Minnesota Duluth junior wing Nick Swaney had two solo breakaways Friday in the 3-2 season loss to UMass-Lowell and he failed to find the back of the net either time.
Swaney didn’t miss Saturday, connecting with junior defenseman Scott Perunovich on the game-winning goal five minutes into the third to give the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs a 2-1 victory over the River Hawks before a crowd of 6,142 at Amsoil Arena to split the nonconference series.
Swaney, the Minnesota Wild draft pick and Bulldogs top returning goal scorer, got his first goal of the season tipping a puck sent to the slot by Perunovich. The goal came 91 seconds after Lowell freshman defenseman Andre Lee tied the game just seconds after a UMD penalty expired.
Swaney said he and Perunovich tried a similar play earlier in the night, but Swaney's backhanded tip hit a body in front. When he saw an open again in the third, he knew to go there again and be ready for a puck from Perunovich.
"I was kind of hanging on the backside and Scotty just made a great play," Swaney said. "He saw me kind of coming through the middle and he shot for my stick. I was lucky enough to get a get a tip on it and fortunate to find the back of the net.
"Obviously, kinda little snake bit last night, hit the post again tonight. It was good to finally get the first one and, obviously, just a great play by Scotty to get me the puck."
Junior center Justin Richards gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead early in the second on a shorthanded attack that began with a cross-zone pass by senior defenseman Nick Wolff to sophomore wing Cole Koepke, who threaded a perfect pass through a pair of River Hawks right to Richards’ stick.
Richards said Koepke's pass did hit a River Hawk on the way, but Koepke put enough juice on the puck to get through.
"There was a little bit of a breakdown in the D-zone and Wolff made a really nice heads-up play to Koepke instead of dumping it down," Richards said. "We kind of a rush going and I was just taking off to the net.
"I had a step on the guy going to the net and luckily Koepke found me with that pass."
Special teams proved to be the difference-maker Saturday, with the Bulldogs biggest moments coming on the penalty kill, on which they went 8-for-8.
In addition to the shorty by Richards, UMD killed off a an 80-second 5-on-3 Lowell advantage late in the first after junior defensemen Dylan Samberg (slashing) and Perunovich (face-off violation) were sent to the penalty box within 11 seconds of each other.
UMD killed off another two-Hawk advantage — this one just 19 seconds — midway through the third period after Perunovich (elbowing) and Samberg (high sticking) found themselves back together in the box.
The River Hawks came up with a critical kill of their own late in the second, getting some help from the iron behind Wall as UMD hit the pipe three times while Lowell sophomore defenseman Seth Barton sat out for interference.
"They did a great job, the 5-on-3 kill (in the first) was huge," Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. "I like how our guys played tonight. I thought from start to finish it was a hard fought game. There were a lot of adversities in the game, a lot of delays. I thought our guys stayed with the game and did a good job grinding it out."
The Bulldogs continue nonconference play on the road next weekend against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in Madison. The Badgers are coming off a 5-3 loss to Boston College and 11-5 win over Merrimack this weekend in Massachusetts.
The Bulldogs were without freshman wing Quinn Olson Saturday due to an upper body injury suffered late in Friday’s game. Olson’s injury left the Bulldogs with just 12 healthy forwards as junior wing Koby Bender is out 3-4 weeks with an upper body injury.
Freshman forward Brady Meyer took Olson’s spot among the top 12 forwards on Saturday after being the extra skater on Friday. Senior defenseman Jarod Hilderman was the Bulldogs’ 19th skater and sophomore defenseman Jake Rosenbaum was UMD’s lone healthy scratch.
Minnesota Duluth 0-1-1—2
First period — No scoring. Penalties — Jackson Cates, UMD (boarding), 10:48; Connor Sodergren, UML (hooking), 12:39; Dylan Samberg, UMD (slashing), 13:59; Scott Perunovich, UMD (delay of game faceoff violation), 14:10; Anthony Baxter, UML (roughing), 19:22; Nick Swaney, UMD (roughing), 19:22; Chase Blackmun, UML (cross checking), 19:22.
Second period — 1. UMD, Justin Richards 1 (Cole Koepke, Nick Wolff), 5:19 (sh). Penalties — Noah Cates, UMD (hooking), 4:30; Seth Barton, UML (interference), 14:04; Samberg, UMD (tripping), 19:17.
Third period — 2. UML, Andre Lee 3 (Matt Brown, Kenny Hausinger), 3:27; 3. UMD, Swaney 1 (Perunovich, Samberg), 4:52. Penalties — Bench minor, UMD (too many players on the ice), 1:23; Seth Barton, UML (high sticking), 5:37; Perunovich, UMD (elbowing), 6:20; Samberg, UMD (high sticking), 8:01; Baxter, UML (interference), 18:00; Sodergren, UML (goaltender interference), 19:48.
Shots on goal — UML 6-9-8—23; UMD 9-15-14—38. Goalies — Tyler Wall, UML (38 shots-36 saves); Hunter Shepard, UMD (23-22). Power plays — UML 0-of-8; UMD 0-of-6. Penalties — UML 7-14; UMD 9-18. Referees — Cameron Voss, Joe Sullivan. Linesmen — Elliot Bucholz, Tony Anderson. Att. — 6,142.