DULUTH, Minn. — The start couldn’t have been any better for Minnesota-Duluth on Friday night at Amsoil Arena.
The finish was numbing for the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs as St. Cloud State pounded its way to an 8-2 victory before 6,530 stunned fans.
League co-leader UMD (18-6-4 overall, 13-5-3 in the WCHA) scored on its first shot on goal, 71 seconds into the game, and later led 2-1 late in the first period before a collapse in all areas. Ninth place St. Cloud State, picked by coaches to finish second in the league, scored six straight goals spanning the first and second periods to crush UMD’s enthusiasm.
Two Ben Hanowski goals in the first three minutes of the second period sparked the Huskies, who entered the series on a four-game winless streak (0-3-1).
UMD entered the series 3-0-1 the last four games and 6-1-1 in 2011, and ranked No. 2 defensively in the WCHA.
“We got the start we wanted and then didn’t have enough jump. We didn’t take care of the puck—all over the rink,” said UMD senior winger Justin Fontaine. “We didn’t make crisp passes. The puck was hopping and we kept turning it over.
“St. Cloud came after us, and we had times we were bad and they capitalized all over the rink. We have to let this hurt and then come back with a better effort (today).”
After J.T. Brown gave UMD a 2-1 lead, the Huskies completely turned things around. Nick Jensen and Jared Festler scored 3:12 apart in the final four minutes of the first period. Junior Kenny Reiter started in goal for UMD and was replaced after one period by freshman Aaron Crandall.
The second period was a nightmare for the home team as St. Cloud State scored four goals on nine shots for a 7-2 lead. From the opening faceoff, St. Cloud State drove to the UMD net 3-on-1 and Hanowski scored from the slot at 17 seconds. The sophomore left winger from Little Falls, Minn., the state’s all-time high school scoring leader, connected on a power play at 2:27 of the period and it was 5-2.
“We feel like we’ve got offensive depth, but it doesn’t always show itself,” said St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko. “We’ve given up so many leads this season and have had a tendency to give up goals in a hurry. But I like how we responded defensively when Duluth got to two goals and when we got ahead, I liked that we were able to extend the lead.”
Goalie Mike Lee didn’t allow another UMD goal, while the Huskies kept pushing ahead. Freshman winger Mitch MacMillan came out of the penalty box to score on a breakaway with 2:15 left in the second and Nic Dowd, another freshman winger, scored with nine seconds to go.
“You hope on this kind of night that it’s only one bad period, but it carried over to all three,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. “Right from our goalies on out, we didn’t have a good night. There wasn’t one bright spot and that’s not acceptable.
“St. Cloud has a lot of good offensive players and a good power play and they played well. I’m not sure what we were thinking, but we need a better 60-minute effort.”
The Huskies were 3-6 on power plays, including a goal by scoring leader Drew LeBlanc of Hermantown midway through the third period. Shots on goal were 28-28.
It was the most goals allowed by UMD this season and the most scored by St. Cloud State. It was UMD’s most one-sided loss since 7-0 at Minnesota in March of 2006. It was the first time UMD had allowed eight goals since an 8-3 loss at North Dakota in November of 2007.
“It was a game that just felt out of our control. It’s hard to describe what happened, but it’s not anything serious that we have to fix,” said UMD captain Mike Montgomery. “Everyone is battling for (league) position at this time of the season and St. Cloud hounded the puck and pulled things together. We could never settle the puck down and we made it too easy for (the Huskies).”
The loss dropped UMD to third in the league, two points behind first-place Denver and one behind second-placed North Dakota, while Nebraska-Omaha trails the Bulldogs by one point. The other four teams won Friday—Denver beating Minnesota 2-1, North Dakota beating Alaska Anchorage 6-1 and Omaha beating Wisconsin 4-1.