DULUTH, Minn. — A couple of goals off of deflections and a 160-foot attempt into an empty net were part of Minnesota-Duluth’s repertoire Friday night as the Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s best-of-three playoffs opened.
The No. 3 Bulldogs needed all of their arsenal to dispose of Minnesota State-Mankato, 4-2, for a 1-0 series lead before 4,768 fans at Amsoil Arena.
A pair of third-period goals got UMD free of a 2-2 tie, and made the Bulldogs 4-0-1 against Mankato this season. Senior defenseman Brady Lamb scored twice to lead UMD.
“We got away from our game after the first period; in the third period, we said just keep it simple, get the puck up ice, and we shut them down and had more energy,” said Lamb, who has a point in five straight games and three goals the last two games.
UMD (23-8-6) led 1-0 after a dominating first period and 2-0 early in the second before Mankato (12-23-2) rallied. The Bulldogs led in shots on goal, 38-28, including 14-10 in the third period.
Mankato, 11th in the 12-team WCHA, was playing without injured first-line center Zach Lehrke, but stayed close with a determined defensive effort. Senior goalie Austin Lee had 34 saves.
“We did a good job of limiting quality chances, but we didn’t create as much as we needed on offense,” said Mankato coach Troy Jutting. “The first 10 or 15 minutes (UMD) was in control, but after that it was pretty even.”
In the last five years, UMD has been Mankato’s, nemesis holding a 12-1-2 advantage the last 15 games in the series, and is 8-0-1 against the Mavericks since 2006 in Duluth.
A backhand pass from Travis Oleksuk, from behind the net, was intended for Caleb Herbert, but he tipped the puck in the slot. J.T. Brown gained control at the right side and his shot went off one or two Mankato players and beat Lee to the far post with 8:29 left in the first period. It was Brown’s team-leading 22nd goal of the season, and 38th in 77 career games.
“At first I thought ‘Oh, it was blocked, and then the puck had some eyes.’ It didn’t go in clean,” said Brown. “But we wanted to keep getting pucks to the net because you never know what will happen. We had a good game all-around, but it certainly wasn’t easy. Mankato pushed back.”
The Bulldogs went up 2-0 just 66 seconds into the second period as Lamb let loose with a shot from high in the slot that went in clean.
Back came the Mavericks. Freshman Max Gaede converted a rebound at 5:29 of the second, and senior Joe Schiller banked an attempt from the extended goal line off of UMD goalie Kenny Reiter with just 46 seconds left in the period.
Between those scores, UMD’s Keegan Flaherty was stopped by Lee on a penalty shot at 8:39 of the second after Flaherty was brought down by Schiller on a short-handed breakaway.
“We needed to regroup and get our feet moving, and take care of the puck better,” said Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin. “We needed to get in their face and disrupt plays. I liked our third period.”
Lamb put UMD back in the lead with 8:02 to play with a long-distance attempt from just inside the blue line high on the right side. The puck went end-over-end and went off a Mankato player and past Lee for Lamb’s ninth goal of the season and 22nd as a Bulldog.
With Lee pulled for an extra attacker, Wade Bergman, Lamb’s defensive partner, lifted a shot 160 feet that hit the Mankato net dead center with six seconds to play.
The victory gave Reiter a 50th career win, tying Isaac Reichmuth (2002-06) for No. 4 in program history. Reiter’s record is 50-24-11.
Mankato is 0-4-1 last four games overall.