DULUTH, Minn. — After a season of never losing more than one game in a row and winning six games in overtime, the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs had a reversal of fortune Friday night as their 2011-12 WCHA season opened at Amsoil Arena.
No. 14-ranked Minnesota built an early two-goal lead, then rallied to beat No. 9 UMD, 5-4 in overtime, before a near-sellout crowd of 6,751.
Unbeaten Minnesota (3-0) scored the game’s final two goals —with 44.6 seconds to go in the third period, on center Erik Haula’s second goal of the game with goalie Kent Patterson pulled for an extra attacker, and with 56.7 seconds left in sudden death from winger Nate Condon.
UMD (1-2) opened the season with a 4-3 win over Notre Dame last week and lost 5-3 in the rematch.
“It means everything to get a win here and it will build our confidence,” said Condon. “We feel we can be productive offensively if we get the puck to the right spot. After Haula scored that (tying) goal, nothing was going to stop us.”
The game produced 94 shots on goal, with UMD holding a 50-44 advantage in a fast-paced, body-smashing, momentum-changing thriller.
The Gophers had destroyed Sacred Heart 9-0 and 6-0 in Minneapolis last weekend and were up 2-0 after first-period power-play goals from Haula and Kyle Rau.
UMD came back to tie it 2-2 and 3-3 before getting its only lead on Justin Crandall’s goal with two minutes left in regulation. Haula’s tying score came off the skate of a UMD defender.
Condon’s winner, he said, came after he’d been on the ice for about three seconds on a line change. A Taylor Matson pass was blocked by Condon’s skate and the puck flipped up in the air. Condon used a baseball swing to score to the low blocker side of goalie Kenny Reiter.
“We’re upset we lost after playing hard for 65 minutes,” said UMD defenseman Drew Olson, who had a goal. “We have skilled players, but we still need to tie some things up and put the pieces of the puzzle together.
“There was an extremely good pace to the game and no one was backing down and I don’t think we were being outplayed at all.”
A penalty-filled first period put UMD in hole. Goal-scoring leader Haula drove a shot from the right circle that hit the UMD net halfway up to the near side just 4:55 into the game. Just after a 5-on-3 power play ended, Rau connected from the right edge with 8:28 left.
There were 14 penalties in the first period, eight to UMD.
“Five-on-five, we were good most of the night, but we got in penalty trouble at the start and that hurt,” said Minnesota-Duluth center Travis Oleksuk. “We had some defensive breakdowns and we have to eliminate those.”
Three second-period goals got UMD back into the game at 3-3.
Caleb Herbert made one of the better rushes in the short history of Amsoil Arena, moving up the right side, cutting to the slot and lifting a backhand shot past Patterson at 5:12 for his first collegiate goal. That ended Patterson’s shutout streak at 145 minutes, 12 seconds in three games. Patterson’s 46 saves on the night were a career high.
A checking-from-behind major penalty on Minnesota’s Zach Budish gave UMD a power play and 18 seconds later, Oleksuk scored from the crease. Two goals in 95 seconds had tied the game.
Yet, UMD defenseman Luke McManus took his own checking-from-behind major at 7:49, which negated his team’s power play after just 70 seconds.
Minnesota gained a 3-2 lead in a 4-on-3 power play with 9:01 left in the second period on Rau’s second goal. With 3:02 left, the Bulldogs got even as Herbert dropped a pass to Olson in the slot.
“With 94 shots on goal, I don’t think you can say either team was great defensively, but our guys fought through a lot of adversity and kept battling back,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “Sometimes you get those bounces that Minnesota got tonight. You can’t hang your head because I thought it was good effort by our team.”
It appeared UMD was headed to a victory when Crandall scored late for the Bulldogs’ only lead at 4-3. But there were two goals still to come.