After Mike Connolly recorded a natural hat trick less than two minutes into the second period, it felt like a career game that couldn’t get much better.
“I can’t even remember the last time I had three goals,” Connolly said. “When the puck went in I thought it was going to be a pretty good night.”
And then he went out and scored twice more. The junior forward for Minnesota-Duluth put five on the board in the Bulldogs’ 6-4 win against Minnesota, Saturday. UMD took three points from the Gophers over the weekend, bumping the Bulldogs up to third in the poll.
“The five goals is something I’ll never forget,” Connolly said. “But the important thing was that we got three points against a team that gave us trouble earlier in the year and a team that’s playing good hockey right now.”
Connolly scored twice in the first period, twice in the second and iced the game with an empty-net goal in the third period. He is the 12th player in WCHA history to score five goals in a game during league play and the first since St. Cloud State’s Fred Knipscheer did it in 1993.
After the Minnesota series, Connolly is tied for eighth in the nation with 19 goals. He is second to Denver’s Jason Zucker in goals scord in WCHA play with 15.
Connolly scored the goal that tied Friday’s game when the Gophers held a one-goal lead with 9:48 to go in the third period.
Though Connolly has been within the top-three goal scorers on UMD’s high-powered offense for the past three seasons, he has only had multi-goal games three times: against Alaska-Anchorage and Providence earlier this season and against Wisconsin in Jan., 2009.
Connolly’s goals have had a remarkable impact on UMD’s fortunes over the past three seasons, too. The Bulldogs are 29-6-3 when Connolly scores at least one goal since he joined the program in 2008. UMD has lost only three times this season and last when Connolly scores.
Connolly has played on UMD’s top line with Justin Fontaine and Jack Connolly (no relation, for those who didn’t know) for most of the season. Jack Connolly (12-28–40) and Fontaine (16-21–37) are the WCHA’s points leaders in all games and are among the nations best offensive players.
Fontaine was split from the Connolly’s and has played a lot of left wing on a separate line since Christmas but the trio was reunited Saturday.
“We went through some injury trouble so we had to balance out the lines,” Connolly said. “I’ve been fortunate to play with those guys the last three years. It’s something I’m taking advantage of because it’s not every day you get to play with guys like that.”
The CC PP
Colorado College went 18 straight power plays without scoring on the man advantage going back to the Jan. 28 win against North Dakota. The Tigers went 0 for 9 this weekend against Denver.
It’s a far cry from when CC scored seven power play goals against the Pioneers during a weekend in early November. Of course, a bad stretch was bound to happen for CC when Jaden Schwartz is missing from its top PP unit.
Tech ties WCHA record
Michigan Tech’s loss to Alaska-Anchorage, Saturday was the 18th straight defeat for the Huskies. That ties a WCHA record for most consecutive losses in league play. CC was the only other team to lose 18 straight WCHA games in 1961-62.
Tech will try to avoid breaking the record Friday at home against Bemidji State. Read Huskies coach Jamie Russell’s account of his team’s difficult season Thursday.