DULUTH, Minn. — Facing Alabama-Huntsville didn’t offer Minnesota-Duluth many positives except for one —- gaining momentum.
After not winning in February, the Bulldogs opened March against the independent Chargers, who rank last in Division I offensively and second-to-last defensively.
UMD took care of business against an overmatched opponent by winning 4-0 Saturday night at Amsoil Arena before a crowd of 6,039. That completed a third sweep of the season, the first since Jan. 11-12 at home against Michigan Tech. The Bulldogs won 4-2 Friday.
Now 2-1-2 in the last five games, Minnesota-Duluth closes its regular-season history in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association against No. 13 Nebraska-Omaha at home this weekend. The Bulldogs appear locked into ninth place in the 12-team league.
“We controlled play for most of the 60 minutes of both games, and a lot of guys played well, from top-to-bottom in the lineup; that’s what we can take with us into next weekend and the (WCHA) playoffs,” said freshman center Tony Cameranesi, UMD’s scoring leader with 30 points in 34 games, including a goal and two assists Saturday.
Saturday marked Alabama-Huntsville’s final game of the season. The Chargers, under first-year coach Kurt Kleinendorst, were 0-9-1 against WCHA members, and lost the last 11 against Division I opponents. The program has been in Division I since 1999-2000.
While UMD leaves the WCHA for the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, Alabama-Huntsville (3-21-1) joins a revised WCHA for 2013-14.
“We’re getting there, we’re going to be fine, but we just didn’t have the polish to win games this season,” said Kleinendorst. “We can be gritty, we can compete, we just couldn’t finish teams off.”
The Bulldogs (12-17-5), who led 46-23 in shots on goal, scored first for just the second time in eight games, as Cameranesi rushed down the slot and smacked a backhand attempt through the legs of goalie John Riggs. That came eight minutes into the game.
Aaron Crandall, in his first start since Feb. 9, had some good stops in the opening period, as UMD led 1-0.
Power-play goals three minutes apart early in the second period pushed the Bulldogs ahead 3-0. Senior Mike Seidel converted a Cameranesi rebound at 2:18, and freshman Austin Farley took a Caleb Herbert pass at the crease at 5:18. Both scores came with Huntsville defenseman Graeme Strukoff off for a five-minute checking-from-behind penalty.
Seidel, Cameranesi, and Farley are tied for UMD’s goal-scoring lead with 14 each. Farley has four goals the last four games.
“We had been playing better the last two weeks (at Bemidji State and Minnesota) and hadn’t won; getting that taste back, that winning feeling, was important,” said Crandall. “Our penalty kill was good; we put up eight goals and (89) shots in two games.”
UMD was 4-of-11 on power plays, and snuffed all eight Huntsville man-advantage shifts in the series.
Defenseman Wade Bergman added a third-period score Saturday, and Crandall made 23 saves for his first shutout of season and third of his career.
“I always like to see a shutout, because it reflects on everyone; we played well,” said Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin. “We came into the weekend building off some good road games, and now we just need to keep that going.”