DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota-Duluth completed its first full regular season at Amsoil Arena on Saturday night and saluted one of the most successful senior classes in program history before the largest crowd in rink history, 6,808 exuberant fans.
The No. 4 Bulldogs went in style in beating No. 16 Colorado College, 5-2, for a weekend sweep, as four seniors earned points. UMD clinched at least second place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with two games remaining, staying two points behind first-place Minnesota, which swept at Nebraska-Omaha.
After a 1-1 first-period stalemate, the Bulldogs (22-7-5 and 16-6-4 in the WCHA) broke away with goals 1:47 apart midway through the second period. Junior winger Mike Seidel led the way with a pair of goals, while WCHA scoring leader Jack Connolly, defenseman Brady Lamb and goalie Kenny Reiter, three seniors, each had two assists. Senior center Travis Oleksuk had a team-leading 21st goal.
After letting leads evaporate in recent games against North Dakota, Minnesota State-Mankato, and Colorado College (on Friday), the Bulldogs got ahead and stayed ahead to extend their unbeaten streak to five (4-0-1).
“Don’t let up, don’t take your foot off the pedal; that’s what we talked about,” said Seidel. “The biggest thing was making easy plays, chipping the puck out of the zone and going.”
A good swift transition game and solid defense gave UMD a 37-27 shots-on-goal advantage. The Bulldogs went two-of-three on power plays, and four-of-eight for the weekend, for their first WCHA sweep since a pair of 5-3 wins at Michigan Tech on Dec. 2-3.
“We haven’t had an answer for their power play in four years,” said Colorado College coach Scott Owens, whose team is 10-3-2 the last 15 games against UMD. “That’s a good team, they’re awfully dangerous, and can get a lot of momentum in a hurry. They stuck to their game plan for 120 minutes, plus. We had trouble because they are so skilled.”
Reiter, defensemen Lamb and Scott Kishel, and forwards Connolly, Oleksuk, David Grun and Cody Danberg were honored on Senior Night. In the past four seasons, the Bulldogs are 92-47-20 and have won the 2009 Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff title and 2011 NCAA title. The only other similar four-year stretch at UMD, 1983-86, produced a 119-50-9 record.
The teams exchanged first-period goals. Seidel, from the right circle, smacked a shot off the far pipe at 9:40 past goalie Joe Howe. With four seconds left in a power play, a Colorado College attempt off the end boards caromed to center Rylan Schwartz at the left edge of the UMD net. His team-leading 22nd goal of the season came with 90 seconds remaining in the first period.
In the second period, Seidel connected on a power play, his 14th goal of the season and 27th of his career, putting in a rebound at 7:59, and J.T. Brown finished a two-on-one break at 9:46. Brown flicked the puck high from the crease for a team-high tying 20th this season and 36th in 74 career games.
“We saw some opportunities coming on the rush and put the puck away,” said Lamb. “We kept it together for 60 minutes, and we are closer and closer to playing like we did on our (17-game) unbeaten streak. We want to make sure to close teams out at the end of the game. That was our lesson (Saturday).”
Three Connolly assists gives him 191 career points in 159 games, putting him No. 11 on UMD’s career scoring list, one point ahead of Bill Oleksuk (1978-82), father of Travis Oleksuk.
Caleb Herbert and Oleksuk, on a power play, provided third period goals. The Tigers are 1-5 the last six games.
“If you look just at the last month, that’s as good as we’ve played,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “Our guys were sharp. We didn’t panic the whole weekend. We just played sharp.”
UMD’s regular season ends this weekend at St. Cloud State.