DULUTH, Minn. — Pairing the 2008 USA Junior Hockey Player of the Year with the 2009 Western Collegiate Hockey Association goals-against leader provided Minnesota Duluth with a 4-0 victory over Minnesota State
Mankato before a crowd of 4,337 Friday night at the DECC.
Freshman center Jack Connolly of Duluth scored twice and junior goalie Alex Stalock matched his season high with 39 saves as the Bulldogs moved a point ahead of Mankato into sixth place in the league.
No. 13-ranked UMD (12-7-6 and 6-6-5) has won three straight games, is 8-1-3 at home this season and 8-3-3 the last 14 games. Mankato (11-12-3 and 7-10-2) had a season-high number of shots on goal, but is now 3-9 the last 12 games.
The thing we talked about before the game was that we needed to play our best now. And we did a great job of leading the intensity of the game and not trying to play up to someone elses. We led the intensity, said Stalock, who has a 2.17 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
Connolly, the WCHA preseason rookie of the year after a season with Sioux Falls in the U.S. Hockey League, scored on UMDs first power-play chance 4:34 into the game and added his fifth goal of the season at 5:50 of the second.
Mankato outshot UMD 39-30 for the game, but when it was 0-0, Stalock was at his best and then never wavered.
Give Duluth credit in capitalizing on the chances they had, said Mankato coach Troy Jutting. Our effort was there. Any time you get 39 shots against a team of that caliber youre doing some good things. But with 39 shots you also have to score some goals.
Connolly got loose on a break early in the game, made a fake inside, zipped outside past two defenders on the left side and beat goalie Mike Zacharias high to the near side. With 8:00 left in the first period winger Jordan Fulton scored from the slot for his eighth goal of the season. At that time Mankato led in shots on goal 9-3.
Connollys second goal came from low on the left side of the offensive zone as he attempted to pass cross-ice to defenseman Josh Meyers. The puck hit the skate of a Mankato defender, came back to Connolly and he scored between the legs of Zacharias at the crease for a 3-0 lead.
Al played very well for us and we got some confidence with a few goals, said Connolly. That was one of our better games on offense and defense.
A lucky bounce gave UMD another chance 5:36 of the third period. Chad Huttel threw the puck into the offensive zone and as it curled around the end boards, the puck hit an edge of the Zamboni door and popped into the slot. Michael Gergen, who had just broken his stick and took one from Drew Akins, hit an open net as Zacharias tried to get back to the crease.
The Bulldogs then buckled down and helped Stalock earn his second shutout of the season and sixth for his career, tying him for second place in UMD Division I history. Winger Justin Fontaine had two assists to remain in the WCHA scoring lead for all games with 33 points in 25 games
Al was the key early and we built off of that, said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. We got some nice goals and played a pretty solid game, but we know were going to have to be better.