DULUTH, Minn. — After 433 days, Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota got together again Friday night at the DECC, and they went to overtime again, this time a 1-1 final in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game played before the season’s first sold-out crowd of 5,364 spectators.
No. 16 UMD rallied from a one-goal deficit in the third period to gain a point in the league standings thanks to a goal by captain Matt McKnight and 26 saves from goalie Alex Stalock.
When the in-state rivals last met, Nov. 4, 2006, Minnesota won 3-2 in overtime.
One-third of UMD’s games this season have gone to overtime, including the last three. The Bulldogs (8-7-6, 6-6-5 WCHA) are 1-0-6 in sudden death. No. 18 Minnesota (11-10-4, 5-8-2) is 0-2-4 in sudden death.
“We’ll leave here feeling good about a good third period and overtime after two average periods. We can carry that over to the next game,” said McKnight, a senior winger.
After two scoreless periods, Minnesota senior winger Ben Gordon scored on a Blake Wheeler rebound at the crease 76 seconds into the third. For the game, the Gophers led in shots on goal 27-19. Neither team had a shot in overtime.
The 19 shots allowed tied a season best for Minnesota. The Gophers also held firm in the final period and overtime just a week after surrendering a three-goal lead in a tie at St. Cloud State. Minnesota has been outscored 33-18 in third periods this season.
“I thought we had the upper hand for a while and controlled the play better than we have lately,” said Gordon, who has 89 points in 128 career games. “We’re not happy with a tie, but we feel better about being on track.”
Wheeler got off a shot that hit Stalock in the stomach and then popped loose in the crease, and Gordon said he shoveled the puck into the net. Minnesota continued some pressure the early part of the third period, and UMD was held without a shot on goal for more than eight minutes.
UMD’s first shot on goal tied the score. Center Drew Akins dug the puck out of the right corner of the offensive zone and found McKnight at the edge of the net in front of Minnesota freshman goalie Alex Kangas. McKnight converted at 8:44.
UMD had a golden opportunity to take the lead with 4:02 to play in regulation after consecutive Minnesota penalties. The Bulldogs had 82 seconds of a five-on-three power play that generated zero shots on goal.
“We finally woke up in the second half of the third period and overtime, but we shouldn’t feel great about the tie,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “It was a point, but we could’ve done better. In a five-on-three like that, you’ve got to score.”
The best scoring chance of the first two periods came when Minnesota defenseman Derek Peltier had a tap-in at the left side of the UMD net 59 seconds into the second period. The puck slid wide. Stalock turned away Wheeler and Gordon during a flurry in the opening minutes of the period and made his best stop sliding to deny center Drew Fisher at 4:24.
“When we missed that shot from five feet away, I said, ‘That’s just how this season has been,’” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “But both teams have trouble scoring and there wasn’t much [in scoring chances] inside. It was an even, hard-fought game.”
Kangas stood his ground late in the second period, stopping UMD defenseman Jason Garrison. His toughest save was on a Minnesota turnover that gave UMD freshman Cody Danberg a point-blank attempt with 85 seconds remaining.
The Bulldogs went to sudden death twice last weekend at home in a win and tie against Minnesota State-Mankato and are 6-1-5 this season at the DECC.
“Every series seems to come down to a bounce or two and neither team really got that bounce [Friday],” Stalock said. “Our guys should feel confident that we came back in the third period. In the first two periods we just didn’t move our feet and finish the way we can.”
Kevin Pates covers Minnesota-Duluth for the Duluth News-Tribune in Duluth, Minn.