DULUTH, Minn. — Before Minnesota Duluth forged one of its best comebacks in recent memory Friday night, few statistics favored the Bulldogs against Minnesota State-Mankato at the DECC.
UMD trailed by two goals after two periods while facing a team it had not beaten in seven games and had now won in Duluth since Oct. 23, 2004.
What the No. 14-ranked Bulldogs did was score the final three goals of the game, two by freshman winger Cody Danberg, including the game-winner with 2:54 left in overtime for a 4-3 Western Collegiate Hockey Association victory over No. 16 Mankato before a crowd of 4,405.
Danberg tipped a Travis Gawryletz shot out of mid-air past Mankato goalie Mike Zacharias at 7:52 of the third period and sophomore center Jordan Fulton tied the game with 71 seconds left in regulation play (five seconds after goalie Alex Stalock was pulled for an extra attacker).
Danberg got to a Kyle Schmidt rebound in the crease in sudden death to gain the win.
“The second period was one of our worst periods of the season and the third period, and overtime, was some of our best hockey of the season,” said Danberg, a left winger from Canwood, Saskatchewan. “We started to play with a little intensity. I wouldn’t say we stole one, we battled back, got some lucky bounces and took the game.”
It was only the second time in the last 53 games that UMD had rallied to win after trailing through two periods. The Bulldogs (8-7-4 and 6-6-3 in the WCHA) came into the game 0-5-2 against Mankato the last seven games of the series. UMD is 6-1-3 at home this season after its first league win at home since Nov. 17, a 4-1 victory over Michigan Tech.
Mankato (9-8-3 and 3-7-3) entered the series with a 6-1-2 mark the previous nine games, including a tie and win at home over UMD. After a scoreless first period, the Mavericks scored three goals in the second period for leads of 2-0 and 3-1.
After two periods, UMD coaches Scott Sandelin and Steve Rohlik left the Bulldogs with a few choice words.
“They basically said not to worry about making mistakes and just go out and play hard,” said Fulton. “When you play hard, you get some bounces. When we scored the first goal of the third period, that set the tone. Mankato was on its heels for a lot of the rest of the game.”
Danberg’s deflection, which bounced under Zacharias’ blocker, made it 3-2. Zacharias later made good point-blank stops on Matt McKnight and Rob Bordson. With Bordson on as the extra attacker in the waning seconds, Mankato looked like it had the puck along the end boards in the defensive zone, yet the Mavericks couldn’t clear. The puck got to the front of the net and UMD’s Michael Gergen poked it free before Zacharias could cover. Fulton was there to jam the puck into an empty net.
The game was 3-3.
“We had the puck right on our stick. You have to clear that every time. That’s Hockey 101,” said Mankato coach Troy Jutting. “Twice there’s a scramble behind the net and we”re not strong on it and it gets in front of the net. We haven’t given up two like that all year.
“For the most part we played well, but you can’t give up four goals and win in this league.”
In overtime, UMD’s freshman line got the winner. Zacharias watched a Schmidt attempt sail to the end boards and the puck again got to the crease and Danberg smacked it over the goalie’s leg pad for his third goal in three games.
UMD led 20-5 in shots for the third period and overtime, and 39-21 for the game.
“Quite frankly, the way we played the first two periods was embarrassing, but then we played a good third period and overtime, which gave us a good win, a gutty win,” said Sandelin.
Mankato’s Zach Harrison bounced a shot off a UMD defender 2:17 into the second period for a 1-0 lead and was followed 2:50 later by a Kael Mouillierat rebound score at 5:07. The teams then exchanged power-play goals — a mid-air deflection by UMD’s Nick Kemp at 9:54 and a rebound by Mankato’s Geoff Irwin.
Kevin Pates covers Minnesota-Duluth for the Duluth News-Tribune in Duluth, Minn.