MINNEAPOLIS — In between Friday and Sunday’s games, Minnesota-Duluth bused from Minneapolis to Duluth and back.
But the Bulldogs didn’t let that affect them Sunday, coming out and grabbing a 3-0 first-period lead that they wouldn’t relinquish and earned a series split with No. 1 Minnesota with a 6-2 victory in a penalty-filled matchup.
Bulldogs’ forward Justin Crandall said the team was a little upset with the way the scheduling worked out because this was supposed to be Minnesota-Duluth’s easiest travel weekend of the year.
But he said it was nice to get back to their own beds Friday and regroup in Duluth before heading south again on Sunday.
Freshman Dominic Toninato got the Bulldogs on the board early with a shorthanded goal at the 7:47 mark in the first period.
The goal came right after a 5-on-3 power play chance for Minnesota ended.
“Obviously, it was a nice shorthanded goal, but then we scored some goals and kind of took a little wind out of their sails like they did to us in the first period Friday,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said.
The Bulldogs added two more first-period goals, one from sophomore forward Tony Cameranesi and a power-play goal from Crandall.
The two teams combined to take 23 penalties on the night and much of the game was a battle of special teams.
Minnesota-Duluth converted four times in seven power-play opportunities.
“Our special teams today didn’t do the job,” Gophers’ coach Don Lucia said. “You can’t give up four goals on the penalty kill and give up a shorthanded goal and still give [yourselves] the chance to win.”
Crandall said the Bulldogs have been getting a lot better on the power play as of late.
“[We've been getting] a lot more chances, getting pucks to the net,” he said. “I think tonight, guys kind of bought into that idea and scored some nice goals.”
Crandall had two of the Bulldogs’ power-play goals and assisted on freshman Kyle Osterberg’s power-play tally.
Sandelin said it has taken Crandall “awhile” to get back into it after an upper-body injury forced him out of play.
But Crandall was able to do so today.
“Hopefully, that’s a good springboard for him to get him back to where he was,” Sandelin said.
Sophomore goaltender Matt McNeely was also instrumental in the Bulldogs’ victory and recorded 36 saves Sunday.
“In the beginning he was huge, especially during the 5-on-3,” Sandelin said. “He made two or three saves which kept it 0-0. You need that.”
The Gophers got power-play goals from sophomore defenseman Mike Reilly and freshman defenseman Michael Brodzinski, but they struggled throughout the game and Lucia said the team didn’t play with “great structure.”
“We didn’t have real discipline in our performance today, whether it was off of positioning or stick positioning,” Lucia said.
Still, Minnesota will head into Big Ten play with a 9-2-1 record, which Lucia said is a good position to be in.
For Duluth, Sandelin said his team needs to figure out how to put together back-to-back performances.
“Our best games have come after we’ve lost on Friday,” explained Sandelin. “With the games we’ve won on Friday, our performances haven’t been good. I like our kids’ response. I think that tells a lot about our team.”