BEMIDJI, Minn. â€“ Many avenues have led Minnesota Duluth to victory early this season.
Goals have come short-handed, on penalty shots, on power plays following a major penalty and even in overtime while on a power play.
Scoring more than 4.5 goals a game and allowing fewer that 2.30 left the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs unbeaten entering Saturdayâ€™s Western Collegiate Hockey Association menâ€™s game against winless Bemidji State at the Sanford Center before a crowd of 3,611.
UMD left unbeaten but settled for a 1-1 overtime tie as Bemidji State scored with 91 seconds left in regulation on an Emil Billberg goal. Freshman defenseman Justin Faulk had given the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal at 3:51 of the third period.
â€œAs much as we wouldâ€™ve liked a sweep, weâ€™re happy with three of four points, and our heads will be held high going to play (second-place) North Dakota,â€ said Faulk. â€œWe expected another defensive game and got it, and just wished we couldâ€™ve done better to capitalize on our chances.â€
Defense was the name of the game with no scoring until the third period as UMDâ€™s Kenny Reiter and Bemidji Stateâ€™s Mathieu Dugas, in his first start of the season, were the stars. The Bulldogs (6-0-2, 3-0-1 WCHA) took the point in the league standings to gain sole possession of first. They led in final shots on goal 29-20. Bemidji State (0-3-1) gained its first league point as a first-year member, as the teams met for a third straight overtime game in the series. UMD won 3-2 in sudden death Friday.
Reiter had missed practice on Monday and Tuesday last week, with the flu, and wasnâ€™t 100 precent, but looked sharp.
After two scoreless periods, Faulk gave UMD the lead Â on a drive from the inside edge of the left circle, before Billbergâ€™s first goal of the season created the tie, putting the puck off Reiterâ€™s shoulder.
â€œBemidji is a frustrating team to play. They try to get to the puck first every time and kind of live off bounces. Theyâ€™re tough,â€ said Reiter, 3-0-2. â€œFor times there are no shots and then they come at you in flurries and you really have to focus. Our guys played great in front of me. I donâ€™t remember any second shots.â€
The best scoring opportunity of the first two periods for the Bulldogs came in the second period when two Bemidji State players were called for cross-checking and unsportsmanlike conduct at 6:08. But the power play wasnâ€™t clicking.
Dugas stopped UMDâ€™s J.T. Brown at the crease at even strength with 2:36 left in the second. Winger Jamie MacQueen misfired on a hustling 3-on-1 rush for Bemidji State near the end of the period.
â€œWe have been close to winning this season and our guys were nervous, and by the end of the game I thought both teams were gassed,â€ said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore. â€œIt was a big point for us. Anytime you get a point in the conference, thereâ€™s a smile on your face.â€
In the first period, Jordan George was stopped by Reiter on a power play with 8:52 left and UMDâ€™s Kyle Schmidt was turned away by Dugas with 2:20 to go.
The last four-plus periods in the rink produced just three goals. UMDâ€™s four goals in the series were on power plays. Â Bemidji State is 7-4-1 against UMD the last 12 games in the series.
â€œNeither team was real effective on the power play (Saturday) and that was the difference,â€ said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. â€œWe were better in some areas, except for a few shifts in the third period. Itâ€™s a little disappointing not to get four points when you are in position for it, but it was a hard-fought series.â€
The tie ended UMDâ€™s six-game win streak, the most since six straight playoff wins in March of 2009, and the most during the regular season since nine straight wins during 2003-04. The eight-game unbeaten streak is the best start to a season since winning eight straight to open 1989-90.
UMD has its stiffest test of the season this Friday and Saturday at No. 8 North Dakota.
Minnesota Duluth Â Â 0-0-1-0â€”1
Bemidji StateÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 0-0-1-0â€”1
First period â€“ No scoring. Penalties â€“ Drew Fisher, Bemidji State (interference), 1:47; Brady Lamb, UMD (elbowing), 10:37; Justin Fontaine, UMD (elbowing), 13:41
Second period â€“ No scoring. Penalties â€“ Fisher, Bemidji State (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:08; Brady Wacker, Bemidji State (cross-checking), 6:08; Jack Connolly, UMD (tripping), 11:50; Ryan Cramer, Bemidji State (hooking), 19:09.
Third period â€“ 1. UMD, Justin Faulk 2 (Mike Connolly, J. Connolly), 3:51 (pp); 2. Bemidji State, Emil Billberg 1 (Dan MacIn tyre, Fisher), 18:29. Penalties â€“ Darcy Findlay, Bemidji State (high-sticking), 3:28; Wacker, Bemidji State (interference), 4:13.
Overtime â€“ No scoring. Penalty â€“ Kyle Schmidt, UMD (tripping), :43.
Shots on goal â€“ UMD 10-10-7-2â€”29, Bemidji State 9-4-7-0â€”20. Goalies â€“ Kenny Reiter (3-0-2), Duluth (20 shots-19 saves); Mathieu Dugas (0-0-1), Bemidji State (29 shots-28 saves). Power plays â€“ UMD 1-of-5, Bemidji State 0-of-4. Referees â€“ Don Adam, Tim Walsh. Linesmen â€“ Justin Hills, Andy Dokken. A â€“ 3,611.