DULUTH, Minn. — As much as Minnesota Duluth wanted to erase the memory of a one-sided home loss to St. Cloud State exactly a month earlier, the Bulldogs had that game in mind Friday night as the Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s playoffs opened at Amsoil Arena.
No. 11-ranked UMD gained some redemption with a 4-2 victory before 5,070 fans to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series which resumes at 7:07 p.m. today.
St. Cloud State won 8-2 Feb. 11, providing UMD’s most lopsided defeat in five years.
“It was in the back of our heads, we didn’t want to dwell on it, but we also didn’t want to let it ever happen again,” said UMD senior winger Kyle Schmidt, who secured the game with an empty-net goal with 49 seconds to play. “We were getting chances, we were getting pressure, and we built on that.”
The Bulldogs (21-9-6) scored 102 seconds into the game, on a J.T. Brown shot from the right circle, and never trailed. UMD led 30-22 in shots on goal with winning goalie Kenny Reiter making 20 stops.
St. Cloud State goalie Mike Lee was solid, yet had four UMD shots go off pipes, two by senior winger Justin Fontaine. UMD led 3-1 after two periods, saw the Huskies get within 3-2 with an extra attacker with 4:07 to play, and then ground out the final minutes.
“Give Duluth credit, they played a real smart game. We lost 90 percent of the foot races and were out-battled along the wall,” said St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko. “We were down by two (in the third period) and weren’t doing anything, and we had to create some urgency (by pulling Lee with 4:23 left). The (Aaron) Marvin line got a goal and nearly tied it on the next shift, but our other lines were watching. They should have a ton of energy left for (Saturday.)”
The Huskies (15-17-5) came into the game 4-2-2 since beating UMD and were 4-0-2 the last six games in the series.
The teams exchanged goals 1:48 apart in a 1-1 first period. Brown, named to the WCHA all-rookie team, scored his 15th goal of the season 1:42 into the game, and has 33 points in 36 games. David Eddy, also a right winger, scored from about the same spot at 3:30 for the Huskies.
Fontaine set up two second-period goals. A Mike Montgomery drive was saved by Lee and the rebound was pushed by Fontaine to defenseman Justin Faulk. His backhand attempt from the left circle went over a prone goalie at 7:15.
A nice passing play led to the third goal, ultimately Fontaine putting a backhand pass onto Mike Connolly’s stick in the crease. His 24th goal of the season came with 4:59 left in the second period, giving him 128 points in 117 career games.
“We made two quick passes (on the third goal) and had that chemistry. To win in the playoffs you need a great team effort and your top players have to show up,” said Fontaine, who moved up one spot to No. 17 among UMD career scorers with 154 points in 153 games.
In the third period, Fontaine hit a pipe on a power play at 5:00 and Schmidt hit a pipe with 5:00 left (and cracked his helmet in blocking a shot with his facemask). St. Cloud State took a timeout with 4:23 left and pulled Lee. Sixteen seconds later winger Jared Festler scored from the right circle on a shot that was first waved off because of a player possibly in the crease and then was overturned after video review.
Schmidt’s eighth goal of the season hit an empty net with 48.8 seconds to play, and with Lee still out, the Bulldogs missed two empty-net chances the rest of the way. The Huskies were blanked on four power-play chances.
“We blocked shots and did the job defensively against a team that’s not easy to defend,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. “We played a disciplined game, it was a good effort, and we’ll have to play even better (Saturday).”