ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Maybe it’s a little early to call anything a “must” at this point of the season, but after last night’s 4-2 loss to St. Cloud State, let’s just say Minnesota-Duluth really needed this one.
They got it, but barely.
After falling behind early for a second straight night, the Bulldogs rallied, scoring three times in the third and putting, at least for now, a Band-Aid over the bleeding after earning a split with St. Cloud State with a 3-1 win before 5,873 inside the National Hockey Center.
After being outshot 37-26 in Game 1 and 9-7 in the first period Saturday, the Bulldogs rebounded with 27 shots in the final two periods, got an early third period goal from Evan Schwabe and let Marco Peluso do the rest to pick up just their second in the last month.
“We really needed this one,” said Peluso, who ripped a shot past Jason Montgomery inside the far post with 2:17 to play to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the weekend. “This should really help the guys before we head to Madison (next weekend).”
“I didn’t care if it happened in the third period, the second or whenever, as long as it happened,” said Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin. “The guys worked much harder tonight and I was proud of them for that.”
Unlike Friday night, when St. Cloud State dominated play from the outset, the Bulldogs had a little bit more snarl in their growl in the first period, but couldn’t take advantage, as the Huskies scored on their first power play of the night.
Dave Iannazzo got the goal. He kept a clearing attempt in the zone with his chest, collected the puck and skated through the slot, then beat Josh Johnson with a low shot to the goaltenders far side.
Two minutes later the Huskies nearly made it a 2-0 lead, but Johnson picked a shot off the stick of Konrad Reeder that was ticketed for the upper-left corner with his glove, setting the tone for the rest of the night.
Neither team got on the board in the second, and early in the third, the Bulldogs finally got a bounce.
Mike Doyle went off for holding 1:06 into the period, and 14 seconds later Schwabe tied the game up.
Steve Czech took a shot from the point that bounced around in front of Montgomery, Peluso took a whack at it, the puck went off two skates and right to Schwabe, who slid a backhand through a maze and into the net.
“We got one to go our way,” said Peluso, who had one of the Bulldogs’ goals last night. “It bounced around for a bit and Evan was able to knuckle it in.”
St. Cloud State appeared to get the lead back midway through the period when Justin Fletcher picked up a loose puck in the crease and backhanded it into the goal, but referee Don Adam lost sight of the puck and blew the play dead just before the goal was scored.
“He said he lost sight of it,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “Apparently he thought the goalie had control of it.”
“(The puck) hit me in the chest and I saw it the whole time just sitting there,” said Iannazzo, whose goal extended his goal-scoring streak to three games. “It kills you to have a goal taken away at that time of the game, especially since it would have given us a lead.”
The Huskies seemed to lose steam after the play, and UMD started to take control. The Bulldogs nearly retook the lead with four minutes to play, but Montgomery kicked his right pad out to stop a terrific scoring chance by Brett Hammond. After a few more close calls, Peluso finally found some space and beat Montgomery from the right circle.
Dahl pulled Montgomery with just under a minute to play, but the Bulldogs won the ensuing draw in their own end and Nick Anderson skated the puck to center ice before sending into the vacant net.
“You just hope you can get a break and we did,” said Sandelin, whose team has the unenviable task of facing Wisconsin, North Dakota and Denver over the next three weekends before breaking for the holidays. “I’ll take a win on a Saturday night every weekend, whether it’s on the road at home, I don’t care. It’s just good for the team to win on Saturdays.”
Now they must start concentrating on Friday’s as well. Since climbing the national polls to the top spot, the Bulldogs have still dropped five of eight, and the aforementioned schedule isn’t a pretty one.
“That’s whey this game was so important,” said Peluso. “We needed to have that winning feeling again.”