MINNEAPOLIS — After not meeting for 495 days, Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota put on a late-season, playoff-ready reunion Friday night at Mariucci Arena.
By the end, the No. 2-ranked Gophers flexed their offensive muscles and pulled away for a 5-3 Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s series opener before 10,078 fans.
Minnesota (21-6-4, 13-6-4 WCHA) had lost 3-2 Sunday to Wisconsin in an outdoor game at Soldier Field in Chicago and coach Don Lucia said his team didn’t have its energy early. Two goals in the final seven minutes provided the final margin, giving the Gophers a 13-2-2 home record.
UMD (10-17-4, 8-13-4) clawed back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to make Minnesota sweat, but just didn’t have enough offense. The Bulldogs are 0-7-1 the last eight games, the longest winless stretch in more than a decade, since going 0-9-1 from Nov. 2-Dec. 1, 2001.
“That was one of the best games we’ve played – a good, all-around team game,” said UMD senior winger Dan DeLisle. “It was a loss, but it’s almost something we can use as a stepping stone. For a lot of that game I thought we were the better team.”
Freshman winger Austin Farley scored twice for UMD and freshman goalie Matt McNeely was solid with 29 saves.
A strong third period had Minnesota outshooting UMD 16-4 and 34-29 for the game. Kyle Rau broke a 3-3 tie with a rebound score with 6:35 to play and center Erik Haula finished things off with his second goal of the game, an empty netter, with six seconds remaining.
The Bulldogs have been outscored 15-1 in the third period in the past eight games.
“I give our guys credit for finding a way to win the third period,” said Lucia. “The score at the end was more indicative of the way the game went. We got better as the game went on.”
UMD led 11-7 in shots on goal after the first period, but it was Minnesota leading 1-0 on the scoreboard. Junior winger Nate Condon had an open shot from the left circle and the puck just did trickle through McNeely. It came on Minnesota’s first shot on goal of the game.
The Bulldogs had their chances around the crease in front of Minnesota freshman goalie Adam Wilcox, a cousin of former Bulldog Alex Stalock. The best opportunity never led to a shot as UMD’s Mike Seidel was hooked on a breakaway down the slot by Minnesota’s Travis Boyd with seven minutes left in the first period.
UMD’s first three-goal period in more than two months put the Bulldogs into a 3-3 tie after two periods. An offensive second period produced five goals in all. UMD also hit three pipes in the period
Gopher scoring leader Haula, a junior center, finished a shorthanded rush. He has 15 goals this season, and 41 in his career. That made it 2-0. Justin Crandall followed 37 seconds later by knocking a shot from the right side past Wilcox to the short side.
The first of Farley’s goals tied it 2-2 with 6:50 left in the second, but 1:42 later sophomore Sam Warning responded with a nifty backhand-to-forehand rush to the net and a 3-2 lead.
“When you’re on a (winless) streak like we are, you have to keep fighting,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “I saw some fight and I’ve seen some good things the last couple of games that I haven’t seen for a awhile.”
With 44 seconds left in the second period, Farley banged in a Tony Cameranesi rebound on a power play. It was Farley’s 12th goal of the season.
Both teams had chances in the third period, including UMD after McNeely was pulled for an extra attacker with a minute to play, yet UMD’s offense has had trouble cashing in on opportunities all season. UMD’s power play, 3-of-34 the previous seven games, was 2-of-4 and silenced the best power play in Division I, keeping the Gophers 0-of-5.
“We played hard for 60 minutes and we just have to keep up that effort,” said Farley. “We got behind and we battled back as hard as we could. We just have to stick together and keep believing.”
The programs were meeting for the first time since Minnesota swept 5-4 games at Amsoil Arena on Oct. 14-15, 2011. UMD was playing at Mariucci Arena for the first time in more than two years, since games on Dec. 10 and 12, 2010.
Minnesota Duluth……………. 0-3-0—3
First period — 1. Minnesota, Nate Condon 11 (Ben Marshall, Sam Warning), 4:04. Penalties — Chris Casto, UMD (interference), 10:24; Travis Boyd, Minnesota (hooking), 13:09.
Second period — 2. Minnesota, Erik Haula 14 (Zach Budish), 7:50 (sh); 3. UMD, Justin Crandall 5 (Cal Decowski), 8:27 (pp); 4. UMD, Austin Farley 11 (Joe Basaraba), 13:10; 5. Minnesota, Sam Warning 7 (Condon), 14:52; 6. UMD, Farley 12 (Tony Cameranesi, Caleb Herbert), 19:16 (pp). Penalties — Wade Bergman, UMD (boarding), 2:03; Boyd, Minnesota (slashing), 3:52; Justin Holl, Minnesota (goalie interference), 6:48; Keegan Flaherty, UMD (holding), 8:53; Marshall, Minnesota (hooking), 17:33.
Third period — 7. Minnesota, Kyle Rau 14 (Nick Bjugstad, Budish), 13:25; 8. Minnesota, Haula 15, 19:54 (en). Penalties — Herbert, UMD (boarding0, 4:05; Farley, UMD (boarding), 15:35.
Shots on goal — UMD 11-14-4—29, Minnesota 7-11-16—34. Goalies — Matt McNeely (8-11-2), UMD (34 shots-29 saves); Adam Wilcox (20-5-4), Minnesota (29 shots-26 saves). Power plays — UMD 2-of-4, Minnesota 0-of-5. Referees —Don Adam, Craig Welker. Linesmen — Tony Czech, Sterling Egan. A — 10,078.