MARQUETTE, Mich. — There was not a lot of time for Minnesota-Duluth’s players to ponder a 12-goal season-opening game.
After Friday’s tie against Lake Superior State, the Bulldogs bused three hours through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from Sault Ste. Marie, arriving in Marquette around 2:15 a.m. They were at the Berry Events Center for an 11 a.m. skate and then back in the same building for a 7:30 p.m. game with Northern Michigan in the fourth Superior Cup.
Coach Scott Sandelin asked his team to do three things better: defensive coverage, penalty killing, and face-offs. They were better in all three areas in defeating Northern Michigan 3-2 before a crowd of 2,849.
“Except for about five minutes, we played strong the whole game,” said UMD freshman defenseman Dylan Olsen, who had the game’s first goal. “We need guys to play their roles, block shots, and be good defensively. We didn’t need to change much.”
The No. 8 Bulldogs got goals from three defensemen and, when tested, goalie Kenny Reiter was good and finished with 19 saves.
Northern Michigan had lost to Michigan Tech in overtime Friday and did not have much energy for most of the game. The Wildcats needed back-to-back goals only 103 seconds apart by defenseman Andrew Fernandez in the last seven minutes to make it close.
“From last season we lost our top goalie, top three defensemen, and four senior forwards. It’s going to be a work in progress this season,” said Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle, whose team was in the 2010 NCAA tournament. “We were fatigued in the first period and they just dominated us.”
The second night of 2010-11 started dramatically different as UMD’s defense held Northern Michigan to one shot on goal through the first 20 minutes, on a dump-in from center ice. At the same time, the Bulldogs scored on two of their first three power plays.
Olsen drove a shot home from the high slot just 51 seconds into the game and junior defenseman Brady Lamb connected from the right circle at 9:38 past junior goalie Reid Ellingson, who was replaced in the third period. Olsen’s dad, Darryl, was a Northern Michigan defenseman from 1985-89.
“Friday was real scrambly for us. We just wanted to get a lead and keep it simple tonight, and things were a whole lot better,” said Lamb.
Puck control continued to be UMD’s game in the second period with a 23-9 shots-on-goal advantage through 40 minutes. Northern, however, had a much better effort and produced three excellent scoring chances in close with Reiter making the saves.
UMD’s position improved when freshman defenseman Justin Faulk unleashed an attempt from high on the right side 2:11 into the third period for a 3-0 lead. After that, the Bulldogs appeared to relax and the Wildcats rallied as Fernandez scored in close with 7:45 left and again from the left circle with 6:02 left to cut it to 3-2.
“Lake State had too many scoring chances Friday and that’s what we wanted to limit. Northern Michigan only had a few and we played a solid game except for that stretch in the third period,” said Faulk.
“For most of the game they did what I asked,” said Sandelin. We played pretty darn well. It was another lesson to make sure to play to the buzzer, but it was a better effort.”