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College men's hockey: Bounces go Bulldogs' way in 6-4 win at Nebraska-Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. -- The bounces are really going the Bulldogs' way this season.Literally.Minnesota Duluth senior wing and NCHC leading scorer Alex Iafallo was awarded his team-best ninth goal of the season Friday night after watching the puck roll dow...

OMAHA, Neb. - The bounces are really going the Bulldogs’ way this season.
Literally.
Minnesota Duluth senior wing and NCHC leading scorer Alex Iafallo was awarded his team-best ninth goal of the season Friday night after watching the puck roll down the back of Nebraska-Omaha sophomore goaltender Evan Weninger and across the goal line in a 6-4 men’s hockey victory at Baxter Arena.
Freshman goaltender Hunter Miska made 25 saves to backstop the second-ranked and league-leading Bulldogs (9-2-2 overall, 6-1 NCHC). Iafallo later added an assist for his 18th point of the season as UMD snapped a three-game losing streak and five-game winless streak (0-3-2) against the Mavericks (6-4-1, 3-2). The teams meet again in NCHC play at 7:07 p.m. today in Omaha.
“You got to get those sometimes, you got to get that puck luck,” Iafallo said of his goal. “It just came to me and I thought I’d whack it at the net as hard as I could. It was the end of the shift. I’ll take it.
“You’re going to need a few of those to keep the boys going.”
UMD senior captain and center Dominic Toninato of Duluth gave his team a 3-2 lead midway through the game. He muscled his way to the net, took a shot, picked up his own rebound and slipped the puck to the far post for his third goal of the season.
Iafallo’s lucky bounce came less than four minutes later. Sophomore wing Billy Exell of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and junior wing Karson Kuhlman of Esko later added goals in the third period to give the Bulldogs a 6-2 advantage. Exell’s snipe off a penalty kill earned praise from his coach and teammates.
“Good things happen when you shoot the puck,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “You have Billy’s goal, which was a great shot. You have Al’s goal, he put the puck on the net. Good things happen when you put the puck on the net, and right now we’ve been able to bury some of those opportunities when we’ve done it.”
Iafallo’s goal was the end of the night for Weninger, who gave up four goals on 26 shots. Sophomore Alex Blankenburg finished the game for the Mavericks and stopped six of eight shots. Freshman Kris Oldham will start tonight for the Mavericks, according to coach Dean Blais.
“Giving up four goals, regardless of good, bad or ugly, that’s not good goaltending,” said Blais, a native of International Falls. “I thought the fourth goal against a team like Duluth was game over, but the guys never gave up.”
Omaha junior wing Jake Randolph, a former high school teammate of Toninato’s at Duluth East, set up the night’s first goal, making a quick cross-zone pass on a power play to sophomore wing Steven Spinner, who had an open net to score on just over nine minutes in.
Spinner had a similar look in the second period, again on a power play, tying the game at 2-2.
The Mavericks picked up their third and fourth power-play goals in the third period to pull back within two of UMD. Junior defenseman Luc Snuggerud made it 6-3 with 6:25 to play, then assisted junior wing David Pope in the final two minutes. Pope’s goal came with the Omaha net vacated for an extra attacker.
The Mavs finished the night 4-for-7 on the man-advantage - UMD was 1-for-1 - against a Bulldogs team that went into the night tied with Denver for the best penalty kill in the NCHC at 84.4 percent.
“Wild, that’s a pretty accurate description,” Kuhlman said of the win. “I think we were pretty fortunate to get a few in the back of the net early there to give us a four-goal cushion. We just have to work on closing games, obviously staying out of the box. They have an awesome power play over there. They had all four on the power play. That’s something we’ll definitely take a look at tonight.”
The Bulldogs responded promptly to Spinner’s first goal of the night, just as they’ve done most of the season to those who strike first.
Senior wing Kyle Osterberg put away a rebound at even strength to tie the game at 1-1 just 2 1/2 minutes after Spinner scored. Sophomore center Adam Johnson, who assisted on Osterberg’s goal, then smoothly slid his way around the block of Mavs junior center Tyler Vesel before burying a shot on a power play to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead.
Friday was the eighth time this season UMD has given up the first goal of the game. The last five times that’s happened, the Bulldogs have responded in less than five minutes with an equalizer.

Minn. Duluth 2-2-2-6
Neb.-Omaha 1-1-2-4
First period - 1. UNO, Steve Spinner 3 (Jake Randolph, Ian Brady), 9:02 (pp); 2. UMD, Kyle Osterberg 7 (Adam Johnson, Karson Kuhlman), 11:29; 3. UMD, Johnson 6 (Carson Soucy), 15:42 (pp). Penalties - Nick McCormack, UMD (interference), 7:54; Colin Grannary, UNO (tripping), 14:22; Brenden Kotyk, UMD (holding), 17:10.
Second period - 4. UNO, Spinner 4 (Teemu Pulkkinen, Brady), 6:35; 5. UMD, Dominic Toninato 3 (Joey Anderson), 9:11; 6. UMD, Alex Iafallo 9, 13:30. Penalties - McCormack, UMD (hooking), 4:55; Dan Molenaar, UMD (roughing), 9:25.
Third period - 7. UMD, Billy Exell 2 (Soucy), 3:28; 8. UMD, Kuhlman 3 (Johnson, Iafallo), 9:36; 9. UNO, Luc Snuggerud 6 (Austin Ortega, Tyler Vesel), 13:35; 10. UNO, David Pope 4 (Snuggerud, Ortega), 18:43 (pp) (ea). Penalties - Kuhlman, UMD (tripping), 1:21; Soucy, UMD (interference), 13:27; Kotyk, UMD (hooking), 17:33.
Shots on goal - UMD 10-17-7-34; UNO 8-10-11-29. Goalies - Hunter Miska, UMD (29 shots-25 saves); Evan Weninger, UNO (26-22); Alex Blankenburg, UNO (8-6). Power plays - UMD 1-of-1; UNO 4-of-7. Referees - Gino Binda, Tom Sterns. Linesmen - Nate Stanton, Scott Fitzpatrick. Att. - 6,005.

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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