Goalie Aaron Crandall and left winger Dan DeLisle, roommates the past two years, earned milestone firsts Saturday night in leading No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth to a 6-0 victory over Alaska-Anchorage for a Western Collegiate Hockey Association sweep at the DECC.
Crandall, a red-shirt freshman from Lakeville, Minn., recorded his first collegiate shutout, while DeLisle, a sophomore from Arden Hills, Minn., scored his first two goals as a Bulldog.
Their efforts sparked unbeaten UMD to its best start since 2004-05, at 5-0-1, coming in front of the first home sellout of the season with 5,481 fans.
“No one was more excited than I was when (DeLisle) scored; that will skyrocket his confidence,” said Crandall, 2-0 this season and on a scoreless streak of 119 minutes and 2 seconds. “I knew what to expect after playing my first (career) game last week, and it was easier because everyone was playing so hard in front of me.”
UMD won 3-2 in overtime Friday, yet coach Scott Sandelin wasn’t happy with the overall performance. He asked for more and got it, starting with a Travis Oleksuk goal 50 seconds into Saturday’s game. Oleksuk, a second-line center, had two goals and an assist. DeLisle had two goals, Kyle Schmidt had a goal and an assist, and J.T. Brown and Keegan Flaherty each had two assists.
The Bulldogs killed all five Anchorage power plays and all eight in the series, and Oleksuk scored on a short-handed shift during a major penalty.
“We just competed more, we gave that little extra,” said DeLisle, Chicago’s third-round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. “We knew we could do better, and it started with working to shut down Anchorage.”
After falling behind in all but one of the season’s first five games, the Bulldogs got on the board first when Oleksuk drove a shot from the right circle to the short side past Anchorage freshman goalie Chris Kamal on the game’s first shot on goal. That stood after the first period, which still didn’t sit well with Sandelin, causing a tossed a water bottle that exploded in a hallway.
In the second period, scoring leader Justin Fontaine finished off UMD’s first power play at the left edge of the crease, knocking in a Jack Connolly pass at 3:43. DeLisle also scored right in front on a nice passing play with 2:44 left. In the third period, the Bulldogs scored on three of six shots on goal — Schmidt’s bomb from the right circle, Oleksuk unassisted (with Mike Seidel off for contact to the head) and DeLisle’s second with five seconds to play.
“The biggest difference between Friday and tonight is that their skill players made skill plays,” said Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak. “We had chances, but we just weren’t sharp around the net. They have upper-echelon players who are difference-makers.”
The Bulldogs are tied for the WCHA lead with Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota at 2-0, and the Bulldogs and Michigan Tech (3-0-2) are the only remaining unbeatens in the league. UMD came into the game as the fourth-highest scoring team in Division I, averaging 4.80 goals a game. Fontaine ranked No. 2 in Division I, and Jack and Mike Connolly were in the top 10.
“Our last two periods were very good, very solid,” said Sandelin. “We had good penalty killing, we got scoring from different players, our goalie was good. Our whole team was much better.”
UMD faces its first WCHA road trip of the season this Friday and Saturday at first-year league member Bemidji State. The series is the second to be played in the new Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minn.