DULUTH, Minn. — Talk about making the most of your chances.
Minnesota-Duluth didn’t get its first shot on goal of the third period until 96 seconds remained Friday night at the DECC.
The Bulldogs then got two shots and scored on both — on a power play and into an empty net — to pull away from Bemidji State for a 4-1 nonconference win before 5,188.
It was UMD’s first Friday win since Nov. 19 and made the Bulldogs 5-4-1 the past 10 games after a 3-11-3 streak.
“We tried to treat this like a playoff game and we did a lot of things right,” said UMD freshman winger Matt McKnight, who had a goal and an assist. “We had a two-goal lead and didn’t give that up like we have before. We got some breaks and we scored twice on power plays.
“We might’ve been a little nervous in the third period, but after every shift coach [Scott Sandelin] kept saying ‘Keep going, keep going,’ and eventually we got the goals we needed.”
College Hockey America leader Bemidji State (19-11-1) fell behind 2-0 after two periods, then got a goal from scoring leader Andrew Murray with 3:16 to play. Seventeen seconds later Murray was called for tripping UMD’s Justin Williams, and UMD took advantage. McKnight put a shot off the right pipe and Bulldog scoring leader Evan Schwabe converted the rebound with 1:36 left. It was UMD’s first shot on goal of the period.
Bemidji State goalie Matt Climie was pulled with 1:23 remaining and Bulldog winger Josh Miskovich hit the empty net with 1:15 left.
In its most recent home series, UMD outshot Michigan Tech 93-41 and lost twice 3-2. The Bulldogs were outshot 28-20 by Bemidji State and won. It was the first home victory since Jan. 15.
“Our special teams were great, the penalty kill was awesome, and we had a pretty solid defensive effort,” said UMD goalie Isaac Reichmuth, who was within four minutes of UMD’s first home shutout since 1998.
UMD (13-15-5) faces the Beavers at 7:07 p.m. Saturday at John Glas Fieldhouse in Bemidji, Minn.
Bemidji State has split series with UMD the last two seasons, and has one of its best teams since going to Division I in 1999. The Beavers, who split an emotional CHA series with Alabama-Huntsville last weekend, pushed UMD the final two periods with a 24-11 shots advantage.
“We weren’t planning on losing 2-0. We threw the kitchen sink at them. We played desperate and that’s the kind of effort I expect. Our team is very similar to Duluth’s,” said Bemidji coach Tom Serratore.
While the first period was scoreless, the Bulldogs gained some confidence by killing a five-minute major boarding penalty to Williams. The Beavers managed just one shot on the power play.
In the second period, UMD was outshot 15-9, but outscored Bemidji State 2-0.
Junior center Tim Stapleton drove a shot from the slot that caught the inside lower left corner of the net at 3:47. It was his 16th goal of the season and 46th in three years.
Just after a 5-on-3 power play expired, the Bulldogs connected with a one-man advantage at 7:28 to go up 2-0. McKnight took a Stapleton pass at the right circle and fired past freshman Climie.
The assist gave Stapleton nine points in five games and 34 points for the season.
Reichmuth, making his fifth start in six games, was particularly good the rest of the game as Bemidji State picked up the pace. He made a stick save on Bemidji State winger Ryan Huddy, the son of former NHLer Charlie Huddy, with two minutes left in the period.
“I like Bemidji State’s team,” said Sandelin. “They’ve got good speed, play hard and finish their checks, and will probably get into the [NCAA] tournament. They make it tough. What I like about our effort is that we did well in some areas, like special teams, that will make a difference in the playoffs.”
Bemidji State did make a fight of it as Murray stole the puck deep in the offensive zone and went right to the net to break Reichmuth’s shutout bid. It was the 16th goal and 114th career point for the senior center.
While Climie was credited with zero saves in the final period, he was seeing the puck nearby. Hitting pipes for UMD were Stapleton, T.J. Caig and McKnight.
A late surge sealed the win for the Bulldogs, who were coming off last Saturday’s 6-3 victory at No. 1-ranked Denver.
Kevin Pates covers college hockey for the Duluth News Tribune.