MINNEAPOLIS — After splitting with Denver in the final series at the old Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center and subsequently surrendering its top ranking to Yale, the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs bussed down I-35 with sights set on a road sweep of an inconsistent Minnesota Golden Gophers team.
But the Gophers — junior goaltender Kent Patterson in particular — went toe-to-toe with the second-ranked Bulldogs and squeaked out a 3-2 victory, treating those who ventured out under the threat of a winter storm warning to a very entertaining hockey game, literally to the very end.
Trailing 3-2 with under a minute to play, its net empty and pressing for the tying goal, the Bulldogs thought for a moment though they had it. But Patterson, having just lost his stick, dove across the width of the goal to deny Minnesota-Duluth’s Justin Fontaine’s back-door attempt from the left circle to seal the win.
“I’m a lot smarter when he makes a save like that,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said with a smile. “That was a huge save there at the end … He didn’t even worry about the stick. He just dove across and made the save. You have to have those kinds of saves against a good team.”
UMD coach Scott Sandelin called Patterson’s play the difference in the game.
“Patterson was big for them in the third period; made some huge saves. Give him credit you can’t control that. You can control effort and I thought our guys went out and played a lot harder [in the third period] and gave ourselves a chance.”
Patterson’s 37-save effort led the way for Minnesota which rode two goals from its fourth line and a pinball-type game winner to defeat its highly touted intrastate rival.
Jack Connolly and Justin Faulk notched goals for the Bulldogs and Kenny Reiter turned aside 29 Minnesota in suffering just his second loss of the season.
Both teams were victimized by disallowed goals as Minnesota’s Mike Hoeffel was found to have directed a Kevin Wehrs shot past Reiter with a high stick at 14:23 of the first. In the second period, the officials ruled that an apparent Fontaine goal was kicked in by Connolly.
Second period on goals by Nico Sacchetti and Jay Barriball turned out to be the difference, the second of which was the result of some good fortune. Bariball’s shot from between the circles caromed off Reiter’s right pad and ricocheted off of at least three players before settling behind Reiter with 6:24 to go in the period.
“I didn’t like our second period at all; I thought we were flat. I thought we had a good first period and a good third period but [Patterson] was the difference.”
The Gophers grabbed a 1-0 lead at the 3:12 mark of the first period when Nick Larson re-directed Seth Helgeson’s shot from the left point over Reiter’s left shoulder. Although only the eighth goal of Larson’s career, it was the third of the season for the junior center, all coming Minnesota’s past four games.
But a late-period penalty left Minnesota a man short and the Bulldogs made the most of the opportunity. UMD put on a power-play clinic keeping Gopher penalty killers from getting a much-needed change before cashing in on Connolly’s goal at 19:46.
“I think you have to have time to recover,” said Lucia of his penalty killers. “The guys battled pretty hard in that penalty kill right to the end. Kent probably would like to have that one back.”
“We were able to score the next goal to get the 2-1 lead. I thought that was important.”
Sandelin lamented UMD’s failure to take advantage of what could easily have been a momentum-changing goal.
“We weren’t moving our feet and they had a lot of jump in the period,” said Sandelin. “They got some momentum off their second goal and they were the better team in that second period. We were flat.”
The Bulldogs outshot Minnesota 17-7 in the final period and closed the gap to one with just under five minutes to play on Faulk’s sixth goal of the season; a power play goal. But the UMD surge was ultimately stifled by Patterson.
“I thought we had a good first period and a good third period but [Patterson] was the difference.”