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College Hockey:
Minnesota-Duluth’s power play makes its presence felt in win over Union

— When the field for the East Regional was announced last Sunday, there was a lot of talk about the power play units for three of the participants: Union, Yale and Air Force.

It was the one team that wasn’t mentioned — Minnesota-Duluth — whose power play was successful at the right time, scoring twice on Friday while the Bulldogs penalty kill shut down Union in all nine of its power play attempts in a 2-0 win in the opening game of the NCAA East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn.

Minnesota-Duluth will play the winner of the Yale-Air Force game in Saturday’s regional final, with a berth in the 2011 Frozen Four at stake.

“Our power play came through,” said Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin, whose Bulldogs are looking for their fourth trip to the Frozen Four and first since 2004. “People talked about all the other three [teams' power plays] coming in here and we kind of laughed about that. Our power play has been pretty effective over the last two or three years. Maybe it’s not as high as the three teams in the tournament. But the bottom line is tonight, ours scored two and [Union's] didn’t and that was the difference in the game.”

 Minnesota Duluths power play makes its presence felt in win over Union

While the power play provided the offensive spark for the Bulldogs, it was a superb penalty kill that shut down the Dutchmen’s national-best power play. Not surprising, that PK unit was led by goaltender Kenny Reiter, who stopped 17 shots when down a man and 32 total in the game.

Reiter looked to be in the zone from the game’s opening minutes. After stopping Kelly Zajac on a partial breakaway just 29 seconds into the game, leading to Union’s first power play, he then robbed Jeremy Welsh a minute later.

“That first power play when Welsh had that shot, that was a great save for [Reiter],” said Sandelin. “He can shoot the puck so I thought that was an important save and to get a couple more [right away] was huge for him.”

After UMD frustrated the Dutchmen early, keeping them off the board despite Union holding a lopsided 10-1 advantage in shots, the Bulldogs were opportunistic, scoring on their first opportunity with the man advantage at 14:38.

Mike Montgomery blasted a shot from the point that deflected off both Mike Seidel and finally Kyle Schmidt before beating Union netminder Keith Kinkaid (26 saves) for the 1-0 lead.

It was just the second goal for Schmidt since Dec. 3, his other an empty-netter in the first game of the Bulldogs’ WCHA first-round series against St. Cloud State.

“I haven’t been on the score sheet in the goal department that much,” said Schmidt. “It’s a huge feeling.”

Much of the game lacked flow due to a combined total of 17 power plays. Both teams were guilty of clutching and grabbing and the officiating crew called things tight, taking away the chance for the teams to play at five-on-five for extended periods.

Not surprisingly, then, it was the power play that led to UMD’s insurance marker at 6:24 of the third. After Union again pinned the Bulldogs back on their heels, an unnecessary hitting from behind by Union’s Greg Coburn in the offensive zone led to the strike.

It took just 11 seconds for the Bulldogs to cash in, as Justin Fontaine buried a second rebound opportunity with Kinkaid out of position.

“I popped out and got a nice pass that ended up being a save,” said Fontaine. “The rebound shot hit the goalie and happened to pop back out and I just put in into the open net.”

Union attempted to mount a rally, and a late penalty to Brady Lamb for tripping gave the Dutchmen life. Reiter, though, snuffed out the final chances for the Dutchmen, closing an impressive game with a beautiful toe save on Welsh with 1:48 remaining that ultimately sealed the victory and sent Minnesota-Duluth (23-10-6) to its second regional final in three years.

The Dutchmen (26-10-4) end the most successful season in school history in disappointing fashion. Union, after capturing its first regular season title in school history, was a period away from reaching the ECAC semifinal three weekends ago before eventually losing that game and the following to end hope of an ECAC title. Friday’s loss made it three in a row to end the season.

That, though, won’t take away from the accomplishments of its senior class, the first to ever post four straight winning seasons in the program’s Division I history.

“[This senior class] came into a tough situation as freshmen and were looked to kind of carry the mail,” said Union coach Nate Leaman. “They’ve done a tremendous job at leadership and they’ve done a tremendous job of representing our university.”

Video: Minnesota-Duluth’s news conference:

Video: Union’s news conference:

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  • http://twitter.com/runwiththedogs RWD

    Kelly Zajac.

  • http://twitter.com/runwiththedogs RWD

    And Kyle Schmidt. Come on, dude.

  • Fittff

    UMD shows no class Yale will mop opp karma…and im i union fan

    • http://twitter.com/runwiththedogs RWD

      Examples of tUMD showing no class?

      I mean, we spell words correctly. So there’s that we have in our favor. What about you?

      • ca

        Just rewatched the interviews and still dont see where the “no class” comes in?? Sounds like sour grapes…what do we have, you ask? Another game tonight and we learned to spell in 1st grade, so if that is all you have to hold on to, I am really sorry for your loss yesterday.

        • http://twitter.com/runwiththedogs RWD

          What loss? I’m a BULLDOGS FAN!!!!! We’re in the Frozen Four, baby!!!!

    • GeauxSioux

      UMD played alright. Nowhere near where they ought to be, but it did the trick. Union struggled and no doubt are they a better team than they displayed tonight.

      In watching all the games today, I found this game to be slow and lethargic – easily the “least-representative-of-each-teams-skill” of any game. IMO, attribute that to the very tight officiating. They were very consistent throughout the game.

      As a Union fan, you are now, by default, a Yale fan.

      Best of luck to Union in the coming years, I hope you continue to rise toward the top.

    • Rpeterson01

      Fittff – you’re an idiot. Union may have class but they were in the wrong class. Its really too bad for many of these East coast teams and especially all those in the ECAC they don’t play D II or create a D I-AA for these teams. They really don’t belong with the big boys in WCHA and a few of the teams in the CCHA. (Hockey East has 1 or 2 teams that can compete, no doubt, but no depth). There is getting to be too much of a discrepancy between the depth of the WCHA and the rest of the country (which is why the Big Ten will actually be good for the WCHA). Union would not have finished higher than 11th in the WCHA (they may have finished higher than MTU one of the worst teams in the history of college hockey). It wasn’t UMD’s strongest game as UMD couldn’t get into any groove with all the penalties being called. However, UMD was clearly the more skilled team, faster, stronger, etc. Yale will lose. They don’t belong in the top 15 of college hockey. Air Force, another DII school, should have beat them.

      • Guest

        Regardless of the comparative strengths of various conferences (I’m not pretending that the ECAC has the same depth as the WCHA), it’s pretty bold to claim that the team that held the No. 1 ranking in the nation for 8 weeks doesn’t belong in the top 15 college teams.

        • Rpeterson01

          They don’t belong in the top 15 because they play a bunch of nobodys. Whether you lose or win to nobodys, still makes you a nobody. How many teams did they play against teams in the top 15? One if you don’t include Union or RPI (neither of which belong since they both play nobody…and even if you include Union and RPI they were only .500 against teams in the top 15).

  • kb-bulldogs

    UMD no class?? hard for me to see in the interviews…. what do you want them to say… Sandelin said they played well… they were average 5-5 but when there are 17 power play advantages what does one expect? …. UMD goalie was solid in the 1st… Union had chances but were unable to score… look at the number of shots that were blocked and or deflected… if UMD plays strong again on Saturday they will blow out Yale… WCHA is a solid conference for all of you east coasters… keep cheering on BC as a better team than UND… CC simply outplayed you in every way… WCHA could easily have 3 teams in the final 4…. and everyone on the east coast will complain about something….. no class??? show up and win…. refs do not decide the outcome… players score the goals, goalies shot the shots….

  • Gcappy

    Lose Leaman the dictator!!!

  • P. Wintrich, Uniion’60

    Both teams played well, considering the poor ice conditions and tight officiating
    (Total penalties 17 ( UMD9 UNION8)). Is that a new playoff record ???.
    The game was slow and lethargic due to the above.
    However; the Yale/Air Force was fast and enjoyable, good ice and fair officiating
    (Total penalties 6 (Yale3 Air Force3)).
    Time to rethink, what the NCAA is all about and cut out negative remarks concerning other Conferences.
    Good luck to all.