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College men's hockey: Huskies quiet Bulldogs in series opener

t011317 --- Clint Austin --- 111417.S.DNT.UMDMPUX.C01 --- LEAD IMAGE --- Will Borgen (20) of St. Cloud State pushes Neal Pionk (4) of Minnesota Duluth into the goal during Friday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Pionk fell on St. Cloud State goaltender Jeff Smith (1) and was given a penalty for goaltender interference. St. Cloud State defeated Minnesota Duluth 2-1. (Clint Austin / / 3
Clint Austin / Billy Exell (16) of Minnesota Duluth controls the puck near Ben Storm (4) of St. Cloud State during Friday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. St. Cloud State defeated UMD 2-1.2 / 3
Clint Austin / Minnesota Duluth goaltender Hunter Miska (35) makes a glove save during Friday's game against St. Cloud State at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. St. Cloud State defeated UMD 2-1. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com3 / 3

St. Cloud State freshman defenseman Jack Ahcan — along with Huskies coach Bob Motzko, director of hockey operations Matt Chapman and Minnesota Duluth freshman forward Joey Anderson — received a standing ovation prior to Friday's game for helping the United States win gold at the World Junior Championship.

But after that, Ahcan gave the 6,031 Bulldogs faithful at Amsoil Arena little to cheer about.

Ahcan scored twice and made a key defensive play late to lead the unranked Huskies to a 2-1 victory in NCHC play over the third-ranked Bulldogs to partially avenge a pair of 5-3 home losses St. Cloud State suffered earlier this season.

Ahcan, a native of Savage, Minn., scored midway through the first and second periods to bring his season goal total to four. He and the Huskies (10-10-1 overall, 5-7-1 NCHC) will try and repay UMD (12-5-4, 8-4-1) for the rest of that November sweep at 7:07 p.m. today at Amsoil Arena.

"You're not going to win a lot of games when you only score one goal," UMD senior wing Karson Kuhlman said. "That's definitely a focal point of going into (tonight).

"I think we had it a little easy in the beginning of the year. Pucks were bouncing our way. A little adversity now is good for us. I think more guys have to get to the net."

The Bulldogs took six NCHC points from the Huskies during the first weekend in November by rallying both nights from 3-1 deficits, scoring three third-period goals each night. Third periods were a strong suit of the previously No. 1-ranked Bulldogs. UMD had outscored the opposition 21-8 in the third going into the weekend.

But over the last three games, UMD has been unable to produce the third-period heroics necessary to pull itself out of early holes. The Bulldogs also have been unable to produce the offense necessary to rally late, going from three-plus goals in 13 of their first 16 games to just seven goals in the last five games.

"It's not a great recipe," said UMD coach Scott Sandelin, whose team is 6-3-3 when giving up the first goal and 3-3-2 in games it falls behind by two goals. "Teams are going to get down 1-0. I thought we had some opportunities to narrow that gap and maybe get it even. Two goals is a lot, but it's not monumental."

The Bulldogs only mustered a tie a week ago Friday at home against Colorado College when sophomore defenseman Neal Pionk scored an extra-attacker goal in the final minute. UMD lost 2-1 the next night and only outshot the Tigers 9-7 in the third.

The Bulldogs outshot the Huskies 16-6 in the third period Friday, which saw the first collegiate goal for Dallas Stars first-round draft pick Riley Tufte. The freshman forward stuffed home the initial shot by senior defenseman Brenden Kotyk to pull UMD within one with 6:30 to play in regulation.

"It feels good, but it would have been better if we got the win there," Tufte said of his first goal. "I think we need to come ready to play (today). Two mental breakdowns there cost us, but overall I thought we played well. It wasn't good enough."

Game-tying breakaways by senior wing Alex Iafallo and Anderson were both spoiled late in the third. Iafallo was interfered with — drawing an interference penalty, but not the penalty shot most Bulldog fans wanted — while Ahcan was able to legally keep his fellow gold medalist, Anderson, from getting a clean shot off.

Senior captain Dominic Toninato also had a chance to tie the game in front of the Huskies' net with less than a minute left and freshman goaltender Hunter Miska pulled, but his shot missed wide.

"We just weren't hungry enough around the net," Sandelin said. "We didn't stay around the net. We didn't really get enough shots to the net. We did a little better job of that in the third period. Guys have to be ready around the net. We had a chance at the end during the 6-on-5, and we're not ready around the net."

• Outside a home loss to Notre Dame that was followed by an exhibition loss at home to the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 squad, Friday was the first time all season UMD lost back-to-back games that counted. It's also the first time UMD is winless in three straight games.

• The Bulldogs were without senior defenseman Willie Raskob on Friday after he was suspended one game for an illegal hit in the third period against Colorado College last Saturday. Raskob was ejected from the game and given a major penalty for contact to the head-elbowing.

• The Bulldogs remain in first place in the NCHC after second-place and top-ranked Denver (three points back) lost 3-0 at Western Michigan. Third-place North Dakota also failed to gain ground, losing 6-3 to Miami.

St. Cloud State......................... 1-1-0—2

Minnesota Duluth.................... 0-0-1—1

First period — 1. SCSU, Jack Ahcan 3 (Robby Jackson, Blake Winiecki), 11:38. Penalties — None.

Second period — 2. SCSU, Ahcan 4 (Jacob Benson, Mikey Eyssimont), 10:06. Penalties — Ryan Poehling, SCSU (hooking), 7:02; Dennis Cholowski, SCSU (holding), 12:47; Neal Pionk, UMD (goaltender interference), 13:05; Will Borgen, SCSU (interference), 16:18; Riley Tufte, UMD (hooking), 18:38.

Third period — 5. UMD, Riley Tufte 1 (Brenden Kotyk, Adam Johnson), 13:30. Penalties — R. Poehling, SCSU (goaltender interference), 6:37; Borgen, SCSU (interference), 14:17; Dominic Toninato, UMD (hooking), 15:15.

Shots on goal — SCSU 11-12-6—29; UMD 16-10-16—42. Goalies — Jeff Smith, SCSU (42 shots-41 saves); Hunter Miska, UMD (29-27). Power plays — SCSU 0-of-2; UMD 0-of-5. Referees — Nick Krebsbach, Timm Walsh. Linesmen — Brandon Schmitt, Jeff Schultz. Att. — 6,031.

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.

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