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College men's hockey: Denver edges Bulldogs in championship rematch

Logan O'Connor (22) of Denver scores a goal against Minnesota Duluth goaltender Hunter Shepard (32) during Friday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.--- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com1 / 5
Louie Roehl (6) of Minnesota Duluth shoots the puck on goal against Denver during Friday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.--- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com2 / 5
Karson Kuhlman (20) of Minnesota Duluth controls the puck near Michael Davies (21) of Denver during Friday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.--- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com3 / 5
Matt Anderson (21) of Minnesota Duluth is tripped by Jarid Lukosevicius (14) of Denver during Friday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.--- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com4 / 5
Joey Anderson (13) of Minnesota Duluth controls the puck near Michael Davies (21) of Denver during Friday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.--- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com5 / 5

In the first round of a rematch of the 2017 NCAA championship game played almost eight months ago in Chicago, No. 16 Minnesota Duluth kept the ‘Big Three’ of top-ranked Denver out of the back of the net Friday.

And there was no repeat hat trick, either, for Pioneers’ junior wing Jarid Lukosevicius.

The Bulldogs did struggle to solve Denver senior goaltender Tanner Jaillet, however, as the reigning national goaltender of the year made 28 saves to shut out UMD 1-0 in NCHC play Friday in front of an announced crowd of 6,207 at Amsoil Arena.

“There’s no moral victories. That’s a game as a group we think that we can win and we’d like to win,” said senior captain and wing Karson Kuhlman, who was stopped on two breakaways he created for himself off steals. “We had a couple good looks, but where we’ve been able to score goals this season is getting bodies to the net. That’s something we can definitely do more. (Jaillet) is a good goalie. He stopped me on two there. Getting second and third opportunities at the net is what we have to focus on (today).”

Two thirds of Denver’s ‘Big Three’ — sophomore center Henrik Borgstrom and junior wing Troy Terry — were kept off the scoresheet while the third member, junior center Dylan Gambrell, was credited with an assist on the lone goal.

The score came nearly three minutes into the second period and was the result of a solid effort by junior wing Logan O’Connor, who muscled his way through a crowd of Bulldogs in front of the crease to swat a puck up and over UMD sophomore goalie Hunter Shepard.

Shepard finished with 25 saves on 26 shots Friday. Coach Scott Sandelin said Shepard played “a great game” but UMD didn’t give him the necessary support.

“I know one thing. You have to score more than zero to win,” said Sandelin, whose Bulldogs (7-7-2 overall, 2-5 NCHC) host Denver (8-3-2, 5-3) again at 7:07 p.m. today at Amsoil Arena. “You got to bear down a little bit more around the net.”

The Bulldogs came into Friday’s game off a 3-1 win over eighth-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato last Saturday at Amsoil Arena. The key to UMD’s victory that night was its ability to get bodies to the visiting net to finish scoring chances. Two of the three goals were off rebounds.

UMD struggled to replicate that success Friday against the Pioneers and Jaillet, who made 38 saves in the 3-2 win the last time the two NCHC rivals met.

Sandelin said his Bulldogs spent too much time in their own defensive zone Friday. UMD didn’t get pucks out fast enough or clean enough. By the time UMD did get down to the offensive zone, it didn’t have the energy to get to the net and finish its offensive chances.

“When we did get pucks to the net, we didn’t have anybody there,” Sandelin said. “It’s the determination to get there and fight for position and make sure you’re in and around the net. We didn’t do a very good job of that. You’re not going to win many games playing on the perimeter.”

The Bulldogs made a late push against Denver, just as they did after falling behind by two thanks to a Lukosevicius hat trick last April at United Center. The surge Friday came via the penalty kill, which kept the deficit at one to give UMD a chance late.

The Bulldogs killed off a Denver power play with 10:15 to go in the game after getting called for too many players on the ice. UMD’s penalty kill was trapped on the ice for all but the final 13 seconds of the Denver advantage.

Facing Borgstrom, Terry and Gambrell for the majority of that 1:47, Shepard made four saves while those in front of him blocked four shots. Three blocks were credited to junior wing Parker Mackay.

UMD had to kill off a tripping penalty with 6:30 remaining and that time, Denver’s power play failed to register a shot on goal as it chased the puck up and down the ice for two minutes.

Mackay said the kills gave the team a second adrenaline rush at the end. Unfortunately for UMD, it wasn’t enough to get the equalizer.

“It was a big penalty kill for us,” Mackay said of the too-many-men kill. “(Denver) did a good job of keeping pucks alive and getting their rebounds. We’re just trying to get pucks out and be fortunate enough to be able to battle, with Shepard making a big save there at the end to cover it up.”

Denver 0-1-0—1

Minn. Duluth 0-0-0—0

First period — No scoring. Penalties — Michael Davies, DU (holding), 8:25; Peter Krieger, UMD (holding), 15:47.

Second period — 1. DU, Logan O’Connor 2 (Dylan Gambrell), 2:51. Penalties — Bench minor, DU (too many players on the ice), 15:47.

Third period — No scoring. Penalties — Bench minor, UMD (too many players on the ice), 9:45; Krieger, UMD (tripping), 13:30; Henrik Borgstrom, DU (tripping), 15:47.

Shots on goal — DU 9-6-11—26; UMD 8-8-12—28. Goalies — Tanner Jaillet, DU (28 shots-28 saves); Hunter Shepard, UMD (26-25). Power plays — DU 0-of-3; UMD 0-of-3. Referees — Todd Anderson, Nathan Wieler. Linesmen — Kevin Cassidy, Sterling Egan. Att. — 6,207.

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

(218) 723-5317