DULUTH, Minn. — A school-record eight-game homestand hadn’t been anything like Minnesota-Duluth had hoped, with only one win in seven games since Dec. 10.
But the Bulldogs doubled that victory total Saturday night by beating St. Cloud State 5-1 in a WCHA game before 5,179 at the DECC.
The most significant difference for UMD was getting a lead. Scoring leader Evan Schwabe earned his 12th goal of the season just 41 seconds into the game on a right wing break. It came on the first shot of the game and gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 advantage for the first time in 13 games, since a Nov. 20 home loss to Brown.
And the Bulldogs got superb goaltending from sophomore Josh Johnson with 28 saves.
“We had a goalies meeting today before the game and coach (Scott Sandelin) challenged me and Isaac (Reichmuth). He made it very clear what he wanted and then said it was up to us,” said Johnson. “I went home and thought about it, and prepared differently than I have been. I was ready and our team was ready.”
The win broke a five-game winless streak (0-3-2) for the Bulldogs, the longest such stretch in nearly three seasons, and left them 2-4-2 in the homestand. UMD (9-11-4, 7-9-2 WCHA) goes on the road this weekend at No. 1 Colorado College.
St. Cloud State (9-13-2, 5-11) is 1-7-1 the past nine games. The Huskies had won 10 of their past 11 regular-season games in Duluth.
“We were what, 1-for-11 on power plays? That kills you,” said St. Cloud State coach Craig Dahl. “Johnson stoned a few guys right in front of the net. I give him credit for making some huge saves.”
Following Schwabe’s first goal, consecutive St. Cloud State penalties gave UMD a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:43 in the first period as Joe Jensen was called for checking Luke Stauffacher from behind and T.J. McElroy was called for boarding Schwabe.
UMD made the most of the opportunity and went ahead 2-0 as defenseman Tim Hambly connected from the slot at 9:58. His second goal of the season was the most critical of the game, said Sandelin.
“We can’t afford to blow those opportunities if we’re going to start winning some games,” said Sandelin.
Goalie Tim Boron of St. Cloud State, in his 10th straight start, was beaten on two of four shots in the first period.
The only goal of the second period came on a UMD power play with 76 seconds left. Schwabe scored from the right circle past a screened Boron to take over the team goal-scoring lead at 13, and now has 45 goals and 111 points in 146 career games. The goal came with McElroy off for holding Marco Peluso.
“When you get that first goal, and then get some power-play goals, and kill penalties, the whole aspect of the game changes,” said Schwabe. “It makes things so much easier and you don’t find yourself gripping the stick so tightly.”
Johnson had a number of good saves, most with his glove, including one on Konrad Reeder with 5:42 left in the first period, another on Matt Hartman with 6:55 left in the second, and a third on Sean Garrity at 3:46 of the third.
UMD’s first goal of the third period was noteworthy. Junior right winger Justin Williams scored to the near side in an unassisted shorthanded shift for his first point in 19 games. Mike Doyle ruined Johnson’s shutout bid with 1:28 to play on a power-play goal and UMD’s Brett Hammond connected with 20 seconds remaining on a power play as UMD went 3-of-8.
“We needed a big game out of a goalie and Josh stepped up,” said Williams. “He played well and we got those early goals, and that gave us some enthusiasm. That’s as complete of a game as we’ve played in a long time.”
A feisty game turned nasty in the last 69 seconds when a number of 1-on-1 battles broke out and 25 penalties were assessed. However, there were no game disqualifications.
Kevin Pates covers college hockey for the Duluth News Tribune.