DULUTH, Minn. — Isaac Reichmuth chipped his two front teeth Saturday night, showing what Minnesota-Duluth was ready to sacrifice in its in-state battle with Minnesota.
UMD’s senior goalie got smacked in the face by an opposing skate late in the second period and with the Bulldogs holding a two-goal lead. He was momentarily stunned, yet stayed in the game and finished with a season-high 37 saves to beat No. 7 Minnesota 4-3 before a sellout crowd of 5,391 at the DECC.
UMD also got two goals from freshman left winger Andrew Carroll and the Bulldogs blocked 14 shots to earn their first home win of the season. They gained three points in the WCHA series and stretched their unbeaten streak to four (2-0-2).
“When you see your teammates sliding headfirst into a one-timer to block a shot, that’s inspiring,” said Reichmuth, who earned his 52nd career victory. “It was an intense game with Minnesota coming to the net hard, and shots going off my helmet. But we also played hard.”
The Bulldogs (2-4-2, 2-0-2 WCHA) scored just 48 seconds into the game on a goal by freshman winger Nick Kemp on the first shot on goal. UMD never relinquished the lead. The Bulldogs were up 3-1 after two periods, saw Minnesota rally with two third-period goals by center Ryan Potulny, then held on despite being outshot 40-28 (21-5 in the final period).
UMD is 8-2-1 in its last 11 games against Minnesota (3-3-2, 3-2-1 WCHA), which didn’t play at the DECC last season. Minnesota’s three losses this season have been by one goal.
“We’re starting to get it into our heads that we can score goals, and play defense and win games,” said UMD senior winger Justin Williams, about an unbeaten streak that’s followed an 0-4 start.
While goals and leads have been hard to find in the first four weekends, UMD went up 2-1 in the first period.
Center Matt McKnight got loose down the Minnesota slot and slipped a pass to Kemp in the first minute. Kemp hit the near side of the net for his second collegiate goal.
It took Minnesota just nine seconds of its first power play to even the score. Star freshman center Phil Kessel converted a Chris Harrington rebound at 4:19.
The Bulldogs went up 2-1 at 8:07 when Williams shot off of a Jeff McFarland in the slot to beat Minnesota freshman goalie Jeff Frazee.
A quick change in fortunes in the second period put UMD up by two. Minnesota winger Kris Chucko smacked a shot off the inside of the right pipe of UMD’s net and the puck clanked out the other side. Carroll took control and rushed into the Minnesota on left wing and scored unassisted to the short side at 8:45.
It was his second goal in two nights and led to Frazee’s departure. Minnesota coach Don Lucia replaced his unbeaten goalie (2-0-1) with Kellen Briggs, who was impressive in Friday’s 2-2 tie.
“We dug down and found a way to get a lead and keep a lead, and to come back when we are scored on. We’ve grown so much the last two weekends,” said Kemp. “(Reichmuth) gave us every chance to win. Minnesota came at us with everything they had at the end.”
The Bulldogs thought they might have lost Reichmuth with 6:07 left in the second period. A Minnesota rush ended with Harrington being knocked goalward, and one of his skates clubbed Reichmuth in the facemask.
Reichmuth met with trainer Suz Britton, then stayed to finish his fifth straight complete game.
“I could feel chunks of teeth in my mouth and thought it was worse than it was,” said Reichmuth, UMD’s career leader in goals against and save percentage. “It hurt but because of the adrenaline it went numb. I never thought of leaving.”
It was an effort watched by former UMD great Keith “Huffer” Christiansen, a Fort Frances, Ont., native, and Duluth resident. He was part of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2005 that was introduced after the first period. Christiansen helped UMD beat Minnesota 8-1 on Nov. 19, 1966 in the opening game at the DECC, with six assists.
The Bulldogs felt that kind of pressure in the third period.
The teams exchanged goals 21 seconds apart in the first three minutes. Potulny scored at 2:31 to get the Gophers within 3-2 and Carroll countered with his third goal in two games by tipping a Travis Gawryletz shot.
Potulny followed with his team-leading sixth goal of the season on a power play with 7:27 remaining. The Gophers, 2-of-5 with the man advantage, were on the attack.
“Offensively we’re a little inept right now. We had 77 shots on goal in two games and, what, five goals?” said Lucia. “When we weren’t scoring, guys started to press and try to do it by themselves. We have to be more physical.”
Reichmuth (7-2-1 against Minnesota) faced a flurry of five Minnesota shots in just a few seconds with 2:59 to go, then Briggs was pulled for an extra attacker in the last 51 seconds.
“It was a gutty performance,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “Little by little we’re becoming a better team.”
Kevin Pates covers college hockey for the Duluth News Tribune.