DULUTH, Minn. — Attempts by Minnesota-Duluth to string together a winning streak this season have been blocked by one small item —- the second game of every weekend.
Through the first two months, the Bulldogs have been winless on the second night of eight series, which have been played on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
That predictable pattern continued Saturday night, as Bemidji State shut down UMD, 2-1, in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s game before 6,490 fans at Amsoil Arena. Second-period goals from freshman Markus Gerbrandt and senior Jordan George (the 54th of his career) gave the Beavers enough to break a three-game losing streak and earn their first win at Amsoil Arena in four tries.
“We started well and then trailed off; the key is finding some consistency,” said UMD senior defenseman Wade Bergman. “We had some chances early and then Bemidji played exactly how they wanted: they stayed close, got a bounce for a goal, and were tough the rest of the way.”
Sophomore goalie Adam Walsh was making his first start in three weeks and was solid for Bemidji State (4-8-2 and 3-7-2 in WCHA). He had 33 saves, as UMD led in shots on goal, 34-19, and didn’t allow a score until 50 seconds remained, with the Bulldogs on a two-player advantage.
UMD (5-8-3 and 3-6-3) had been 2-0-1 the last three games while scoring a combined 15 goals. Yet the Bulldogs, who won 4-2 Friday, couldn’t find their offense and are now 0-6-2 on the second night this season and 5-2-1 on the first night.
“(On Friday) I think we made a step in the right direction (despite the loss),” said Walsh. “We got on track, we got our forechecking going. The way we’ve been playing (1-7-1 the previous nine games) we had a lot on the line. We had to get a win.”
UMD had plenty of jump in the first period, leading in shots, 13-9, but neither team scored.
The trend was reversed in the second period, with each team getting eight shots on goal. Gerbrandt came from behind the UMD net and wrapped the puck between the legs of goalie Aaron Crandall at 6:54. The Beavers converted on their third power play of the game when George scored cleanly on a drive from the right circle.
Through two periods, Bemidji State had not taken a penalty and UMD was called for three.
“Overall, we might’ve played better (Saturday) than Friday, but it ended up to be just an average weekend,” said UMD sophomore center Justin Crandall. “We ended up getting frustrated because Bemidji was playing such hard-nosed defense. We need a mindset that we have to step up and finish the series.”
The Bulldogs hurt themselves to start the third period, as defenseman Derik Johnson was called for a five-minute checking-from-behind penalty to Aaron McLeod. UMD survived that, but didn’t click until the waning moments.
UMD pulled Aaron Crandall for the final 2:38, went on a power play with 1:41 to go, and scored with a two-man advantage, from Caleb Herbert.
“I liked our effort at the end but was disappointed with the result,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “Bemidji always has tough goalies and Walsh was good, he stymied us. And we shot ourselves in the foot in the third with the five-minute major.”
The Bulldogs controlled the puck in the final hectic three minutes and Bergman hit a pipe in the last 15 seconds. UMD led 13-2 in shots on goal for the period.
Walsh, who started the first seven games of the season, was back in Bemidji State’s goal for the first time since a 5-4 home loss to Michigan Tech on Nov. 16.
“We’re a desperate team and there’s nothing like a hard-fought victory,” said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore. “We had more sustained pressure, we stayed on the puck and we managed the puck better. Our guys were more aggressive.”
The Bulldogs close the first half of the season with a series at last-place Alaska Anchorage this Friday and Saturday.