BEMIDJI, Minn. — Minnesota Duluth used the same script for a second straight Friday to remain unbeaten.
Center Travis Oleksuk tipped a Dylan Olsen power-play drive with 7.9 seconds left in overtime to give the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs a 3-2 win over Bemidji State in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game before 3,876 fans at the new Sanford Center. A week earlier, UMD’s J.T Brown scored 31 seconds into overtime to beat Alaska Anchorage 3-2 at the DECC.
Here’s what Friday’s road victory meant for UMD: it left the Bulldogs as the only unbeaten WCHA team and tied for the league lead. It made UMD 8-1-10 the last 19 overtime games and broke a three-game losing streak against Bemidji State, a new WCHA member this season.
It left Bemidji State 0-3 and winless in three games in its new $40 million home.
“Once Bemidji found its legs, they came at us hard and we weren’t playing great the last two periods,” said Oleksuk, who leads Division I with four game-winning goals. “But we keep showing that we are going to play hard until the buzzer. We are going to keep going. It was an even game.”
UMD (6-0-1 overall, 3-0-0 in the WCHA) started particularly well, getting off to a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game on power-play goals from Mike Connolly and J.T. Brown. Connolly scored from the crease just 46 seconds into the game and Brown, a freshman, recorded his fourth goal of the season on a backhand attempt from the left wide with 9:57 left.
Bemidji State (0-3-0, 0-3-0), which didn’t play last weekend, rallied with goals 100 seconds apart in the final five minutes of the opening period. Star center Matt Read put in a power-play rebound for his 45th career goal with 4:41 to go and winger Jordan George finished off some excellent offensive pressure with a shot from the crease with 3:01 remaining.
“After we scored, we had good sustained pressure and energy. We went after them,” said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. “The layoff wasn’t a big thing. We were just facing a great hockey team.”
Read’s goal broke a shutout streak at 134 minutes and 21 seconds for UMD freshman goalie Aaron Crandall, spanning three games. Alex Stalock holds the UMD record at 147:45 in 2008.
In the third period, UMD’s Jake Hendrickson missed on an open shot with 7:53 left. Bemidji State goalie Dan Bakala was sharp in making 31 saves as UMD led in final shots 34-28.
“We had to counter-punch a little because Bemidji had us on our heels for a time in the last two periods,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “But we got a timely goal and we got timely goaltending for a second straight Friday. Aaron made at least two or three great saves there at the end and that’s what you need.”
In the first minute of overtime, the Beavers were all around the UMD net, but couldn’t cash in. Then Brown put a puck around the boards and out to Kyle Schmidt for a breakaway with two minutes left in the five-minute period. Bemidji State defenseman Brad Hunt was called for tripping Schmidt on the way to the net, setting up a power play for the rest of OT. The Bulldogs needed nearly every bit.
Oleksuk, stationed right in front of Bakala in the crease, got his 15th career goal.
“This was another great character win,” said Schmidt. “We didn’t crumble after losing our lead, we stayed with it. We kept it close and made the best of our chance in overtime.”
Michigan Tech came into the weekend as the only other unbeaten WCHA team, but lost 5-2 at Wisconsin and is 3-1-2.
UMD’s six-game win streak is its longest since recording six straight playoff wins in March of 2009, and the seven-game unbeaten streak is the best to start a season since winning eight straight to open 1989-90.