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College men's hockey: Bulldogs breeze past Broncos in playoff opener

Minnesota Duluth destroyed Western Michigan 8-0 and 6-1 in a pair of games played just two weeks ago in Kalamazoo, Mich., but Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin insisted earlier this week the NCHC playoff series at Amsoil Arena would be different.

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Photo by Brett Groehler Minnesota Duluth's Peter Krieger fires a shot against Western Michigan goalie Austin Cain and defenseman Cam Lee (left) during the first period Friday at Amsoil Arena.
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Minnesota Duluth destroyed Western Michigan 8-0 and 6-1 in a pair of games played just two weeks ago in Kalamazoo, Mich., but Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin insisted earlier this week the NCHC playoff series at Amsoil Arena would be different.

This weekend’s games would be “much, much tighter.” They would be “much more intense.” They would be “tight games, physical games,” the coach said.

Maybe Sandelin will get what he’s been expecting at 7:07 p.m. today in Game 2 of the best-of-three quarterfinal series, because he didn’t find it Friday. Instead, he saw much of the same as the Bulldogs beat the Broncos 5-0 to move within a win of next week’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

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The Bulldogs celebrate a goal against Western Michigan during the second period Friday at Amsoil Arena. Photo by Brett Groehler

“We had a good start. Our power play, our special teams were good tonight,” said Sandelin, who secured his ninth 20-win season in 18 years at UMD. The program had 10 20-win seasons prior to his arrival in 2000. “I thought Shep was good again. Our overall 60 minutes needs to be better, but you take the win. It’s a good win in the playoffs to get the first game.”

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Sophomore goaltender Hunter Shepard made 26 saves to extend his UMD single-season shutout record to seven. Meanwhile, his teammates scored on their first three power-play attempts and forced the Broncos to make a mid-game goalie change for the third time in their past three meetings.

The most notable accomplishment of the night, however, belonged to Hibbing native Scott Perunovich - the All-NCHC first-teamer and finalist for NCHC Rookie of the Year. He tallied a goal and two assists to reach 34 points, passing Justin Faulk for most points by a UMD freshman defenseman in a single season.

“It’s a big honor. He’s obviously a great player and has a great career going so far,” Perunovich said. “But I wouldn’t be anywhere near that without my teammates. They’ve given me a lot of pretty easy assists and set me up for some pretty easy goals. A lot of credit goes to those guys.”

Faulk scored 33 points via eight goals and 25 assists in 39 games in his one and only season at UMD in 2010-11, when the Bulldogs won their one and only NCAA title.

The 2018 draft-eligible Perunovich now has 10 goals and 24 assists in 35 games for a UMD team that has a lot of hockey still in front of it as a near-lock for a fourth-straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

“He’s so shifty. He’s been unbelievable for us this year,” UMD sophomore wing Riley Tufte said. “That kid has so much talent. He gives us the credit, but we have to give a lot of credit back to him.”

Tufte and senior wing Avery Peterson scored power-play goals in the first period to give UMD a 2-0 lead. Perunovich at even strength and junior center Peter Krieger on a power play made it 4-0 less than five minutes into the second, chasing Western freshman goaltender Austin Cain from the net.

Cain, who finished with eight saves, was a backup two weeks ago in Kalamazoo, replacing junior goalie Trevor Gorsuch in the 8-0 loss against UMD. He gave up four goals on six shots in 7:17 that night to force Gorsuch back into the net.

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Sophomore goalie Ben Blacker, who gave up six goals on 35 shots two weeks ago against UMD, came on in relief Friday. He finished with 11 saves on 12 shots.

The only puck to beat Blacker came on a two-on-one shorthanded breakaway late in the third period as junior wing Billy Exell dished to senior wing Blake Young, who went forehand to backhand to increase the Bulldogs’ scoring margin against Western to 19 goals over the past three games.

Despite another lopsided result, Sandelin said he still expects another tight game today from Western, which was able to temporarily slow down his Bulldogs on Friday after they went ahead 4-0.

“Western is not going to quit playing. Nobody is going to quit playing. Teams are going to battle. It’s the playoffs,” Sandelin said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is. You got to play every shift. You got to play every period. You can’t take your foot off the gas. You got to play the game hard and do it for 60 minutes. They just kept playing. We were fortunate we had a lead. (Today) we need to play a lot better and for 60 minutes.”

  • After being listed as questionable earlier in the week, Bulldogs junior wing and assistant captain Parker Mackay missed his eighth consecutive game Friday due to injury. He last played Feb. 2 at Denver.

Western Mich. 0-0-0-0

Minn. Duluth 2-2-1-5

First period - 1. UMD, Avery Peterson 6 (Nick Swaney, Dylan Samberg), 4:55 (pp); 2. UMD, Riley Tufte 16 (Joey Anderson, Scott Perunovich), 14:08 (pp). Penalties - Jared Thomas, UMD (interference), 0:56; Hosh Passolt, WMU (interference), 3:33; Nick Wolff, UMD (tripping), 10:14; Cam Orchard, WMU (interference), 13:15..

Second period - 2. UMD, Perunovich 10 (J. Anderson, Peter Krieger), 3:34; 4. UMD, Krieger 11 (Perunovich, J. Anderson), 4:41 (pp). Penalties - Blake Young, UMD (tripping), 1:28; Orchard, WMU (tripping), 4:13; Young, UM (slashing), 11:40; Dawson DiPietro, WMU (tripping), 11:40; Hugh McGing, WMU (elbowing), 13:41; Louie Roehl, UMD (holding), 16:59.

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Third period - 5. UMD, Young 7 (Billy Exell, Nick Wolff), 17:54 (sh). Penalties - Neal Goff, WMU (high sticking), 4:30; Young, UMD (kneeing), 11:34; Austin Rueschhoff, WMU (hooking), 13:01; Matt Anderson, UMD (hooking), 16:34.

Shots on goal - WMU 6-7-13-26; UMD 7-10-7-24. Goalies - Austin Cain, WMU (12 shots-8 saves); Ben Blacker, WMU (12-11); Hunter Shepard, UMD (26-26). Power plays - WMU 0-of-6; UMD 3-of-6. Referees - Tom Sterns, Joe Sullivan. Linesmen - Sterling Egan, Jeff Schultz. Att. - 4,359

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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