DULUTH, Minn. — After scratching for goals all this season and a night after being shut out, Minnesota-Duluth had one of its better games Saturday night against No. 10-ranked Denver.
And the Bulldogs lost.
Denver twice trailed by two goals and then rallied with three goals in 91 seconds late in the third period to complete a remarkable comeback in a 4-3 victory before 6,600 stunned fans at Amsoil Arena.
The Pioneers (15-8-4, 10-6-4 WCHA) were led by center Shawn Ostrow with two goals. He and Chris Knowlton connected for goals 36 seconds apart to tie the game with 5:44 to play. Then following some crisp passing, freshman defenseman Nolan Zajac scored on a power play with 4:49 remaining to cap the rally. He shot from the right circle and went high past goalie Matt McNeely.
It was an emotional finish for a series sweep on a day Denver head coach George Gwozdecky was at his family home in Thunder Bay, Ont., for the passing of his father, George Sr., who was in his early 90s.
“Nothing this team does surprises me this season,” said Denver associate coach Steve Miller. “We’ve shown glimpses, especially on offense, and when we get things rolling, we’re pretty good. Sometimes, I look at our offense and say ‘Wow.’
“Coach Gwozdecky is the leader of this team and had been sending us text messages today. And after the game we were talking about him and our captain, Paul Phillips, said ‘This one was for Coach.’”
UMD (10-13-3, 8-9-3) led 2-0 and 3-1 before bowing out. The Bulldogs had gone 102 minutes and three seconds without a goal over the previous two games, including a 3-0 loss Friday, but broke out of that quickly.
Caleb Herbert scored just 65 seconds into the game for a 1-0 UMD lead. Justin Crandall won a faceoff at the left circle of the offensive zone and Herbert corralled the puck and shot quickly past Denver sophomore goalie Juho Olkinuora.
UMD’s power play, a strength this season, clicked twice in the second period for a 3-1 lead. Just 31 seconds into the period, freshman Austin Farley took a cross-ice feed from freshman Tony Cameranesi and scored from the right edge of the crease. It was his ninth goal of the season.
A hard carom off the end boards at 8:13 put the puck on Ostrow’s stick, at the right edge, at 8:13 to get Denver within 2-1.
“They capitalized on our mistakes and that was the complete difference,” said UMD senior defenseman Wade Bergman. “This stings the most. At this time of the year, you want to hit your stride and we did play well. We came out with a vengeance [after Friday]. We gave it a go.”
A pretty play with 3:41 left in the second restored the two-goal advantage. This time, Mike Seidel passed cross-ice to Cameranesi low at the left circle and he had the whole left side of the net open for a power-play score. That gave Cameranesi 11 goals, one behind Seidel.
A turning point came in the opening minutes of the third period as Denver killed off significant UMD power-play time, including one minute of a five-on-three advantage.
“We were much better for most of the game, we controlled play for much of the game,” said Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin. “But we needed to get another goal [early in the third period].”
With 6:20 left, Ostrow made it 3-2. With 5:44 left, Knowlton tied it. Then after a Bergman penalty, Zajac finished the job. McNeely was pulled for an extra attacker and UMD had chances, finishing with a 33-24 shots advantage, but the Pioneers were not going to be beat.
“We had a lot of mistakes at the end and I had a couple myself,” said McNeely. “It’s hard to put into words, but we have to bear down in the third period. To say the least, we had this won and let it get away.”