DULUTH, Minn. — Any good hockey streak needs defense, and Minnesota-Duluth has had plenty the past eight games.
The No. 10 Bulldogs finished a WCHA sweep Saturday night with a 3-1 victory over Alaska-Anchorage before 6,156 fans at Amsoil Arena. The Bulldogs are 6-0-2 since Oct. 21.
UMD (7-3-2 and 5-2-1 WCHA) has outscored opponents 29-10 during its unbeaten stretch, and given up just one measly goal the past three games — one goal in the last 221 minutes and 27 seconds.
A rally was needed against the Seawolves, after falling behind 1-0, but senior goalie Kenny Reiter was stellar, and freshman defenseman Derik Johnson and scoring leaders Travis Oleksuk and Jack Connolly recorded goals.
“Kenny kept us in the game in the first period when Anchorage could’ve been ahead by three, four, or five goals,” said UMD sophomore winger J.T. Brown, who had two assists. “We weathered the storm, we started moving our feet, and we started to wear down their defensemen.”
Anchorage (3-6-1 and 0-6) has lost six straight games, all in the league, and has scored four goals total during that streak. After losing 5-0 Friday, the Seawolves were considerably tougher, and got a solid game from sophomore goalie Chris Kamal.
Freshman center Eric Scheid, of Blaine, Minn., gave Anchorage a 1-0 lead 5:18 into the game on a tough-nosed rebound at the crease. The Seawolves led 12-4 in shots on goal midway through the first period. That lead held through 20 minutes, although UMD got some life during a five-on-three power play for 96 seconds.
“We didn’t capitalize in building on the 1-0 lead, and then the five-on-three sucked a lot of the momentum out of us,” said Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak. “Our effort was better and, for a while, it was anyone’s game, but Reiter came up big when he had to.”
The Bulldogs got second-period goals four minutes apart to rally for a 2-1 lead. Johnson, son of former UMD defenseman Jim Johnson, drove a shot from high in the slot to beat Kamal high to the glove side with 9:10 left for his first collegiate point.
“After the first period, our seniors, like Connolly and Brady Lamb, made a point and said that’s not the way we play. We needed to match Anchorage’s energy level,” said Johnson, who played at Penticton in the British Columbia Hockey League last season. “Once we got going, we started to dictate play.”
Johnson got an accurate pass from Brown to score his goal and then Brown set up Oleksuk on a power play. After fumbling a pass briefly at the left circle, Brown looked up to find a wide-open cross-ice lane and a wide open Oleksuk at the right circle. Oleksuk’s 11th goal of the season, and 35th of his career, came with 5:16 left in the second period.
With 9:51 left in the game, Connolly rushed in on right wing and flicked a backhand attempt that somehow trickled behind Kamal. That extended Connolly’s point streak to 10 games, and gave him 154 points in 137 games.
“Anchorage kept us off balance and back on our heels, especially in the first period, with an effort I expected,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “Kenny was the difference, and thank goodness he showed up in the first period, because most of our team didn’t. We still found a way to grind out a win.”
UMD finished with a 37-34 shots on goal advantage, and has led in shots in all but one game this season. The Bulldogs remain second in the WCHA, three-points behind Minnesota, and rank second in defense in allowing 2.33 goals a game. Reiter, second in WCHA goals-against at 2.05, had his school record shutout streak end at 166:45.
UMD finishes its 2011 home schedule this weekend against Minnesota State-Mankato.