DULUTH, Minn. — Nail-biting finishes have been the norm between Minnesota-Duluth and Bemidji State since the two have met in Division I starting in 1999.
Entering a Western Collegiate Hockey Association weekend men’s series, nine of the previous 10 games in the series were decided by two goals or less, including four straight overtime games.
While the Bulldogs diverted from the script with a four-goal victory Friday, it was business as usual between the teams Saturday.
After surviving a penalty shot in the second period with a Kenny Reiter save, All-American center Jack Connolly converted on a power play with 8:39 to play for a 1-0 UMD win in front of 6,178 fans at Amsoil Arena. It was Reiter’s seventh career shutout and it completed UMD’s first regular-season sweep in the short history of its new rink. Reiter didn’t allow a goal in the final 112 minutes, 34 seconds of the series.
“After the first 10 minutes, we knew what kind of game we were in. Bemidji State was playing better and for two periods we couldn’t get much going,” said Reiter, a senior from Pittsbugh. “We could’ve been better, but the most important thing was to keep our focus.”
The No. 15 Bulldogs (4-3-1 and 2-2 WCHA) are 3-0-1 the last four games. Bemidji State (3-5 and 2-4) has lost two straight following last weekend’s home sweep of Michigan Tech.
The Beavers were run over Friday after relinquishing a 2-0 lead, and were intent on keeping UMD more in check.
“We were a different team (Saturday),” said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore. “We defended well and our effort was very good. We were hard to play against. You could see it was going to come down to who got the last break.”
Reiter gave UMD the first break. Bulldogs defenseman Luke McManus was called for holding on a scoring chance by Bemidji State winger Brance Orban with 8:58 left in the second period. Orban, with two goals this season, was awarded a penalty shot, and came in on Reiter, faked a shot, and then went low to the stick side and was stopped. Reiter also had a successful penalty shot stop against Bemidji State in the WCHA Final Five playoffs in March.
The only three power plays of the second period went to the Bulldogs, but they couldn’t convert, as the score remained 0-0 through 40 minutes. Shots on goal were 19-19, and finished in UMD’s favor 28-23.
“We were flat the whole game. We were not at the level of Friday, and Bemidji was much better,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “So you try to get through it, grind your way through it. You try to find something.”
Bemidji State winger Darcy Findlay left the game 43 seconds into the third period for a major contact-to-the head penalty against Connolly, yet UMD managed just one shot on goal during the five minutes.
On UMD’s next power play, the fifth of the game, the Bulldogs did convert. Winger Mike Seidel, standing at the extended goal line, passed to Connolly at the inside of the right circle, and he held the puck for a bit. Bemidji State defenseman Brady Wacker was defending Connolly, but had lost his stick.
Connolly found a way past stingy goalie Dan Bakala for his third goal of the season and 49th of his career, and has a point in six straight games. That kept the game from the possibility of a 0-0 tie, which hasn’t been recorded by UMD since March of 2007.
“Bemidji didn’t get many good opportunities. We cleaned up things defensively and ultimately got the result we wanted, a win and a sweep,” said Reiter, who didn’t allow goal after the eight-minute mark Friday.
Bemidji State did pull Bakala with 56 seconds to go for an extra attacker, but the Bulldogs allowed nothing.
There was no score through one period with the Beavers leading 8-6 in shots on goal. Bakala, replacing freshman Andrew Walsh, who played the last two games, made a save on Seidel with 7:00 left in the opening period. Three minutes later, in a four-on-four shift, Seidel rang a shot off the crossbar. UMD is 6-5-1 versus Bemidji State the last 12 games in the series.
The Bulldogs play at No. 2 Denver on Friday and Saturday. The Pioneers are coming off a loss and tie at surprising Michigan Tech.