Home ice hasn’t been kind to Minnesota Duluth this winter. After going 19-9-4 in the first 1½ seasons of Amsoil Arena, which opened Dec. 30, 2011, the Bulldogs haven’t had much of an advantage in the building.
No. 11-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato was the latest visitor to prevail, smacking UMD 5-1 Saturday night to finish a Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s series sweep before 6,398 fans.
The Bulldogs (10-15-3, 8-11-3 WCHA) have lost five straight home games (going 5-8-1 this season at Amsoil Arena) and have lost five straight overall. Both streaks are the longest in five years.
A week ago, Denver rallied with three goals in the third period Saturday to stun UMD, and Mankato did the same Friday, with three third-period goals to win 4-2.
“If you go on the road and win two games it’s a great weekend; and this time of the year it’s incredibly difficult,” said Mankato coach Mike Hastings. “(Senior winger) Eriah Hayes was a difference maker the entire weekend.”
After having a miserable record in Duluth the previous six years, the Mavericks (18-9-3, 12-9-1) picked up right where they left off Friday, taking a 3-0 first-period lead. Hayes finished with three goals, all on power plays, and an assist, and had seven points in the series. He leads Division I with 10 power-play goals.
Just 3:47 into the game, winger Zach Lehrke got loose for a breakaway and came down the slot to put the puck between the legs of UMD goalie Aaron Crandall, getting his first start in 11 games.
The goal came on the first shot on goal of the game for either team.
Goals 109 seconds apart late in the first period gave Mankato a three-goal lead. Freshman center Teddy Blueger’s drive from high on the right side tipped off a UMD stick with 3:22 left and Hayes clicked on a power-play chance with 1:33 remaining.
“I’ll put 80 percent (of the game’s outcome) on goaltending. We’re not getting any big saves,” said Crandall. “We need to score more, but when you’re struggling to score, your goaltending has to step up.”
A UMD shutout was averted in the second period aided by four straight power-play shifts. The Bulldogs scored on the third as Mike Seidel passed to the left circle and freshman center Tony Cameranesi cracked the puck just under the crossbar with 3:10 left. It was his 12th of the season, one behind Seidel.
Freshman goalie Stephon Williams had blanked UMD for 69 minutes, since early in Friday’s second period.
A 5-on-3 power play in the third period for 61 seconds produced nothing for UMD, while Mankato’s Hayes connected on two man-advantage shifts. He has 16 goals this season and 47 in 142 career games.
“We knew tonight the power play had to be big and that special teams would be the difference in the game,” said Mankato center Matt Leitner, who had three assists. “We got a couple of bounces, and he’s (Hayes) a finisher on the power play. He did a great job.”
UMD last lost five straight home games from Jan. 19-March 2, 2008 in games against Minnesota, Colorado College and North Dakota. Its last five-game losing streak overall came during the same stretch, from Feb. 22 to March 7. The Bulldogs were without first-line center Caleb Herbert, who was hurt Friday.
“We’re not winning small puck battles and we need to be stronger in front of the net,” said UMD freshman defenseman Andy Welinski. “We’ve been great in some areas and have been struggling in others, but the effort was there in the second and third periods.”
Mankato had done some streak-breaking of its own the night before after going 0-9-1 in Duluth the previous 10 games, including being swept in the first round of the 2012 WCHA playoffs. The victory was the first at Amsoil Arena and first in Duluth since Jan. 28, 2006. UMD is 13-3-2 against the Mavericks the last 18 games.
Saturday’s outcome dropped UMD one spot to ninth in the WCHA with a month left in the regular season, while Mankato moved up into a three-way tie for fifth, one point out of third.
“Our first 10 minutes wasn’t very good and I was very disappointed in some dumb penalties we took,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We gave up way too many easy goals (in the series) and we weren’t very hungry around their net.”
UMD goes on the road to Bemidji State this Friday and Saturday.
Minn. State-Mankato………. 3-0-2—5
Minnesota Duluth……………. 0-1-0—1
First period — 1. Mankato, Zach Lehrke 6 (Bryce Gervais, Nick Buchanan), 3:47; 2. Mankato, Teddy Blueger 5 (Eriah Hayes, Josh Nelson), 16:38; 3. Mankato, Hayes 14 (Matt Leitner, Jean-Paul LaFontaine), 18:27 (pp). Penalties — Nelson, Mankato (tripping), 7:13; Chris Casto, UMD (checking from behind), 9:56; Austin Farley, UMD (roughing), 17:49.
Second period — 4. UMD, Tony Cameranesi 12 (Mike Seidel, Farley), 16:50 (pp). Penalties —Eli Zuck, Mankato (boarding), 3:13; Zach Palmquist, Mankato (interference0, 8:35; Chase Grant, Mankato (slashing), 16:24; Blueger, Mankato (slashing), 19:39; Wade Bergman, UMD (charging), 20:00.
Third period — 5. Mankato, Hayes 15 (LaFontaine, Leitner), 4:46 (pp); 6. Mankato, Hayes 16 (Leitner, Lehrke), 12:52 (pp). Penalties — Joe Basaraba, UMD (slashing), 4:11; Lehrke, Mankato (tripping), 6:46; Bryce Gervais, Mankato (tripping), 7:44; Andy Welinski, UMD (holding), 12:14; Tim Smith, UMD (roughing), 13:03.
Shots on goal — Mankato 14-5-9—28, UMD 10-13-12—35. Goalies — Stephon Williams (15-7-2), Mankato (35 shots-34 saves); Aaron Crandall (2-5-2), UMD (23 shots-18 saves); Alex Fons, UMD (4 shots-4 saves). Power plays — Mankato 3-of-6, UMD 1-of-7. Referees —Scott Bokal, Timm Walsh. Linesmen — Sterling Egan, Brandon Polich. A — 6,398.