DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota Duluth’s goal was simple Saturday night at the DECC — break a three-game losing streak and remain in contention for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s regular-season championship.
Wisconsin had much the same idea, although the No. 2 Badgers were on a 7-1-3 streak and had dominated the Bulldogs in a Friday win.
UMD turned around its fortunes considerably in 24 hours with a 4-0 victory over Wisconsin before a sellout crowd of 5,388. The No. 9 Bulldogs (17-10-1 and 13-6-1) scored twice in the first four minutes — from Justin Fontaine and Brady Lamb — and goalie Kenny Reiter was superb with 28 saves for his second shutout this season. Wisconsin, the league’s top-scoring team, was held without a goal for the first time this season.
“We were a completely different team [from Friday],” said Reiter, who played in both games. “We might’ve been fortunate to get two quick goals, but we got some bounces after getting nothing Friday. We neutralized their forecheck, we didn’t allow second and third chances, and played for 60 minutes.”
The Badgers (15-7-4 and 11-6-3) couldn’t recover from the early deficit, which led to starting goalie Brett Bennett being replaced by Friday winner Scott Gudmandson. The Badgers had outshot UMD 52-19 in a 5-2 victory, then were outshot 31-28 in the rematch. After UMD’s top four scorers were blanked Friday, they came back with three goals and three assists in the win.
The victory put UMD alone in second in the league, one behind leading Denver, which swept at North Dakota. Denver has 28 points and UMD 27, while St. Cloud State is third with 26 and Wisconsin and Colorado College tied for fourth with 25.
The Bulldogs got off to a particularly good start. Fontaine wound up for an attempt at the right circle and scored low to the near side 75 seconds into the game for his 17th goal of the season. It was UMD’s first shot on goal and it surprised Bennett. Just 1:57 later, defenseman Lamb connected 16 seconds into the game’s first power play from high in the slot for his eighth goal of the season.
“It was a rough week [after losing twice to Bemidji State and then to Wisconsin] when we didn’t show up to compete,” said Fontaine. “We changed up our lines and spread our energy all over the ice. We won a lot more [faceoff] draws and then held on to the puck.”
After facing three shots and allowing two goals, Bennett was replaced.
A five-minute major on Wisconsin’s Matt Thurber for a charge on UMD’s Drew Akins gave the Bulldogs a power play spanning the first and second periods, yet the Bulldogs couldn’t cash in.
A hustling play lead to a 3-0 lead with the only goal of the second period. Jack Connolly fought for the puck in the left corner of the offensive zone and went to the net for a wraparound attempt. Gudmandson made the save, but Mike Connolly was there for an open-net rebound with 6:39 left.
“The disparity in the game started with the lack of a good start, and then we put ourselves behind the 8-ball by continually going to the penalty box,” said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves of taking 13 penalties and providing nine UMD power plays. “We never got going; it was like swimming upstream. We never had any flow, any rhythm. It wasn’t an easy night for us.”
The lead went to 4-0 at 6:15 of the third period when Rob Bordson tipped a Mike Seidel attempt at the crease. Wisconsin had been 3-0-2 the past five games at the DECC, with UMD’s last home win over the Badgers coming on Feb. 4, 2006.
The win kept the Bulldogs from their first four-game losing streak since the end of 2007-08.
“We played a better game from start to finish, better in every aspect,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We answered the bell after a tough loss.”
UMD was without junior defenseman Chad Huttel, who took a hit to the head by Wisconsin’s John Ramage in the waning seconds Friday.
UMD is on the road for three of its final four regular-season series, starting this weekend at last-place Michigan Tech.