DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota Duluth’s plan this weekend was to move back into the top five of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
But the sixth-place Bulldogs found out after a loss Friday that there are other concerns. The second division is rapidly gaining ground.
UMD needed a boost in a rematch with ninth-place Michigan Tech on Saturday night at the DECC, but the resurgent Huskies had other ideas.
Brandon Schwartz and Justin St. Louis scored 22 seconds apart in the third period as Michigan Tech rallied to beat UMD, 3-1, before a crowd of 5,041.
It was Michigan Tech’s first sweep since winning twice at the DECC last Feb. 4-5. UMD is 3-8-1 at home this season, losing its last six league games.
As the night started, UMD was only a point out of fifth place, but was also just two points ahead of St. Cloud State and Minnesota State-Mankato (tied for seventh). The Bulldogs have been no lower than sixth place this season.
“This was pretty close to a must-win for us, considering how we played Friday when we just didn’t show up,” said UMD sophomore center Matt McKnight. “We had a lead, but we need to get a killer instinct. We haven’t been able to put teams away.
“The longer the score stayed tied (1-1), we became desperate to win. And the thing that killed us was pinching in on two plays, not reading those plays, and giving up two goals.”
UMD (8-12-4, 5-8-3 WCHA) exited the weekend tied for sixth with Mankato, which swept Alaska Anchorage.
Michigan Tech freshman goalie Michael-Lee Teslak, starting consecutive games of a series for only the second time this season, was strong with 30 saves. His teammates blocked 22 UMD shots.
The Huskies (6-17-1, 5-10-1) is 4-2-0 in its last six games in the WCHA, including a 4-2 win at No. 1-ranked Wisconsin on Dec. 9.
“These games rank right up there with the Wisconsin win,” said Michigan Tech captain Brandon Schwartz, who scored the go-ahead goal in the third period. “We’ve had a lot of close games where we’ve played one or two good periods and lost, but we had six strong periods this weekend.”
McKnight gave UMD its first lead of the series at 3:08 of the first period. Steve Czech’s point drive hit the end boards and rebounded to the right edge of the Michigan Tech net. McKnight was there to deflect the puck behind Teslak, who played in Friday’s 4-2 victory.
UMD misfired on a handful of scoring chances early in the second period before Michigan Tech tied the game at 1-1. Persistence by freshman center Ryan Angelow paid off at 3:34 as he had three whacks at the puck at the right edge of the UMD net to earn his third goal of the season.
Consecutive Huskies penalties later in the period, giving UMD a 5-on-3 advantage for 37 seconds, produced no goals leaving the game 1-1 after 40 minutes. Senior center Tim Stapleton had the best power-play opportunity, but his shot went off the left pipe with 9:15 to play in the second.
“We did a good job of keeping our composure when UMD scored the first goal,” said Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell. “We did a good job of blocking shots and letting Michael-Lee see the puck. It wasn’t like we were badly outshot and he stood on his head and stole a game. These were two evenly-matched teams and we worked hard to win.”
Bulldog scoring leader Mason Raymond was shaken up at 6:10 of the second period during a shorthanded shift. He was ridden into the endboards of the offensive zone and limped off, but returned later in the period.
Two consecutive 2-on-1 breaks delivered Michigan Tech’s knockout punch. Schwartz finished off the first at 7:18 of the final period and St. Louis followed at 7:40 to beat goalie Isaac Reichmuth. UMD, leading in final shots on goal, 31-25, was 0-for-7 on power plays and is 0-for-35 its last six games.
“We don’t give up any odd-man rushes all game and then we give up two in 30 seconds. That was the difference,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We had a better effort than Friday, but we wanted to be too fancy with the puck and no one wanted to shoot. You have to go to the net.”