DULUTH, Minn. — The top-ranked team in Division I outran Michigan Tech for 20 minutes and took a four-goal lead Friday night at Amsoil Arena, but it was hardly enough.
Minnesota Duluth stopped its pursuit and had to hold on for a 4-4 overtime tie in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s game before an announced crowd of 6,670.
The Bulldogs (17-4-4 and 11-3-3 in the WCHA) left the rink as if they had lost.
Michigan Tech (11-12-2 and 8-7-2) left as if it had won. The Huskies did win the final two periods after being outmatched 4-0 in the first.
“When coach (Mel) Pearson came in after the first period, he told us about a Michigan team he coached that was down 5-1 against North Dakota in the Great Lakes Invitational, and came back to win in overtime,” said Michigan Tech freshman winger David Johnstone. “He just asked us to play better, to chip the puck behind UMD and try to slow their transition game. We got UMD to turn the puck over and they might’ve gotten frustrated. And our goalie (Josh Robinson) bounced back from the first period and played amazingly.”
Michigan Tech outshot Minnesota-Duluth 19-8 in the third period and scored three goals — even-strength, short-handed and on a power play. The tying goal came as Johnstone went to the front of the UMD net and had passes from Brett Olson and Jordan Baker. Johnstone kicked the puck to his stick and found an open net behind goalie Kenny Reiter with 5:48 left in regulation.
After seven straight losses to Minnesota-Duluth, the Huskies were happy with a tie.
The Bulldogs said the tie hurt worse than any loss this season.
“As the game went on, we stopped doing what makes us successful and it’s humbling,” said UMD freshman defenseman Chris Casto. “It was the opposite from many of our games. First periods haven’t been that good for us, and the third period is usually our best. We had a substantial lead and let that get away.”
Minnesota-Duluth is 16-1-4 the last 21 games and the Huskies are 5-10-1 the last 16. And the Bulldogs looked like much the better team early.
Senior winger David Grun’s first goal of the season 5:50 into the game gave Minnesota-Duluth a 1-0 lead, then freshman winger Caleb Herbert and senior defenseman Brady Lamb followed with rapid-fire connections, scoring on consecutive shots 38 seconds apart for a 3-0 lead at 10:58.
With 4:47 left in the first period, Herbert added his 10th goal of the season on a pass from Travis Oleksuk.
“All the nice goals were created from hard work, and transitioning and attacking, and then we quit working,” said Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin. “We got outworked for the next 40 minutes.”
Michigan Tech’s Ryan Furne scored the only goal of the second period, with 4:47 left, and then Baker connected 41 seconds into the third period. Minnesota-Duluth’s lead was 4-2. Jacob Johnstone, David’s brother and centerman, earned a short-handed goal near the end of a Bulldogs’ five-minute power play with 8:54 left in regulation. With J.T. Brown off for cross checking, the Huskies got the equalizer.
“Our goalie played much better after the first period, his game improved, and that gave us a chance,” said Pearson, a former Michigan Tech player in his first year as head coach. “I thought we dominated the third period.”
Robinson robbed Jack Connolly (who had a 22-game point streak end) and Brown, while the Bulldogs also hit two pipes. In overtime, Minnesota-Duluth led in shots 3-1, but the Bullldogs were 0-of-4 on power plays and are 0-of-19 the past five games.
The tie dropped the Bulldogs three points behind first-place Minnesota, a 2-1 winner over St. Cloud State. Minnesota-Duluth does have two games in hand.
“This does sting; it’s a rotten feeling,” said Herbert. “Michigan Tech played a simple game and all of their guys kept working, and moving their feet. They were hungrier than we were.”