DULUTH, Minn. — North Dakota has been the biggest pain in Minnesota Duluth’s side the past six years.
The Bulldogs sought to even the score, if only a bit, Saturday night to close a Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s series at the DECC.
No. 20 North Dakota entered the game with a 16-2-2 mark against UMD since the start of 2003-04.
At the same time, the Bulldogs were seeking to break from their own early-season streak in which they were 0-3-2 the previous five games.
A goal in each period gave UMD a 3-1 victory before a crowd of 5,037, the largest of the season at home. Junior goalie Alex Stalock was named player of the game with 37 saves, as UMD was outshot 38-29.
“The big difference is that we played so much better along the boards, making passes and getting the puck out of the zone,” said Stalock. “Last weekend [in a tie and loss to Wisconsin] we played too much in the defensive zone and it hurt us.”
UMD (5-4-4 and 2-4-3 WCHA) got off to a good start, scoring the game’s first goal. Defenseman Trent Palm launched a power-play attempt just inside the offensive blue line and Michael Gergen converted a tip at the crease 6:26 into the game. It was the only goal of the period.
The second period was dominated by North Dakota (4-7-1 and 4-5-1) in shots on goal, 16-10, as senior winger Ryan Duncan had eight shot attempts himself. However, the Bulldogs got the only goal when left winger Jordan Fulton converted a two-on-one break with Justin Fontaine, scoring from the left edge with 83 seconds left.
“All week long, we talked about the first five minutes of the game, that we had to come out with a good start, and we stuck to that,” said Fulton. “We played physical and we made some nice plays.”
A slick passing power play put the Bulldogs up 3-0 just 52 seconds into the third period.
Defenseman Josh Meyers passed from the right circle down low left to Mike Connolly, who relayed across the crease. MacGregor Sharp was at the right edge with an open side of the net as goalie Brad Eidsness was unable to get over. Sharp scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season and 31st of his career.
North Dakota defenseman Brad Miller broke Stalock’s shutout bid with 7:28 to play with a man advantage, but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide. For the game, UMD killed eight-of-nine power plays.
“We had one guy on each line who fell off, not that they were terrible, but they have to be better,” said North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol. “We have a different three of four guys who are off every night.
Duluth took advantage of their opportunities and got good goaltending. Give them credit.”
It was UMD’s first win since beating St. Cloud State 5-1 at Xcel Energy Center on Nov. 1, which was also the last time the Bulldogs scored the first goal of the game. The Bulldogs claimed three of four points in a North Dakota series for the first time since the end of the 2002-03 season, in Grand Forks.
“We pushed the pace of the game and when we needed a save, Al was there; he kept us in the lead,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin.
The Bulldogs have just one game this weekend, at home Saturday against No. 17 St. Cloud State at the DECC.
Kevin Pates covers Minnesota-Duluth for the Duluth News-Tribune in Duluth, Minn.