Overtime has been good to Minnesota Duluth this season.
The No. 15-ranked Bulldogs played their sixth sudden-death game Friday and pushed their record to 4-1-1 as Mike Connolly scored at 6:42 to defeat No. 21 Colorado College 3-2 to open the best-of-three Western Collegiate Hockey Association first-round playoff series.
It was the second OT winner for Connolly. He also scored in overtime to beat Princeton in the 2009 NCAA Division I quarterfinals.
“We had a good rush against a tired team and I got an absolutely unbelievable pass from Jack [Connolly]. I was left wide open,” said Mike Connolly.
The Bulldogs (21-15-1) trailed 2-1 early in the second period before scoring the final two goals in a tension-packed confrontation. The victory kept UMD on the right side of the rivalry, 4-1 against Colorado College this season and 6-1 the last seven games in the series. UMD swept the Tigers to open last season’s playoffs in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Colorado College (18-16-3) was playing in the post-season at the DECC for the first time. The Tigers got two goals from center Nick Dineen and 32 saves from freshman goalie Joe Howe of Plymouth, Minn.
“Howe played very well. It’s a shame to waste a real good goaltending effort like that. We haven’t had much firepower the last seven games [in going 1-6,] said Colorado College coach Scott Owens. “I liked the way we competed and played hard; the game was back and forth. Then a couple of the best playmakers in the league get the winner.”
UMD led in shots 35-21 and junior goalie Kenny Reiter earned the win. Junior winger Rob Bordson scored UMD’s first two goals, giving him 39 points in 37 games. A crowd of 3,461 saw a battle that epitomizes playoff hockey.
It was 1-1 after one period and 2-2 after two, and no scoring in the third. Each team had four penalties. UMD captain Drew Akins hit a couple of pipes and there were a handful of other good scoring chances.
“We weren’t frustrated and we weren’t discouraged. We kept saying ‘Throw pucks on the net and wear them down,’ ’’ said Bordson. “We played solid and didn’t give up much defensively. We stuck with it and stayed positive.”
Getting an early lead has been a UMD goal the past few weeks and Bordson put the Bulldogs up 1-0 at8:48 of the first period. He fought through a check at the right circle and then wristed an attempt high past Howe. It took the Tigers just 62 seconds to respond as Dineen also pushed his way through a roadblock. He came down the slot for a goal at 9:50.
The first period was repeated in the second with the same players scoring. Dineen finished off some good offensive pressure with his sixth goal of the season at 6:04. UMD continued to click on the power play with a man-advantage score with 7:22 left in the period as Bordson’s 11th goal of the season clanked to the back of the net from the right circle. The puck deflected off a Colorado College skate. That made the Bulldogs 8-of-23 on power plays the last five games.
“It was a physical, tight game, just what I expected from two evenly-matched teams,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We had offensive chances and we kept getting better.”
There was no scoring in the third period and no penalties. For nearly six minutes, there were no shots on goal. Reiter turned away defenseman Nate Prosser with 2:18 left in regulation
In overtime, the Tigers had a great shift which was followed by UMD senior Jordan Fulton checking the puck free in the offensive zone and chipping it to scoring leader Jack Connolly. When two Colorado College defenders went to Jack Connolly, Mike Connolly was left open at the crease.
Fourth-place UMD had beaten sixth-place Colorado College. The Bulldogs are 13-7 at home this season entering today’s 7:07 p.m. rematch.
Colorado College ………..1-1-0-0—2
First period – 1. UMD, Rob Bordson 10 (Travis Oleksuk), 8:48; 2. Colorado College, Nick Dineen 5 (Doug Leaverton, Kris Fredheim), 9:50. Penalties – Ryan Lowery, Colorado College (cross-checking), 4:14; Justin Fontaine, UMD (roughing goalie), 14:02; Rylan Schwartz, Colorado College (roughing, facemasking), 17:23; Oleksuk, UMD (roughing, facemasking), 17:23.
Second period – 3. Colorado College, Dineen 6 (Scott Winkler, Addison DeBoer), 6:04; 4. UMD, Bordson 11 (Mike Montgomery, Justin Fontaine) 12:38 (pp). Penalties – Gabe Gunetzel, Colorado College (tripping), 10:58; Kyle Schmidt, UMD (hooking), 13:47.
Third period – No scoring. Penalties – None.
Overtime – 5. UMD, Mike Connolly 12 (Jack Connolly, Jordan Fulton), 6:42. Penalties – None.
Shots on goal – Colorado College 5-10-4-2–21; UMD 9-11-8-7–35. Goalies – Joe Howe (16-14-3), Colorado College (35 shots-32 saves); Kenny Reiter (12-8), UMD (21 shots-19 saves). Power plays – Colorado College 0-of-2; UMD 1-of-2. Referees – Todd Anderson, Brad Shepherd. Assistants – Tony Czech, Dan Dineen. A – 3,461.