DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota Duluth went head-to-head with North Dakota for a second straight day Sunday, and scored a goal and pushed the NCAA’s No. 1-ranked team to the brink.
But the Fighting Sioux found a way to keep their Division I-leading unbeaten streak alive as center Chris VandeVelde scored 53 seconds into overtime for a 2-1 victory before a crowd of 4,750 at the DECC.
North Dakota is 14-0-1 the past 15 games and secured no less than second place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings with one weekend remaining in the regular-season. The Fighting Sioux (23-8-2 and 18-7-1 WCHA) moved up to a No. 1 tie in the PairWise Rankings with Central Collegiate Hockey Association champion Michigan.
UMD (12-14-6 and 8-13-5) is eighth in the league, but tied for 13th in the PairWise Rankings, which mimic the NCAA tournament selection process. The Bulldogs finish their league schedule Friday and Saturday at No. 12 Minnesota.
“We played two pretty good games. One shot here, one shot there and the outcomes might’ve been different. Those are the kind of games we’ve been in all season,” said UMD senior center Matt McKnight, whose team lost 2-0 Saturday. “You can never be satisfied with a loss, but we played with intensity, with some jump, with an edge. We hustled.”
The Bulldogs were solid in their final home game of the season. After being shut out in three straight games, scoring a goal was the first order of business. Winger Kyle Schmidt put a shot off the right pipe and crossbar with 6:08 left in the first period. Defenseman Travis Gawryletz put a shot off the left pipe 6:40 into the second period.
UMD broke through in the third as McKnight, in the right corner of the offensive zone, got a pass through to MacGregor Sharp, who knocked the puck under the glove of North Dakota goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux with 8:50 left in regulation.
Sharp’s goal snapped North Dakota’s shutout streak at 196 minutes, 41 seconds over four games, the second-longest streak in school history, and it broke UMD’s school-record scoreless streak at 232:09.
North Dakota answered 100 seconds later on Andrew Kozek’s 15th goal of the season, a drive from the left circle following a turnover in the offensive zone.
“Duluth came out hard and had us on the ropes in the third period, and then we got the momentum back on Kozek’s goal,” said VandeVelde. “We’re finding ways to win, we’re playing with confidence and we’re getting bounces.”
The winning play developed as Rylan Kaip, behind the UMD net, sent a puck into the crease which appeared to hit goalie Alex Stalock and drop down for VandeVelde’s attempt. He reached out for the puck, shoving it in for his 14th goal of the season. North Dakota led in final shots on goal 37-23.
The loss was the first in overtime for UMD, 2-1-6 in sudden death. The Bulldogs killed all seven North Dakota power plays, including a five-minute major after Michael Gergen was called for checking-from-behind 71 seconds into the game.
“We played a really good game against the hottest team in the nation. We were right there, but obviously we have to score more goals,” said Sharp.
North Dakota is also the top defensive team in Division I, allowing 1.79 goals a game, and Lamoureux is ranked No. 1 in goals-against average at 1.68. His 55 career wins is tied for second in program history with Jordan Parise (2003-06).
The Fighting Sioux climbed to within two points of WCHA leader Colorado College with two games left. North Dakota finishes at home Friday and Saturday against fifth-place St. Cloud State with a shot at the MacNaughton Cup, while Colorado College has a home-and-home series with Denver.
“In both games, both teams battled as hard as you can battle,” said North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol. “For a lot of the game [Sunday] UMD had more energy than we did.
“I’m happy with the way we responded after getting down a goal. The poise we showed gave us a shot at winning.
“We’ve solidified at least the No. 2 seed in the conference for the playoffs and now, for the first time, we can look at putting some pressure on Colorado College.”