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UMD men's hockey: Lellig scores big goal late to lift Bulldogs over Broncos 5-4

UMD got goals from a pair of unlikely scorers in senior defensemen Hunter Lellig and Matt Anderson, who scored their first goals of the season and second of their career on Friday

Men's hockey players in black uniforms compete against players in white uniforms at Amsoil Arena
Minnesota Duluth forward Tanner Laderoute (13) watches as Minnesota Duluth forward Jesse Jacques (18) scores a goal against Western Michigan goaltender Brandon Bussi (30) on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Western Michigan perpetuated the old cliche Friday that a two-goal lead is most dangerous lead in hockey, fighting back to tie up Minnesota Duluth after falling behind 2-0 and 4-2.

Interesting enough, you never hear anyone talk about the dangers of a one-goal lead.

Turns out that was the margin necessary for the No. 7-ranked Bulldogs to hold off the No. 3 Broncos as Hunter Lellig’s first goal of the season led to a 5-4 victory in NCHC play before a crowd of 5,479 fans at Amsoil Arena.

Lellig, a senior defenseman who also had an assist Friday, scored the game-winning goal off a pass from junior wing Quinn Olson with 11:17 to go in regulation after Western scored two goals in the opening 4:17 of the third period to knot the game at 4-4.

Lellig was one of two UMD defensemen to score his first goal of the season Friday — and just the second of their careers — along with fifth-year senior Matt Anderson.

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“We’ve emphasized a lot as defensemen the past week, two weeks, just getting pucks to the net,” Lellig said. “We’re trying to give our forwards opportunities to tip pucks, make plays, get rebounds, stuff like that.

“(On the game-winner) I got a pretty pass from Quinn and I put it on net and it went in.”

UMD took a two-goal lead into the third period thanks to a pair of goals by Hermantown natives Blake Biondi and Jesse Jacques.

Biondi, a sophomore wing, deflected through a puck from the stick of senior defenseman Hunter Lellig to put UMD on top 3-2. For Lellig, it was just his third assist and point of the season while Biondi netted his team-leading 11th goal and 19th point.

Jacques, a senior center, pushed the lead to 4-2 with under three minutes to go in the second with a one-timer. Fifth-year senior wing Koby Bender was the one who established possession for UMD in the zone on the scoring play, racing to the puck before dishing to senior wing Tanner Laderoute in the middle. Laderoute then made the quick pass to Jacques for the one-timer.

Men's hockey players in black uniforms compete against players in white uniforms at Amsoil Arena
Western Michigan goaltender Brandon Bussi (30) makes a diving save against Minnesota Duluth on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The Broncos tied the game less than five minutes into the third period, though, after senior center Drew Worrad scored 12 seconds into the third and junior wing Jason Passolt converted on the power play.

Anderson said the Bulldogs went into the third with a lot of confidence leading by two goals, even though Western had already rallied earlier in the night.

“You just have to keep playing hard, especially against a good team against Western. You’ve got to know that they can score,” Anderson said. “Obviously we blew that (lead) there, but we stuck with it, stuck with the game and got the W that we wanted. That’s what matters at the end of the day.”

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Men's hockey players in black uniforms compete against players in white uniforms at Amsoil Arena
Minnesota Duluth forward Kobe Roth (10) checks to see if the backdoor is open against Western Michigan goaltender Brandon Bussi (30) on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The Bulldogs initially led 2-0 in the first via a goal from fifth-year senior wing Kobe Roth 14 seconds into the game after senior captain Noah Cates forced a Broncos turnover at the offensive blue line. Anderson got the next one for UMD, scoring seven seconds after the expiration of a Broncos penalty.

While just his second college goal, it was the 25th career point for the two-time national champion.

“Two unlikely goalscorers, but it was good,” Anderson said of him and Lellig scoring. “It was fun to get them. Hopefully we can keep that mojo going.”

Western tied the game at 2-2 before the intermission, scoring a pair within 65 seconds of each other. Frank scored his league-leading 18th goal of the season on the power play and freshman center Max Sasson tied it up with 4:22 to go before intermission.

The Broncos, whose power play came into the night third in the NCHC at 24.2%, finished 2-for-5 on man advantages, but failed to convert in the clutch Friday. After giving up a game-tying goal early in the third, the Bulldogs killed two Broncos power plays in the final 10:27 of regulation.

“I was disappointed we gave up two, two-goal leads, but give them credit. They took advantage of a power play and got some momentum,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “We had some sloppy play. You can’t let your guard down against good teams. We did.

“Our guys held fort and got some big kills there at the end. We got a big goal from Lellig. It was a great play by Quinn to do a little pull-up there. Good shot by Lellig and we made it hold up.”

Western Michigan 2-0-2—4

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Minnesota Duluth 2-2-1—5

First period

1. UMD, Kobe Roth (Casey Gilling, Noah Cates), 0:14

2. UMD, Matt Anderson (Carter Loney, Luke Loheit), 12:53

3. WMU, Ethen Frank (Michael Joyaux, Drew Worrad), 14:33 (pp)

4. WMU, Max Sasson (Ty Glover, Jason Polin), 15:38

Second period

5. UMD, Blake Biondi (Hunter Lellig, Wyatt Kaiser), 4:41

6. UMD, Jesse Jacques (Tanner Laderoute, Koby Bender), 17:14

Third period

7. WMU, Worrad (Ronnie Attard, Cole Gallant), 0:12

8. WMU, Polin (Josh Passolt, Attard), 4:17 (pp)

9. UMD, Lellig (Quinn Olson, Biondi), 8:43

Saves — Brandon Bussi, WMU, 30; Ryan Fanti, UMD, 24.

Power plays — WMU 2-5, UMD 0-3. Penalties — WMU 3-6, UMD 5-10.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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