DULUTH, Minn. — The toughest stretch of Minnesota-Duluth’s hockey schedule is straight ahead in the final four series of the regular season — No. 1-ranked Wisconsin, No. 11 North Dakota, No. 6 Colorado College and No. 3 Minnesota. The Bulldogs looked to gain some momentum and break out of a slump Saturday night against Minnesota State-Mankato in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s game at the DECC. Mankato, however, wasn’t about to give up on a hot streak.
The Mavericks scored four second-period goals, three on power plays, on the way to handing UMD its most lopsided loss of the season, 7-1 before a crowd of 4,831 for a weekend sweep.
Mankato (11-13-4 and 7-10-3 in WCHA), 8-3-1 the last 12 games, broke free with the help of a five-minute power play. Wingers Kurtis Kisio and Jeff Marler scored goals 59 seconds apart early in the second period. Those came after UMD defenseman Ryan Swanson was called for a checking-from-behind penalty on Mankato’s Rob Rankin.
The victory came despite Mankato losing its top player, winger David Backes, to a checking-from-behind penalty in the first period, and despite being outshot 28-13 for the game. UMD led 13-2 in first-period shots but was tied 0-0.
“We were happy to survive that first period and (goalie Dan) Tormey stood on his head for us,” said Mankato junior winger Kurtis Kisio, son of former NHLer Kelly Kisio. “We were excited we were still in the game, and that it was zero-zero. Then we got contributions from everyone and realized we could pull this off.”
UMD (8-16-4 and 5-12-3) is winless the last seven games (0-6-1) and has lost eight straight league games, the worst stretch since nine straight WCHA defeats in 2001-02. The Bulldogs, 3-10-1 at home, had a lengthy meeting following Saturday’s game and were unavailable. UMD is home this weekend against league co-leader Wisconsin.
“It was embarrassing for the program and embarrassing for the fans who support the program,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “It all comes back to effort and this wasn’t a good effort.”
The Mavericks poured it on in the latter stages of the first period with goals 44 seconds apart. Kisio’s second goal, and sixth of the season, blew through the glove hand of UMD goalie Isaac Reichmuth on a power play with 3:03 remaining. Defenseman Steve Wagner followed with his third goal of the season with 2:19 left. There certainly were chances for UMD to gain the upper hand early. The Bulldogs had a 5-on-3 power play for 40 seconds, and a five-minute power play. But freshman Tormey was up to the task.
“What we talked about on the bench was to get through it and get on with the game. That was critical,” said Mankato coach Troy Jutting. “I was impressed by the mentality of our team. We did what we had to do.”
When center Ryan Carter scored at 1:55 of the third period, UMD trailed 5-0, as it did last Saturday at St. Cloud State. In that game, the Bulldogs came back before losing 6-3. Senior center Tim Stapleton broke Tormey’s shutout bid at 2:27 of the final period for his 11th goal this season and 60th of his career. Winger Austin Sutter added Mankato’s final two goals in the third period. Things got heated with 1:36 to play when UMD’s Jeff McFarland and Mankato’s Ryan McKelvie received five-minute fighting majors and will sit out this Friday’s games.
Kevin Pates covers Minnesota-Duluth for the Duluth News-Tribune in Duluth, Minn.