DULUTH, Minn. — With an unbeaten season and No. 1 ranking gone, Minnesota-Duluth looked to regain some momentum Saturday night at the DECC. The Bulldogs started strong and finished strong, but had only enough to tie non-conference foe Vermont 2-2 in overtime before 4,490.
Marco Peluso converted a Josh Miskovich rebound at 8:50 of the third period for a go-ahead goal and Vermont answered less than four minutes later on a nice passing play finished off by Jeff Corey.
Vermont’s giant-killing 3-2 victory Friday handed top-ranked UMD its first loss of the season. Penalties, uninspired play and a determined Vermont team made UMD’s night miserable. The rematch reflected a little more of what was expected of the series.
UMD is favored in the 10-team WCHA, while Vermont is picked 10th in the 12-team ECAC. Yet it was hardly easy for the Bulldogs despite a 42-18 shots-on-goal advantage.
“With so many talented guys in our lineup you’re always confident, but we just didn’t have a solid game,” said sophomore winger Bryan McGregor, who had UMD’s first goal. “We had some video sessions after Friday’s game and we thought things would be a lot different.
“You can rebound from almost anything and it’s time we start stepping up. We haven’t played as good as we can, and Vermont played with that edge you need to win.”
UMD (5-1-2) scored 5:49 into the game and outshot Vermont 12-2 in the first 20 minutes. Winger Brett Hammond won a centering draw to McGregor at the right circle. He cracked a shot off the far pipe behind freshman goalie Joe Fallon, the winner Friday. It was McGregor’s first point of the season in five games. He sat out Friday.
A breakaway attempt with 9:51 left in the second period tied the game at 1. When a UMD pass wasn’t kept in the offensive zone, the puck was loose at neutral ice and winger Dan Owens came straight down the slot. He lifted the puck high over UMD goalie Josh Johnson, who had seen just five shots on goal to that point. It was Owens’ first point of the season.
The goal prompted UMD coach Scott Sandelin to call a timeout. Vermont (2-4-1) had another good scoring chance with 4:41 left in the second period as winger Scott Mifsud was turned away at the crease by Johnson. Owens put a power-play attempt just over the net for the Catamounts with 2:30 left.
“Our guys just played excellent road-tough hockey for 125 minutes this weekend,”said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “We gutted it out against one of the best programs in the country.
“We were swept at home last weekend by a good Niagara team that we probably took a little lightly. The difference since then is night and day.”
After two periods, the Bulldogs led in shots on goal 23-9 and shots attempted 40-23, but the game was even. Fallon, from Bemidji, Minn., finished with 40 saves.
UMD revamped its forwards lines for the third period in looking for an offensive spark. Evan Schwabe centered Tim Stapleton and Peluso to start the period. The Peluso goal gave the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead, but less than four minutes later Corey finished off what Sneddon called an ESPN highlight goal for a 2-2 tie.
“Friday we just got outworked and tonight we were better,” said Schwabe, UMD’s captain. “We were looking to score a few goals and we threw 42 shots at their goalie.
“But there were times in our defensive zone that we were getting beat to the puck. We haven’t played a full 60 minutes yet and we’re disappointed with the entire weekend.”
UMD had to kill a penalty for the first two minutes of the five-minute overtime, then had a man advantage for the game’s final 25 seconds. It was the first time this season that UMD held an opponent to fewer than 20 shots on goal.
In Vermont’s favor were 20 shots blocked by defense and a penalty-kill unit that kept UMD 0-for-6 for the game and 0-for-15 for the series.
“We had an OK first period, a blah second period when we didn’t create anything offensively and a good third period,”said Sandelin. “We played better defensively and we didn’t lose, that’s something to build on.”
Kevin Pates covers college hockey for the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn.