DULUTH, Minn. — Win number one of 2006 couldn’t have come at a better time for Minnesota Duluth.
The Bulldogs had seen almost nothing go their way in the New Year in losing seven straight games, but that negative statistic was obliterated in a nearly-flawless performance against No. 4-ranked Wisconsin on Saturday night at the DECC.
UMD scored three power-play goals and got a stellar performance from senior goalie Isaac Reichmuth to defeat the Badgers, 4-1, in a WCHA men’s game before a sellout crowd of 5,370.
Senior center Tim Stapleton gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead 7:55 into the game and they never trailed.
UMD (9-17-4 and 6-13-3 in the WCHA) won for the first time since a 4-1 victory over Maine on Dec. 27 in Estero, Fla., and for the first time in the league at home since a 4-3 victory over No. 2 Minnesota on Nov. 5.
It was the first road loss this season and the most one-sided defeat for first-place Wisconsin, which led in shots on goal 32-21.
“I can’t express how good this feels. This couldn’t have come at a better time for us, in our rink, before a big crowd and right as we go on a (one-week) break,” said Stapleton. “We played solid defense, we didn’t make many mistakes and we played with confidence.”
Wisconsin (19-7-2 and 14-6-2) came into the game with favorable statistics. The Badgers had the most wins among Division I men (19), tied with Miami; the best defensive average in Division I (1.74 goals a game), tied with Vermont; and the best road record in Division I (10-0-1).
But Wisconsin never got on track, although the Badgers tried mightly.
“It was a tough night. I saw the puck take some crazy bounces and I said to our guys that we needed to get (a goal) off our fanny. We needed something like that to get us going,” said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves. “But at the times we could’ve used a goal to energize us, (Reichmuth) made timely saves.”
With the score tied, 1-1, early in the second period, UMD scored the final three goals from three freshmen – Mason Raymond, MacGregor Sharp and Nick Kemp – to put the Badgers away. Reichmuth made 31 saves to out-duel Wisconsin freshman Shane Connelly and earn his 56th career win, third most in program history. UMD finished 3-for-6 on power plays.
UMD has this week off before returning to play Feb. 17-18 at No. 10 North Dakota.
“I liked everything I saw. We played well from start to finish,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We played better defensively and we played better in front of Isaac. We needed this. It was a big relief.”
There was only one penalty in the first period, on Wisconsin, and the Bulldogs took advantage to score a power-play goal. Stapleton cranked an attempt from high in the slot and beat Connelly low inside the left pipe with 7:55 left. Stapleton’s 61st career goal and 146th point gave UMD its first lead of the series, following a 7-1 loss Friday.
Wisconsin appeared to tie the game with 71 seconds left in the opening period as freshman Tom Gorowsky, the 2004 Minnesota Mr. Hockey from Centennial High School, converted a Davis Drewiske rebound. However, the play was called offside.
UMD was outshot, 15-8, in the second period, but outscored Wisconsin, 2-1, to go up, 3-1.
A replay review was needed 74 seconds into the period when Wisconsin freshman winger Jack Skille put a shot just under the crossbar. Referee Scott Zelkin ruled the puck hit only the pipe and never entered the net. However, UMD Jay Cascalenda was called for a holding penalty at that point and the Badgers did score 30 seconds later as center Joe Pavelski put in a rebound for his 15th goal of the season.
Reichmuth started a play that led to a goal at 4:01 to put UMD ahead for good. Raymond ultimately shot from high on the left side and it deflected off Drewiske’s stick. The puck went high to the far side over Connelly.
“We were long overdue for this,” said Reichmuth. “We knew it was going to come eventually and the goalies knew it was going to take a real solid effort to get out of this.
“We got a lead and held it, and got some lucky bounces, and played good defense. I don’t remember a clear odd-man rush by Wisconsin.”
A second power-play score gave the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead as Sharp knocked in a Matt Niskanen rebound at the left edge of the crease with 7:14 left in the second period. The only goal of the third period was also scored with a man-advatage, as Kemp scored with 7:04 to play to complete a season-high three-point night.
Wisconsin was limited to just six shots on goal in the final period, leading to a New Year’s celebration by the Bulldogs.