DULUTH, Minn. — Justin Williams says he’s tried everything to break out of the longest goal-less streak of his career. He’s changed gloves, he’s changed sticks and he’s tried not to think about going 15 games without scoring.
The Minnesota Duluth junior winger figured his luck was changing early in overtime Friday at the DECC against Alaska Anchorage. He had a point-blank backhand attempt right in front of goalie Nathan Lawson, but Lawson made a good glove save.
It was that kind of night for UMD, which settled for a 1-1 tie in front of 3,967 in a WCHA game. UMD (8-9-4, 6-7-2 WCHA) outshot Anchorage 45-28, including a 20-shot third period.
Lawson, a freshman from Calgary, Alb., had a career-best 44 saves, while UMD junior Isaac Reichmuth did his part with 27 stops.
“One department we’re lacking in is goals and we know we just have to keep shooting,” said Williams, who last had a goal on Oct. 23. “It’s particularly frustrating for me because I’ve never gone through anything like this.”
The game didn’t project to be high-scoring following a break for the holidays. It was 19 days between games for UMD and 26 for Anchorage (6-9-2, 4-8-1). The Bulldogs had regained the services of head coach Scott Sandelin, while assistant Jack Kowal filled in for Anchorage coach John Hill, who remained home while recovering from back surgery.
Rust was obvious in a scoreless first period, then the game picked up.
The only goals came in the second period. UMD fell behind for the 17th time in 21 games as Anchorage winger Justin Bourne had an open left side of the net to hit on a nice passing play at 50 seconds. UMD winger Nick Anderson then put linemate Tyler Brosz in for a breakaway goal at 2:51. His third goal of the season came after giving Lawson a fake and putting the puck behind him.
Brosz had at least two other decent scoring chances and was left talking to himself because of Lawson saves.
“There had to be four or five pucks that got through the goalie and just didn’t find the net. That’s frustrating,” said Brosz. “I had a chance on the doorstep with two minutes to go in a tie game and didn’t score.
“The one positive is that we were getting chances, but we’re not happy. It’s the second half of the season and we can’t be satisfied with a tie. We need wins.”
Anchorage, 1-7-1 the last nine games, had its own chances, including Nick Lowe in a 2-on-0 rush with 8:10 left in the second period, and a Bourne attempt with 80 seconds to go in the third period which Reichmuth got a pad on. The Seawolves also had a 5-on-3 power-play advantage for 27 seconds late in the second period and didn’t get a shot.
Anchorage had three straight power plays to end the second period and another with 1:17 left in regulation. The Seawolves and Bulldogs each went 0-for-5.
“The officials gave us a chance to score late in the game, and to steal a game,” said Kowal. “It’s discouraging with the talent we have on the power play that we didn’t do more. The third period is where we broke down and panicked.”
There was no panic in Lawson, who shut out UMD 3-0 Nov. 6 at home, the only time the Bulldogs have been held scoreless in 148 games.
He stopped T.J. Caig at 7:05 of the third period and then saw a Tim Hambly point drive trickle through his pads with 4:21 left. Lawson reached back just before the puck got to the goal line. After Lawson stopped Williams two minutes into the five-minute overtime, he watched UMD’s Tim Stapleton hit the crossbar with 2:38 left.
“They threw the puck on net from every which angle, that’s what we expected. This is a tough building to play in,” said Lawson, whose home rink is Olympic size. “It was a pretty even game and getting one point is better than none.”
It was the third straight overtime game for UMD, which tied and lost to Denver on Dec. 17-18. Sandelin missed that series while preparing the United States to play in the World Junior Championships in Grand Forks, N.D. He did remember Lawson from the series in Anchorage.
“He’s made 80-some saves against us in two games, that’s pretty good. We just have to find a way to get the puck by him,” said Sandelin
Kevin Pates covers college hockey for the Duluth News Tribune.