DULUTH, Minn. — Junior center Travis Oleksuk didn’t get any advice before taking a penalty shot Friday night in Minnesota-Duluth’s home opening men’s hockey game at the DECC.
UMD’s coaches say they just let their shooters shoot and Oleksuk said he chose one of his two favorite plays. He came in on Providence goalie Alex Beaudry and scored with 1:57 left in the period to spark the No. 7 Bulldogs to a 5-3 victory before 4,523 fans.
It was UMD’s first successful penalty shot since a Junior Lessard goal against Boston College on Oct. 10, 2003, in East Lansing, Mich. This one helped keep the Bulldogs stay unbeaten at 2-0-1.
“I saw an opening stick-side low and when I see an opening, I shoot,” said Oleksuk, son of former UMD scoring star Bill Oleksuk of Thunder Bay, Ontario. “We were much more upbeat after getting those two goals at the end of the period, and getting the lead, and that momentum carried over to the third period.”
Providence was steady throughout, taking a 1-0 lead and getting within 4-3 on Derek Army’s goal with 27 seconds to play after Beaudry was pulled for an extra attacker. Mike Connolly’s second goal of the game, into an empty net with three seconds to go, clinched the victory. UMD’s Kenny Reiter finished with 22 saves.
“You can’t give UMD that many shots on the power play and that many special-team goals,” said Providence coach Tim Army, a former Friar forward, whose school was at the DECC for the first time since 1997. “Duluth is on top of you quickly here and [they] throw the puck around quickly. We generated some chances and I liked our compete level, but Duluth is a good team.”
UMD had two power play goals, another just 11 seconds after a power play, the penalty shot, and the empty-netter. Oleksuk had a goal and two assists, scoring leader Justin Fontaine had a goal and an assist, defenseman Brady Lamb had two assists, freshman winger J.T. Brown (on Oleksuk’s line) added his first collegiate goal, and Mike Connolly added an assist to his two goals.
Senior center Kyle MacKinnon had two goals for Providence, picked to finish last in Hockey East. The Friars had plane problems, not arriving in Duluth until 7:45 p.m. Thursday and thus being unable to practice. They and the Bulldogs faced a slushy rink on a warm night Friday.
The teams exchanged the first four goals before Mike Connolly tipped a Justin Faulk shot on a power play with 7:32 left in the second period. Oleksuk followed with the penalty shot after being pulled down by Providence freshman defenseman Mark Adams. The Bulldogs led 4-2 after two and finished with a 39-25 shots on goal advantage.
“It was a good game because we showed some battle and some grit. But we need to push, push, push all the time,” said Mike Connolly.
The final home opener at the 45-year-old DECC wasn’t easy for the Bulldogs and coach Scott Sandelin says he sees room for improvement.
“We gave Providence too much room for a lot of the game and we gave the puck away too much,” said Sandelin. “Our effort was decent, but we need to take care of the puck better.”