DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota Duluth now has a small unbeaten streak as they have gone 1-0-2 over their last three games. It’s not much, but the Bulldogs say it feels much better than the four-game losing streak which opened their season. UMD needed it’s best effort so far to earn a 2-2 overtime time with No. 7-ranked Minnesota on Friday night in a sold out Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s game at the DECC.
Freshman winger Andrew Carroll gave UMD a 2-1 lead with 6:58 left in the third period and Minnesota senior center Gino Guyer tied it 2:21 later. The Bulldogs (1-4-2, 1-0-2 in the WCHA) later had a five-minute power play which stretched into overtime, but didn’t score. The in-state rivals settled for a tie.
“Lately we’ve been playing smarter, more within our system. And that’s leading to more success,” said UMD senior goalie Isaac Reichmuth, who had 35 saves and is 6-2-1 lifetime against the Gophers. “We had been playing hard before, but not as smart. We’re not content with a tie, but you really can’t complain about it either. It was such a hard-fought game.”
The Bulldogs were coming off a win and tie to open the WCHA season at Michigan Tech, yet, not much was in UMD’s favor in the game’s opening minutes. Reichmuth went behind the net to play a puck, which then hit his stick and bounced out front. Minnesota freshman Blake Wheeler had an open-net attempt, which was blocked by UMD freshman Matt Niskanen.
At 3:50, UMD lost its captain and only senior defenseman when Steve Czech was called for a checking from behind major. That left the Bulldogs with five defensemen, including three freshmen.
“I thought our defensemen played well and the way young guys gain confidence is playing in games like this,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “I hope we’re in a lot of close games because that’s only going to make us better.”
Minnesota led in shots on goal 37-33 and Gophers goalie Kellen Briggs and Reichmuth were the stars.
Wheeler did have a hand in Minnesota’s first goal. He stuffed a shot at the right edge that hit off the pipe and slid into the crease. The play looked to be over, but Reichmuth couldn’t get to the puck and Minnesota freshman Phil Kessel scored his third goal of the season. That came on a power play with 5:33 left in the first period.
Falling behind ignited the Bulldogs, thought, who threw four shots on Briggs in the space of about 15 seconds two by Niskanen and two by fellow defenseman Josh Meyers. Minnesota (3-2-2 and 2-1-1) out shot UMD 14-7 in the second period, yet UMD scored the only goal to make it 1-1. Center Tim Stapleton touched a Mason Raymond pass into an open net in a 5-on-3 power play with 7:13 left.
“I don’t think we’ve clicked on all cylinders on a Friday yet,” said Guyer, Minnesota’s captain. “It could’ve been 2-0 or 3-0 (for UMD) early if it wasn’t for Kellen.”
Carroll took a Stapleton pass and got loose on a third-period left wing rush, finally shooting from the top of the circle. The puck somehow slipped under Briggs’ right arm, to the near side. He thinks it may have deflected off the stick of one of his teammates, while Carroll thinks it went straight in. In any case, it was Carroll’s first collegiate point and gave the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead.
“We stepped it up and played our best game so far. We played three solid periods,” said Carroll, who led Sioux Falls in scoring last season in the U.S. Hockey League.
“I knew something had to finally go in for me. I had been waiting seven games.”
Wile the crowd of 5,379 was buzzing over the goal, Guyer came right back to convert a rebound from senior left winger Andy Sertich. It was Guyer’s 40th career goal and fourth of the season. Minnesota senior defenseman Chris Harrington was called for a checking from behind major on UMD’s Justin Williams with 2:45 left in the third period. However, neither team was able to score on extended power plays the fourth checking from behind penalties of the season for each.
“It was a hard-fought, entertaining WCHA game,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “We’re disappointed we tied and, at the end, happy we tied.”
UMD is 7-3-1 versus Minnesota the last 11 meetings. They resume their fierce intrastate rivalry tomorrow night.