it on a power play with 1:50 left.
After the teams exchanged goals nine seconds apart early in the second period, there were some quick strikes. Peluso and winger Brett Hammond got goals 15 seconds apart. Tim Stapleton added a backbreaking shorthanded score with 5:32 to go, and Luke Stauffacher and Peluso had goals 93 seconds apart in the last two minutes of the period.
It was 7-2 and looked much like last Saturday, when UMD scored five third-period goals to win 6-3 at Michigan Tech. Against the Huskies, UMD had goals 49 seconds apart and 76 seconds apart.
For the game, UMD was 4-for-8 on power plays and had two man-short goals.
“We played better than last weekend,” Stauffacher said. “We played with energy and we played nearly a full 60 minutes for the first time.
“When we continued to score, we gained more confidence. That’s what people talk about and that’s one of our strengths.”
Between the goals, the tenor was feisty. UMD had 17 penalties for 42 minutes and Minnesota State 19 for 54. There were a number of hits, many after the whistle, which didn’t sit well with either coach.
Yet penalties weren’t the deciding factor, said MSU coach Troy Jutting.
“Duluth’s skill level combined with their experience, makes them a very dangerous team,” he said. “They move the puck extremely well.”
UMD is 6-1-1 against Mankato in their past eight games, including a WCHA playoff series win at the DECC last March.
The Bulldogs’ outburst in the second period led to Mankato junior goalie Kyle Nixon, the nephew of former UMD goalie Chico Resch, being replaced for the third period by Jon Volp. UMD goalie Isaac Reichmuth finished with 33 saves.
The game included the first collegiate goals for UMD freshman center Matt McKnight, on a shorthanded breakaway with 9:21 to play, and Mankato freshman defenseman Steve Wagner, with 6:49 remaining.
“We haven’t had many good second periods so far, so it was nice to see how we played tonight,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We’re starting to find the net and bury some pucks, which makes a difference. Our special teams were especially good.”
Kevin Pates is a staff writer for the Duluth News Tribune.