If you throw out the first minute of play Saturday night, Minnesota-Duluth played its best game of the young hockey season.
The No. 7 Bulldogs remained undefeated through four games, getting goals from five players and getting a solid performance in Aaron Crandall’s goalie debut in a 7-1 nonconference men’s victory over Providence College. A crowd of 4,584 saw UMD’s first sweep of the season at the DECC.
UMD (3-0-1) started slow, allowing a goal on the first shot on goal at 58 seconds, then got in gear.
Winger Kyle Schmidt, who gained fame for igniting UMD with opening goals last season, scored at 9:57 before linemate Travis Oleksuk and first-line center Jack Connolly connected just 22 seconds apart. Connolly finished off a nice passing play with 4:37 left in the opening period for a 3-1 lead.
“It was our fault on the first goal, and then we started to find the back of the net,” said Connolly, a junior center. “We got production from all of our lines and that’s what we need. We played well in our own end, we created turnovers and we had some big goals.”
Providence center Tim Schaller scored on the game’s first shot, but it was the only goal for the Hockey East team from Rhode Island, which lost 5-3 Friday.
UMD came into the game averaging 4.67 goals a game, sixth-best in Division-I, and had the ninth-ranked power play, operating at 31.6 percent.
UMD’s top line did its part. Connolly had two goals and two assists Saturday, and Mike Connolly and Fontaine each had two assists. Freshman winger J.T. Brown, son of former Minnesota Vikings running back Ted Brown, had a goal and three assists, including a breakaway score midway through the third period. Schmidt added his second goal with 67 seconds to play.
“I was anxious to get in and play, but I wasn’t nervous,” said Crandall, a former St. Thomas Academy player. “After I got through the first few saves, I could see everyone was excited. We rebounded and got three quick goals and that eased my mind. That was our best game so far.”
In the second period, defenseman Wade Bergman drove a Mike Connolly pass from high on the left side past Providence junior goalie Alex Beaudry at 5:17. Beaudry had allowed four goals on 18 shots and was replaced by Justin Gates. Jack Connolly’s second goal of the game came on a power play at 8:14, tipping a Fontaine pass at the right side.
For the series Jack Connolly had two goals and three assists, Mike Connolly two goals and three assists and Fontaine a goal and three assists.
Providence (1-2), picked to finish last in Hockey East, was outshot 41-18. Coach Tim Army was still talking with his team more than 40 minutes after the game. The Friars averaged just two goals a game last season, 56th best among 58 Division I teams.
“We put some new players in the lineup and didn’t miss a beat. Our third and fourth lines got us going, and when we moved our feet, we were good,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “I especially liked our third period (outshooting Providence 18-4 and outscoring the Friars 2-0),”
The Bulldogs open Western Collegiate Hockey Association action this Friday and Saturday at home against Alaska Anchorage.