OMAHA, Neb. — Minnesota Duluth’s 17-game unbeaten streak finally came to an end Saturday, with the top-ranked Bulldogs losing 3-1 to Nebraska-Omaha at CenturyLink Center.
UMD (15-4-3, 11-3-2 WCHA) controlled nearly all of the game, outshooting the Mavericks (11-9-4, 8-5-3) 44-15 on the night. However, a Herculean effort from UNO goaltender Ryan Massa and timely goals for the hosts helped them salvage a split in the teams’ two-game series.
“The players don’t talk about it, but we as coaches do,” UNO coach Dean Blais said about ending UMD’s months-long streak. “And (UMD head coach) Scott Sandelin had said that it’s got to end sometime and he was happy that it ended here tonight.
“He didn’t like losing — he never does — but he acknowledged our effort and our character and the way we won the game.”
UNO had been thoroughly outplayed in Friday’s first period en route to a 6-2 loss to the Bulldogs. Saturday’s opening frame wasn’t much better for the hosts — they were outshot 12-4 — but they did get out of it with a lead.
The Mavericks did a much better job of man-marking in Saturday’s first 20 minutes, and once they found their feet on offense, they went ahead, 1-0. Terry Broadhurst did the honors, tipping in a long Bryce Aneloski drive from the blue line for a power-play goal at 17:30.
Just as UNO quickly made a bid to get back into Friday’s game early in its second period, Duluth did something similar in Saturday’s middle frame.
Almost instantly in the period, the Bulldogs had UNO on its back foot. The Mavericks’ defense was all over the shop in its own zone, and UMD made its opportunity count with a goal from captain Jack Connolly, beating a sprawling Massa at 1:32.
Just past the halfway point of the game, though, UNO struck back. UNO freshman forward Andrew Schmit did the honors at 12:33, beating UMD goaltender Kenny Reiter five-hole from the right circle for the freshman’s first goal as a Maverick.
The game was then marred by a brawl in front of the UNO bench late in the second period.
A penalty was coming up against the Mavericks, and Reiter was steamrolled by UNO forward Alex Simonson at the side boards just after Simonson played the puck for a whistle. Reiter stayed in the game, but Simonson was ejected for charging the goaltender.
Thankfully, the game did not get uglier in the third period. UNO did score again in the final frame though, with Josh Archibald firing into an empty Bulldogs net to seal the win and end UMD’s incredible run.
“It’s been a long time since we had this feeling,” Sandelin said.
“I feel better about the way we played in the third period as far as our effort and giving ourselves a chance compared to the first two periods, so that’s something we’ll build on.
“But, again, I’m proud of our team for what it’s done. We’ve put ourselves in a good position in the league, and right now we’re still at the top, but we’ve got to get back to work this week.”
Massa, who stopped 43 UMD shots, said his performance on Saturday will serve as a confidence boost going forward into the home stretch of the regular season.
“It doesn’t hurt, I’ll say that,” Massa said when asked whether his play against the national No. 1 will help him later on in the campaign.
“Every week, John (Faulkner) and I have both been spending time with (assistant) coach Renfrew, and he’s been doing a great job with us in fine-tuning our weaknesses, and our job every week is to be better than we were last week, in games and in practice.”
UNO and UMD swap host and guest roles next weekend, with the Mavericks traveling to WCHA rival Minnesota State while the Bulldogs play host to nonconference foe Alabama-Huntsville.