MADISON, Wis. — Another chapter of Minnesota-Duluth’s overtime success story was written, and afterward, a credible theory on how the volume is coming together was offered.
Jack Connolly’s goal 71 seconds into the fourth period Saturday gave the top-ranked Bulldogs their second overtime victory over Wisconsin in as many nights, a 3-2 decision at the Kohl Center.
Make it 11-1-11 in the last 23 overtime games for Minnesota-Duluth, which has seen half of its 14 games this season go past regulation.
That it was Jack Connolly firing a wrist shot past Wisconsin’s Brett Bennett after the puck squirted away from high-scoring linemate Mike Connolly on a three-on-two rush serves as part of the explanation for the Bulldogs’ ability to come up with dramatic winners.
“We just have such skilled guys to beat you with in five minutes,” Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Aaron Crandall said. “We’re a tough overtime team with the skill that we have.”
The Bulldogs’ top line teamed up to again deny Wisconsin a point and push the Badgers’ overtime frustrations to 25 games. They haven’t won in an extra session since March 17, 2007, a span in which they’re 0-8-17 in OT games.
Since taking three of four points at Minnesota two weeks ago, Wisconsin has been swept at home by North Dakota and now Minnesota-Duluth.
“Nothing’s coming easy for us, especially wins,” said Badgers junior winger Jordy Murray, whose third period, tying goal put him among a small group of players nationally with 10 goals already this season. “But we’re close. We’re right there. We think we’re playing good hockey, but we just couldn’t pull it out.”
On the other side, the results could get the Bulldogs thinking that something special is developing this season.
Their 11-1-2 record is a program best through 14 games.
“You win tight games and I think that always grows a team,” Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said. “We’ve been in so many tight games, whether it’s overtime or not.”
Said Jack Connolly: “We’ve got a lot of depth that can bring it to other teams. We’re pretty fortunate to have a lot of talent on this team.”
Wisconsin’s power play in the third period was a big factor in the teams even getting to overtime.
Mike Connolly put the Bulldogs (8-1-1 WCHA) ahead 2-1 with a short-handed, breakaway goal after Wisconsin’s Craig Smith fumbled the puck at the blue line.
Murray tied it halfway through the period when he pushed in a pass from Mark Zengerle on the fifth power play of the night for the Badgers (6-6-2, 3-5-2).
The teams traded second period goals. Kyle Schmidt put the Bulldogs ahead 1-0 with a quick-reflexes redirection of a hard Dylan Olsen shot.
Wisconsin’s Michael Mersch didn’t score on his redirection of a Jake Gardiner shot at the end of a power play, but he put home the rebound to equalize.
Bulldogs goaltender Aaron Crandall, who also earned the overtime victory Friday after entering the game in place of Kenny Reiter late in the first period, said he apologized to Badgers coach Mike Eaves after Saturday’s game for gesturing at the Wisconsin bench as he skated past following Jack Connolly’s winner.
Crandall (22 saves), who said he had a scholarship offer at Wisconsin pulled two years ago when the Badgers instead went after Bennett, couldn’t deny the importance of the win.
“Obviously, it had more meaning to me, but that’s over with now,” he said. “That’s under the bed.”
Bennett made 32 saves for the Badgers, who are looking inward after a weekend of heartbreaking losses.
“I feel bad for the kids because they’re battling, they’re putting in good efforts,” Eaves said. “It’s a bounce here, a bounce there and we’re not getting rewarded. Now it’s a little bit about how we respond to the adverse situation that we’re in.”