LOWELL, Mass. — No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth returned to the scene of two past crimes and almost added a third before settling on a 4-4 ties against No. 8 UMass-Lowell.
Lowell sits 37 miles east of Worcester and 25 miles south of Manchester, New Hampshire. But for a Bulldogs team from halfway across the country, all three might as well be the same place. For the past two years, the Bulldogs were sent by the NCAA Selection Committee to the Northeast Regional. Both times ended in heartbreaking fashion, inches from a trip to the Frozen Four.
Last year in the opening round, they defeated the defending national champions, Providence, in what was pretty close to the champ’s backyard, Worcester. Then Duluth had to face Boston College in the Eagles’ actual backyard. Down 3-0 in the third period, the Bulldogs rallied to make it 3-2, went on the power play and pressed for the tying goal. They almost got it, necessitating a video review on the potential equalizer with 2.6 seconds left.
This close to overtime and a possible trip to the Frozen Four.
The year before, Duluth defeated Minnesota handily in the Northeast Regional opener, but again had to face a formidable foe, Boston University, playing in its backyard, Manchester.
Again, the Bulldogs came agonizingly close to the Frozen Four, surrendering the game-winner on a BU power play with only 2:32 remaining in regulation.
Would this season-opening road trip, a northeastern trek to Lowell, result in a similarly close-but-exploding-cigar loss?
For a time it appeared that way. Duluth fell behind, 4-1, in a tightly-called game littered with 19 penalties. The Bulldogs roared back with a dominant third period in which they outshot the hosts, 21-10, tying the game with 3:30 remaining in regulation. A tidal wave of momentum was on their side.
In overtime, however, it appeared that crushing heartbreak had struck again. Not of the season-ending variety, of course, but it would be a soul-crushing way to get the season going. Lowell’s C.J. Smith put the puck into the net 2:23 into OT, and the River Hawks fans rejoiced. All that remained was a video replay to confirm the result.
Duluth coach Scott Sandelin had seen this movie before.
“I was just [upset] our guy turned the puck over,” he said. “I was yelling at our guys to go shake hands. Then there was the delay.” The delay would eventually find that Smith had interfered with goaltender Nick Deery and not only would the game-winner be waved off, but Smith would be sent to the penalty box.
Sandelin wasn’t expecting that reprieve. “I was thinking to go shake hands, get off [the ice], and go prepare for tomorrow.”
This time, however, the video review determined that there would be no heartbreaking loss. In the end, there wouldn’t be the win that might have been hoped for considering Duluth’s third-period dominance and its 5-0 shot disparity in overtime. But at least there wouldn’t be a loss.
“It probably was fitting that it ended in a tie,” Sandelin said. “We’ll take it and move on to tomorrow.”
National Collegiate Hockey Conference results
Western Michigan 2, #20 Ferris State 1
Western Michigan outshot Ferris State 20-4 in the decisive second period, getting the game-tying goal from Matheson Iacopelli and the winner on the power play by Scott Moldenhauer, both in that period. Ben Blacker stopped 17 shots for his second win.
#10 Providence 4, Miami 3
Providence’s Brian Pinho tallied the game-winning, shorthanded goal at 13:53 of the third period, negating three power-play goals by Miami. The RedHawks rallied three times from one-goal deficits before surrendering the game-winner.
Massachusetts 3 Colorado College 0
UMass shut out Colorado College, 3-0, on the strength of a perfect penalty kill unit that stopped all 11 Tiger power plays. The Tigers outshot the Minutemen, 31-18, but Ryan Wischow stopped all 31 shots for the shutout.
#1 North Dakota 6 Canisius 0
Top-ranked North Dakota showcased its power, using even-strength goals from five different players and a shorthanded goal by Dixon Bowen to secure the dominating win. The Fighting Hawks scored in the game’s opening minute and Cam Johnson stopped all 17 shots for the shutout.