DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota Duluth needed a change in style Friday to open the Western Collegiate Hockey Association season at home against a good-sized Alaska Anchorage team.
The sixth ranked Bulldogs went toe-to-toe with the Seawolves and survived with a 3-2 overtime victory before a howling crowd of 5,076 at the DECC.
Freshman winger J.T. Brown smacked a shot from the right circle that just went in under the crossbar past freshman goalie Rob Gunderson at 31 seconds of a five-minute sudden death period. It kept the Bulldogs unbeaten at 4-0-1.
Last week (in a home sweep of Providence College) we played a skill game, tonight we had to play a gritty game. We showed we can do both, said Brown, who has seven points in five games. We showed we can battle through anything.
Anchorage (1-3-1) has had all of its games decided by a goal or less and led UMD 1-0 and 2-1.
The Bulldogs needed two Mike Connolly goals to keep pace, and two stellar third period saves by goalie Kenny Reiter. Tommy Grant put the Seawolves up 1-0 just 3:26 into the game on a breakaway, Connolly tied it on a give-and-go with Jack Connolly 59 seconds into the second period before defenseman Wes McLeod gave Anchorage another one-goal lead.
UMD scoring leader Justin Fontaine put Mike Connolly in for a slick rush to the net with 6:11 left in the second period. Connolly knocked a rolling puck flat and scored his fifth goal of the season using his backhand at the left edge.
We have to learn to get the lead and stop playing catch up, said Mike Connolly. We didnt get enough pucks to the net. Well take the win, but I dont think we played our best game.
The Seawolves, with 12 of 18 skaters at 6-foot-1 or larger, bottled up UMD for much of the game, although the Bulldogs led in shots on goal 25-24. UMDs best period was the second, which included Brown hitting the juncture of the left pipe and crossbar at 5:10.
There were just seven minor penalties called, four on UMD, including two for charging the goalie. The small rink suited Anchorage, 3-1-1 the last five games in Duluth.
We played well enough to win. We had our chances, said Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak. We kept it tight and had a good step in the third period and had them on their heels. We blocked (18) shots and kept them to 25 shots, which was excellent.
In the third period, Reiter somehow stopped Anchorage winger Mitch Bruijsten on a wide-open shot at 68 seconds, which was reviewed, and stopped Grant with 2:30 to play. The Seawolves had a power play with 2:14 left in regulation, but couldnt convert.
We werent as tough as we needed to be as a defensive corps, said UMD defenseman Mike Montgomery. Anchorage was unrelenting, they kept coming at you.
UMD got the win as center Travis Oleksuk passed from the right corner of the offensive zone to Brown at the right circle. Brown settled the puck down and had time to look at the net and pick a spot, high, for a third goal in three games. It was the only shot on goal of overtime.
Kenny made some great saves and that was important, and we grinded it out, got good penalty killing and a timely goal. Thats what a lot of games in our league are like, said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. We stuck with it and won.