DULUTH, Minn. — A sold out Amsoil Arena crowd of 6,764 was treated to a back-and-forth game from the drop of the puck Friday night as No. 4 Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota met in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s game.
The pace didn’t let up as the teams combined for 80 shots on goal in the most entertaining game of the season.
And for the second straight meeting between the in-state rivals it finished as a 2-2 overtime tie.
The Bulldogs (17-5-4 overall, 12-4-3 in the WCHA) needed Mike Connolly’s goal with 9:48 left in the second period to get even. There was no scoring in the third period or five-minute overtime, although Minnesota (11-10-4,8-8-3) had a power play for the final 80 seconds of the game.
“We were happy to battle back, but right now, at this time of the season, we’re going for wins,” said UMD senior captain Mike Montgomery. “Minnesota is playing really well and came at us. There were a lot of chances both ways and both goalies were the best players in the game.”
UMD junior Kenny Reiter (9-3-3) made 36 saves, while Minnesota junior Kent Patterson (9-5-4) made 40. UMD led in shots on goal 42-38, including 5-1 in overtime.
The sixth-place Gophers led 1-0 and 2-1, and stopped all five UMD power plays. Minnesota senior defenseman Cade Fairchild of Duluth scored the only goal of the first period, with six seconds left on his team’s first power play, and Jay Barriball added a goal at 8:42 of the second period.
“UMD is a quick-transition team and so are we. We needed to be relentless and show we can play with them,” said Fairchild. “We have to come back (Saturday) with a similar effort.”
UMD is 5-1-1 the past seven games and have allowed just eight goals total in that stretch. Minnesota is 2-3-3 the last eight, but is 1-0-2 against UMD this season.
The Bulldogs saw their school-record scoreless streak come to an end midway through the first period. Fairchild drove a shot from the left point that clanked in under the crossbar at 9:34. It was his 19th goal in 138 career games.
UMD entered the game after consecutive shutout wins at Michigan Tech two weeks ago and finished with a scoreless streak of 168 minutes, 39 seconds.
Some help from the Gophers got UMD on the board at 5:46 of the second period. Winger J.T. Brown sped around the defense and got the puck to Justin Fontaine for a shot at the crease. Patterson made a save but Minnesota’s Nico Sacchetti, prone on the ice, slid into the net, bringing the puck along. It was credited as Fontaine’s 16th goal of the season.
“We held UMD to two goals and they didn’t score on the power play. Our guys played pretty darn hard,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “But two neutral-zone turnovers also cost us two goals.”
After being denied on an excellent Reiter glove save on a breakaway, Minnesota scoring leader Barriball came back 30 seconds later with an unassisted score from the left edge putting the Gophers up 2-1.
That lasted 90 seconds until Connolly pressured the puck – first with a slap shot, followed by a backhand attempt on the rebound and then finally, on a third chance, putting a shot through Patterson.
“We need to execute better in the offensive zone; we have to stay in Patterson’s face. And the big thing for us is getting the lead and we never had it tonight,” said Connolly, who has 14 goals this season and 41 in 107 career games.
Reiter was solid in the waning, hectic seconds of regulation and then faced a Minnesota power play in OT. UMD is 5-1-4 in overtime this season and Minnesota 0-1-4.
One point for a tie momentarily moved UMD into a tie for second in the WCHA with Denver, both with 27 points, one behind idle North Dakota. Denver was playing a late game at Colorado College.
“It was a back-and-forth game and a decent game for us. The good thing is we got better each period,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin.