DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota-Duluth remained unbeaten at home and stayed on top of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s standings Friday night at the DECC. Most importantly, the Bulldogs avoided a repeat of a game exactly one year earlier.
No. 2 UMD scored five straight goals, four in the third period, in rallying to beat Michigan Tech 5-3 before a near sellout crowd of 5,035. Right winger Justin Fontaine led the way with consecutive goals spanning the second and third periods which pulled the Bulldogs into a 2-2 tie.
Until that point, UMD (8-1-2 and 5-1-1 WCHA) had pummeled Michigan Tech goalie Josh Robinson with shots, but trailed 2-0. Exactly a year earlier, UMD outshot the Huskies 50-19 but lost 3-2 at the DECC.
“We had our offense going all game and then finally the bounces went our way,” said Fontaine, who has eight goals this season. “We thought if we got enough shots and stayed with it, eventually the goalie would show some holes.”
UMD led in final shots on goal 47-17 and scored on a power play and short-handed. Jack Connolly had a goal and an assist; defenseman Wade Bergman had two assists; and freshman winger Joe Basaraba added his first collegiate goal.
Michigan Tech (3-3-2 and 1-3-1) got two goals from junior center Brett Olson of Superior and was up 2-0 after one period, scoring on two of its first four shots. Yet UMD came up with its most goals in six games, since beating Alaska-Anchorage 6-0 at the DECC. Freshman goalie Aaron Crandall made 14 saves in going to 4-1. The Bulldogs are 5-0 at home and have six straight wins at the DECC going back to last season.
“Our young team has to learn to control the momentum; Duluth made a push at the end of the second period and we needed to respond,” said Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell, whose team led Wisconsin 2-0 before losing 5-2 on Oct. 29 in Madison. “They tie the game after we make a bad decision on a line change on the power play, and that sucked a lot of life out of us. Duluth has good team speed and thrives on momentum.”
Michigan Tech scored on its first shot on goal as Olson connected on a power play at 68 seconds. His right winger, Milos Gordic, stole a puck in the offensive zone and went right to the crease and put a shot between Crandall’s legs with 7:48 left in the opening period for a 2-0 advantage.
The Bulldogs led 18-7 in shots on goal in the first period and were up 28-9 in the second when Fontaine broke through on a delayed penalty with 56 seconds to go. At 2:46 of the third period, Robinson came up ice to clear the puck on a Michigan Tech power play, but Fontaine got there first, diving at the puck in the slot. While sliding on his stomach, he knocked it by the goalie and it was 2-2. He has 48 career goals and 122 points in 128 games.
“That was a huge spark for us, it gave us tons of momentum and a lot of energy,” said Connolly. “And then we wanted to keep taking it to them. It was a matter of getting that first goal and just sticking with our game.”
UMD was picking up steam. Goals 96 seconds apart put the Bulldogs up 4-2 halfway through the final period. Connolly scored on a power play at 7:37 and Basaraba followed at 9:13 from the right side. A crazy bounce off a Michigan Tech defender gave Dan DeLisle his third goal of the season with 5:07 to play. Olson’s second goal, off a UMD defender, gave him four this season and 32 in 78 career games.
UMD came into the game after a testing split at North Dakota last weekend, while Michigan Tech had been idle.
“Give Robinson credit, he was very good and we dug ourselves a hole,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “But this was a game you could feel our resiliency. We did a lot of good things, especially five-on-five. We kept shooting and lo and behold we broke the ice and really got going.”