DULUTH, Minn. — The shot chart hardly told the story Friday night at the DECC.
Minnesota Duluth had 51 shots on goal, Michigan Tech 20.
UMD attempted 86 shots, Michigan Tech 41.
Here’s the final score in the WCHA men’s game:
Michigan Tech 3, UMD 2, in overtime.
Last-place Michigan Tech (6-19-1 and 5-16 in the WCHA) got a goal from the dynamic duo of Chris Conner and NCAA assists leader Colin Murphy in a 4-on-4 shift with 1:59 left in sudden death. Senior goalie Cam Ellsworth made a season-high 49 saves.
Fifth-place UMD (11-13-5 and 9-11-3) was impressive 5-on-5 and got steady goaltending from Isaac Reichmuth, yet continued a season-long trend with a lack of scoring, especially on power plays.
“I looked over at the shot clock and I didn’t know if all of (UMD’s) shots were legit, but I know we had the lead almost the whole game,” said Conner, a junior left winger. “Duluth had some very good pressure and we were able to hold our own, and our goalie was able to hold his own.”
The Huskies are 5-3 the past eight games following a 13-game winless streak, and are 4-8 on the road overall, while having won just once at home. On the winning play, Murphy passed from the right circle to Conner at the left edge of the UMD crease. Murphy said all he had to do was put his stick on the ice and tap the puck in for his 12th goal of the season. The assist was Murphy’s 34th, and 43rd point.
It brought a huge cheer from about 40 Michigan Tech fans who traveled from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula by bus.
The Bulldogs would love to complete such an effective play. They fought from behind, again, trailing 2-0 early, and needed a goal from Brett Hammond with 8:17 left in the third period to force overtime.
UMD has often outshot opponents this season, but that hasn’t necessarily led to wins. The Bulldogs are 2-3-3 in games in which they’ve had 40 shots or more on goal.
“We’ve got to do something different. We have to find out how to score,” said Hammond. “This is the time of year you have to bear down. We had the puck in their end most of the game. We had a solid game, but they did have some good scoring chances.”
The statistics most quoted by UMD coach Scott Sandelin concerned power plays. The Bulldogs were zero-for-6, including 3:39 straight at the end of the second period and two minutes late in the third period.
UMD is 29-of-181 on power plays for the season. About 16-percent effective.
“The power play is killing us,” said Sandelin. “Even if we were scoring occasionally on it, we might have 15 or 16 wins. We’re playing as well as we have all season, we’re just not scoring on our power play.”
What that meant Saturday, before a crowd of 4,973, was UMD had a chance to move alone into fifth place, but remained tied with North Dakota (which lost at home to Denver).
UMD was dominant in the game’s opening minutes, outshooting Michigan Tech 14-5 at one point. Ellsworth gloved Bryan McGregor at 17 seconds, defenseman Tim Hambly just missed the net 1:20 and Tyler Brosz hit a pipe on a power-play drive at 6:20.
The Huskies found the net for a 2-0 lead.
A weak shot in the slot slid to winger Mike Batovanja for an open-net attempt from the left edge. The power-play goal came with 9:24 left in the first period.
Moments after a UMD power play ended, Michigan Tech got loose for a 2-on-1 break and center John Hartman finished off the rush with 4:23 to go. The goals were the first of the season for Batovanja and Hartman.
The Bulldogs responded 16 seconds after the Hartman score to get within 2-1 on center Tim Stapleton’s 12th goal of the season. UMD led 17-9 in shots after one period.
“They’ve got a veteran team and we’ve got a young team, but we were ahead after one period, on the road. We were in good shape no matter what the shots on goal were,” said Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell
The second period was scoreless, but the Bulldogs had all sorts of chances, including the last 4:19 on a power play. Yet a 16-4 shots advantage yielded no goals.
The largest edge came when Michigan Tech defenseman John Scott was called for tripping with 4:19 left, then defenseman Mark Malekoff was called for cross-checking and a hooking, both to UMD’s Nick Anderson, with 2:38 remaining.
Hammond broke through to tie the game as he converted a Justin Williams rebound at the right edge of the net. With 1:55 left in the third period, and still with 61 seconds of a power play, the Bulldogs called a timeout. Yet the best scoring chance came from Michigan Tech’s Brandon Schwartz shorthanded, who was stopped by Reichmuth on a breakaway.
“This is like a recurring nightmare,” said UMD’s Stapleton. “We had good momentum at the end of the second period, and the third period, and for a lot of the overtime. Then (the Conner line) dominated on their shift and that was the game.
Michigan Tech broke a five-game losing streak to UMD and momentarily moved into a ninth-place tie with St. Cloud State, which played at Alaska-Anchorage on Friday night.
Kevin Pates covers college hockey for the Duluth News Tribune.