MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs held on in the third period for a 3-2 win over Minnesota, gaining a critical split and keeping their hopes alive for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
It was a hard fought game where the Bulldogs controlled much of the first two periods and the Gophers the third.
“It was a little more like the team we need to be for two periods,” remarked Bulldogs’ coach Scott Sandelin. “It was a game that had a lot of intensity. I thought we had a great second period.”
The intensity was especially noticeable between Minnesota forward Ben Gordon and Bulldogs’ goaltender Alex Stalock.
The situation started at 12:07 of the first when Stalock did not like how close Gordon got to him on a save and swung and missed the butt end of his stick at Gordon. A minor scrum broke out between Gordon and a defenseman.
Gordon got out of the scrum and went after Stalock. What was a minor scrum escalated into every player on the ice but Gophers’ goalie Alex Kangas getting involved. Gordon got an extra minor for roughing.
Gordon and Stalock got into another scrum at 4:33 of the second. This time, Stalock got the extra penalty for slashing. Gordon got his third roughing minor in the game.
Fueled by a goal late in the second, the Bulldogs held a 3-1 lead going into the third.
Minnesota started the third with energy, giving the green light to their defensemen to jump into the offensive play. At 4:07 of the third, Kevin Wehrs stepped up on one rush all the way to Stalock. In fact Wehrs ended up behind Stalock as the puck trickled out front, where Justin Bostrom put the puck past Stalock. Wehrs was clearly in the crease, but did not appear to interfere with Stalock on the play.
Minnesota’s Mike Hoeffel had two point blank opportunities to knot the game at three in the first 10 minutes of the third, but Stalock held strong.
“We had a lot at stake,” commented Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “This was an important game for the PairWise.”
The Bulldogs looked more determined in the first. Out-hustling Minnesota to lose pucks, their hustle paid off at 18:47 of the first when Cody Danberg popped up a centering pass from Nick Kemp at the goal crease. The puck climbed Kangas and went off his blocker to find the far upper corner.
The Bulldogs had numerous close chances in the first half of the second to extend the lead to two goals. At 12:35, they finally got the right bounce as a centering pass came off Cade Fairchild right to the stick of Mike Curry. Curry burred the 10 footer past Kangas.
“I thought UMD was sharper from the get go,” commented Lucia. “Especially for two periods.”
Duluth followed the goal by taking two straight minor penalties, giving Minnesota a two-man advantage on the power play.
As irony would have it, Gordon put the puck past Stalock at 14:54. Stalock and the Bulldogs challenged the call because they thought Stalock was interfered with seconds before by Blake Wheeler, but the goal stood. The goal gave Minnesota life, and they controlled play until seconds where left in the period, when Stu Bickel was called for tripping.
Just 11 seconds later, at 19:41, the Bulldogs regained their two goal lead when Drew Atkins backhanded a rebound of a Rob Bordson shot past Kangas.
“If we do not win two next weekend, our season is over,” commented Lucia on next week’s road matchup in the first round of WCHA playoffs against Minnesota State.
The Bulldogs head to Denver in hopes of repeating the same upset they did in first round of the WCHA tournament in 2006.