MANKATO, Minn. — The goal for Minnesota-Duluth Saturday night against Minnesota State was to get back on track and to find the confidence it had as one of the nation’s top teams.
The Bulldogs got their power play going, crashed the net, and skated with a lot more intensity than they did in their two-goal loss to MSU Friday. The result was a 6-2 win, the first UMD win in two weeks.
“It definitely wasn’t a boost of confidence the last three games,” said Bulldogs wing Kyle Schmidt, who assisted on three goals. “We knew we had to stick with it because we’re a good team.”
Schmidt’s linemate Travis Oleksuk and defenseman Justin Faulk also had three assists apiece and Jack Connolly had a pair. J.T. Brown and Mike Seidel each scored two goals for the Bulldogs.
UMD officially clinched home ice advanatage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs with the win, and avoided losing two straight games, which has yet to happen this season.
The Bulldogs used the power play to grab the lead for good when Mike Siedel scored his second goal of the night with five seconds left on the power play. Mike Connolly scored on the man advantage with 1:18 to go in the second period and Justin Fontaine added another power-play goal in the third period.
“We were in a little bit of a slump on the power play,” said Faulk, who had two assists on the PP. “We were doing the right things, but we weren’t getting the goals. It was huge for us to get a couple of goals on the power play.”
Prior to Saturday, the Bulldogs went seven straight power plays without a goal and had gone five-for-40 on the power play since Jan. 15. UMD finished the night thre-for-nine on the man advantage.
“We felt like we’ve been getting chances, but they’re just not going,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “The focus tonight was to shoot the puck more, because we were getting too fine with the puck. We opened up chances with some shots.”
On Friday, MSU scored two power-play goals to take a 2-0 lead, but it was an even-strength goal that Eriah Hayes scored to put the Mavericks on the board first 2:13 into the game. MSU held the lead until Schmidt brought the puck down the bench side and found Seidel crashing the net. Seidel dove and tipped Schmidt’s pass through MSU goaltender Phil Cook’s pads.
Brown gave the Bulldogs their first lead early in the second period when a rebound came out to him with Cook out of position and Brown easily buried the puck.
Mike Louwerse answered less than a minute later when he grabbed the puck from the corner, took it to the side of the crease, and slid it five-hole past UMD goalie Aaron Crandall.
After seven empty power plays, UMD finally got its power-play goal from Seidel to swing the momentum in UMD’s favor for good. The Bulldogs finished the game with a 39-25 shots-on-goal advantage.
Crandall finished with 23 saves to get the win and Cook stopped 33 shots in his first start since Feb. 5.
“I didn’t want to let Phil sit for a month, but tonight was definitely not his fault,” said MSU coach Troy Jutting. “We just didn’t have it as a team tonight.”
UMD is at Colorado College next weekend and wraps up the regular season at home against Nebraska-Omaha. MSU is idol next weekend and finishes with Alaska-Anchorage, March 4-5.