OMAHA, Neb. — Three goals and an assist from J.T. Brown extended Minnesota-Duluth’s winning streak to four games on Friday, with the top-ranked Bulldogs beating Nebraska-Omaha 6-2 at CenturyLink Center.
The game was a big occasion for UNO (10-9-4, 9-6-0 WCHA), with the school’s “Sell Out Duluth” marketing campaign bringing in an announced attendance of 16,138. The big crowd was rarely a factor, though, and UMD (15-3-3, 11-2-2) boosted its months-long unbeaten streak to 17 games.
“Obviously, we got the start we were looking for in getting the first couple goals,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said after the game. “I thought we had a good first period and then [UNO] came out and answered the bell. Our second period certainly wasn’t as strong, but we got out of that with it 2-2.
“Last week, it was the same thing at 2-2 [against Western Michigan] going into the third on the road, but we’re a pretty good third-period team and once we got the two-goal lead [in Friday's third period], we put the clamps down.”
UMD needed a fast start in order to take the big crowd out of the game on Friday and that’s exactly what the Bulldogs got, shoving UNO into an early 2-0 hole.
The visitors dominated play from the start and they didn’t have to wait long before taking the lead. Brown did the honors 1:23 into the game, beating UNO goaltender John Faulkner from between the circles on a rebound shot.
Just 58 seconds later, the Bulldogs doubled their lead. With a penalty coming against UNO, Minnesota-Duluth forward Dan DeLisle scored his second goal of the season, beating Faulkner low stick-side on a breakaway.
UNO couldn’t afford to fall further behind in the second period. It didn’t, with the Mavericks instead getting a dream start to the frame.
The hosts halved UMD’s lead 22 seconds into the period, with UNO forward Brock Montpetit using a pretty deke to get around Bulldogs’ goaltender Kenny Reiter before beating the keeper low stick-side.
The visitors’ lead then vanished just over four minutes after Montpetit’s goal. Matt White tied the game at 2-2, picking up a loose puck in front of Reiter’s crease before firing home from close range.
Just as it had at the start of the game, though, UMD flew out of the blocks in the third period and regained its lead early on. Brown’s second goal of the night put the Bulldogs ahead for good at 2:45 of the period, with a helper from linemate Travis Oleksuk.
Brown and Oleksuk combined again 28 seconds later to bring UMD’s lead back to two goals. Brown’s hat trick goal at 3:13 of the period brought the score to 4-2, with Brown taking a centering feed from Oleksuk from the left circle before beating Faulkner low from in tight.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Brown heralded what had been a very solid team performance and not just the sum of individual Bulldogs’ efforts.
“We knew that we needed to come out and make a statement and get these points in the WCHA and I thought we responded really well today,” Brown said. “I feel like we have one of the best teams top to bottom from first [line] through fourth, just rolling the lines through. We’ve proved that so far this year and we just need to keep doing the same thing.”
“It was a big night for him,” Sandelin said about Brown’s performance. “That line certainly got us going early with the first goal and when you have those types of players, that can make a difference in a game.”
Sandelin’s UNO counterpart, Dean Blais, lamented UNO’s rough start and said that Friday’s final score was indicative of how the night’s game was played.
“It was a tough start for us,” Blais said. “It was a sold-out building with [its] biggest crowd ever and it’s not a great start when the first two shots go in. I’m not faulting our goaltender, I’m just faulting maybe just a lack of aggressiveness covering guys.
“We were in the right position, and we play 4-on-4 a lot, and I thought that, on our 4-on-4, we got outplayed, but you can see why they haven’t lost in 17 games. They’re a good hockey team.”
Mike Seidel and Joe Basaraba later clinched the two points for UMD. Seidel scored an empty-netter at 15:37 before Basaraba scored a weird goal that went in off of a UNO defenseman at 18:22.
UNO and UMD will finish their two-game set Saturday in Omaha.