MINNEAPOLIS — February finally produced something Minnesota Duluth fans could cheer about.
The Bulldogs left the month without a victory, yet did gain a 2-2 overtime tie with No. 2-ranked Minnesota on Saturday night sparked by freshman goalie Matt McNeely.
UMD’s Jake Hendrickson scored with 7:06 remaining in the third period to create the tie in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s game played before a Mariucci Arena sellout crowd of 10,241.
McNeely finished 38 saves in what was his best game of the season.
UMD (10-17-5, 8-13-5 WCHA) ended the month 0-6-2, yet played two of its better back-to-back games against the defending MacNaughton Cup champions.
“We stuck together the entire weekend, no matter what the score. We came back from deficits three times and never lost our composure,” said McNeely, a former St. Thomas Academy goalie from Burnsville, Minn. “I knew I had to bring another level to my game (Saturday). I knew I had to play better. I was tracking the puck better and our defense blocked a lot of shots (23). I controlled my rebounds better and was able to kick them to the corners.”
Hendrickson, a senior center, converted a bouncing puck in the crease to bring UMD back. The Bulldogs had been outscored 16-1 in third periods during their winless stretch before Minnesota freshman goalie Adam Wilcox shoveled a rebound in behind the goal and Keegan Flaherty retrieved the puck, bounced it off the side of the net and into the crease where Hendrickson scored his fifth of the season.
Tom Serratore, son of Air Force coach Frank Serratore, had given the Gophers a 2-1 lead 6:25 into the third period on a wraparound attempt.
Minnesota (21-6-5, 13-6-5) never trailed in the series and led 40-37 in shots on goal Saturday. However, Minnesota had to survive a UMD power play in overtime for too many men on the ice.
“I saw a lot of push-back from our team,” said Flaherty. “We played well the entire weekend against a very good offensive team.”
Minnesota leads Division I in scoring at 3.71 goals a game and is first in power play percentage at 25.4.
The game was the 220th lifetime between the schools and marked the last regular-season meeting as WCHA members.
After going 0-of-5 on power plays in Friday’s 5-3 win, the Gophers connected on their first chance Saturday. Freshman defenseman Mike Reilly finished off some furious pressure with an open shot from the right side with 1:49 left in the first period.
Austin Farley’s third goal in two games tied the game 1-1 on a second-period power play. The freshman winger got to a Caleb Herbert rebound at the right edge of the net and knocked the puck behind Wilcox. That gave Farley 13 goals this season, tying him with Mike Seidel for the team lead.
“UMD found its power play this weekend, McNeely made some good saves, (UMD) blocked shots, and overall it was a hard-fought series,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “It was pretty even.”
McNeely was particularly sharp in the second period during two Minnesota power plays. The Gophers thought they’d scored at 8:19, with a man advantage, but Kyle Rau was ruled by referee Don Adam to have put the puck in with a high stick.
It was the second straight night the teams were tied after two periods. McNeely made 16 saves in the third period.
While the Bulldogs were looking for their first win in 36 days, Minnesota was pushing toward the top of the WCHA. Yet the Gophers fell two points behind first-place St. Cloud State with Saturday’s tie as the Huskies won 5-2 at Colorado College.
“Through the first 10 minutes we weathered some storms and got some momentum,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “To come in here against a team that is pretty damn good, we made them earn everything they got. We played well and (McNeely) gave us a chance.”
UMD’s final non-league series of this season opens this Friday at home with Alabama-Huntsville.
Minnesota Duluth………… 0-1-1-0—2
First period — 1. Minnesota, Mike Reilly 3 (Ben Marshall, Sam Warning), 18:11 (pp). Penalties — Marshall, Minnesota (holding), 8:55; Cal Decowski, UMD (roughing), 10:09; Erik Haula, Minnesota (roughing), 10:09; Dan DeLisle, UMD (too many men on ice), 16:21
Second period — 2. UMD. Austin Farley 13 (Caleb Herbert, Andy Welinski), 12:13 (pp). Penalties — Seth Helgeson, Minnesota (roughing), 2:13; Mike Seidel, UMD (slashing), 6:44; Haula, Minnesota (roughing), 8:06; Welinski, UMD (cross-checking), 8:06; Kyle Rau, Minnesota (slashing), 11:15; Welinski, UMD (slashing), 13:58; Brady Skjei, Minnesota (tripping), 19:45.
Third period — 3. Minnesota, Tom Serratore 7 (Travis Boyd), 6:25; 4. UMD, Jake Hendrickson 5 (Keegan Flaherty, Decowski), 12:54. Penalties —Tony Cameranesi, UMD (boarding), 3:41; Drew Olson, UMD (roughing), 14:29; Haula, Minnesota (slashing), 14:29.
Overtime – No scoring. Penalties – Christian Isackson, Minnesota (too many men on ice), 1:47.
Shots on goal — UMD 12-9-13-3—37, Minnesota 9-11-17-3—40. Goalies — Matt McNeely (8-11-3), UMD (40 shots-38 saves); Adam Wilcox (20-5-5), Minnesota (37 shots-35 saves). Power plays — UMD 1-of-5, Minnesota 1-of-4. Referees —Don Adam, Craig Welker. Linesmen — Tony Czech, Sterling Egan. A — 10,241.