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College men's hockey: Bulldogs give up late goal, drop exhibition to USA Under-18 team

The lone game this weekend for the No. 2-ranked Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team was an exhibition, but with NCHC play beginning next weekend, Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin didn't want his team to take a night off.

The lone game this weekend for the No. 2-ranked Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team was an exhibition, but with NCHC play beginning next weekend, Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin didn’t want his team to take a night off.

He wanted his team to build “a good mindset” with defending conference and national champion North Dakota coming to Amsoil Arena next weekend for 7:07 p.m. games Friday and Saturday.

Sandelin didn’t get what he was looking for, though, as the Bulldogs lost 2-1 to the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 squad Saturday in an exhibition played before 3,561 fans at Amsoil Arena.

USA forward Michael Pastujov, a University of Michigan recruit from Bradenton, Fla., scored the game-winning goal on an odd-man rush with 32 seconds to play in regulation, giving the USNTDP its second win over the Bulldogs in seven tries. The first win came on Dec. 14, 2007.

“It’s not what we wanted, especially coming off a loss to Notre Dame,” UMD senior center and captain Dominic Toninato said, referencing the Bulldogs 3-1 loss to the Fighting Irish in their last regular season game on Oct. 15. “You don’t ever want to lose two in a row. You want to gain a little momentum going into league play. It’s going to be a really tough battle with North Dakota and that’s not the game we wanted.”

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Saturday was the U-18’s first win this season over a college team after going 0-5 against Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Boston University, Harvard and Minnesota. Team USA was outscored 31-8 in the five losses.

Dylan St. Cyr, a Michigan commit from Northville, Mich., who made 24 saves in Team’s USA’s 4-3 loss Friday at Wisconsin, stopped 32 shots from the Bulldogs on Saturday. Sandelin credited St. Cyr for his ability to play the puck and disrupt the Bulldogs’ forecheck.

But Sandelin also conceded his team just didn’t feel like it was there Saturday at Amsoil Arena. That will have to change next week with the No. 1-ranked Fighting Hawks visiting.

“Hopefully they’re pissed off and they better be because it’s going to be a lot tougher next Friday,” Sandelin said of his team’s mindset now after losing back-to-back games. “We need to have a really good week."

The Bulldogs played all three of their freshmen goaltenders in the loss. Hunter Miska made five saves in the first period, Nick Deery stopped four of the five shots he faced in the second and Hunter Shepard of Grand Rapids saved seven of eight in the third.

After a scoreless first period, both teams found the back of the net in the second.

Toninato, who is without a goal so far after six regular-season games, scored on a breakaway midway through the second to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. He was sprung loose for the break thanks to a pass from senior wing Alex Iafallo.

Team USA tied the game up with a short-handed goal less than five minutes later after Brady Tkachuk, a wing from St. Louis who is committed to Boston University, beat UMD sophomore defenseman Neal Pionk before putting a move on Deery for the tying goal. Tkachuk is the son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk and younger brother of Matthew Tkachuk, who was taken sixth overall this spring in the NHL Entry Draft.

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UMD freshman wing Joey Anderson played with Matthew Tkachuk on last year’s USNTDP U-18 team and said the brothers play a very similar style.

“They both work extremely hard and are very smart players,” Anderson said. “They know how to use their teammates and how to move the puck. They’re both big, strong players that are really good with their bodies. They use that to their advantage.”

Of the 22 players who suited up for Team USA on Saturday, 20 are committed to play for NCAA Division I programs in the future but just one, forward Grant Mismash of Edina, Minn., is committed to an NCHC school - North Dakota. Eight players are heading to Hockey East schools and the other 11 are going to Big Ten schools.

Team USA.................................. 0-1-1-2

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

First period - No scoring. Penalties - Sean Dhooghe, USA (interference), 3:11; Nick Wolff, UMD (interference), 7:46; Logan Cockerill, USA (hooking), 14:36; Riley Tufte, UMD (interference), 15:16.

Second period - 1. UMD, Dominic Toninato (Alex Iafallo, Willie Raskob), 9:29; 2. USA, Brady Tkachuk (Tyler Inamoto, Evan Barratt), 14:05 (sh). Penalties - Wolff, UMD (slashing), 5:26; Graham Slaggert, USA (interference), 13:20; Jared Thomas, UMD (hooking), 19:24.

Third period - 3. USA, Michael Pastujov (Jacob Tortora, Tommy Miller), 19:28. Penalties - Grant Mismash, USA (holding), 4:31; Dan Molenaar, UMD (holding), 14:08.

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Shots on goal - USA 5-5-8-18; UMD 6-12-15-33. Goalies - Dylan St. Cyr, USA (33 shots-32 saves); Hunter Miska, UMD (5-5); Nick Deery, UMD (5-4); Hunter Shepard, UMD (8-7). Power plays - USA 0-of-5; UMD 0-of-4. Referees - Brad Shepherd, Tom Sterns. Linesmen - Kevin Cassidy, Andy Dokken. Att. - 3,561.

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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