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College men's hockey: Bulldogs miss out on Penrose Cup, but cap regular season with convincing 6-1 win over St. Cloud State

Justin Richards and Koby Bender both scored two goals and Dylan Samberg had four assists.

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Justin Richards (19) of Minnesota Duluth scores the first goal of the game against Dávid Hrenák (34) of St. Cloud during Saturday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Minnesota (Clint Austin /caustin@duluthnews.com)

The four Minnesota Duluth seniors who were honored prior to Saturday’s regular season finale at Amsoil Arena — Nick Wolff, Hunter Shepard, Jade Miller and Jarod Hilderman — won two NCHC Frozen Faceoff titles, gone to three NCAA Frozen Fours and won back-to-back NCAA championships in their historic Bulldog careers.

Their coach, Scott Sandelin, has three postseason conference crowns, he’s taken the program to five Frozen Fours and won three national championships.

What none of those five have done is win a regular season conference championship, and while the Bulldogs did their part with a 6-1 victory over St. Cloud State on Saturday before a crowd of 6,579 at Amsoil Arena, North Dakota clinched the NCHC’s Penrose Cup outright with a 5-0 victory at Nebraska-Omaha on the final night of the regular season.

The Bulldogs, who finish three points back of the Fighting Hawks in the league standings after being eight back two weeks ago, will be the No. 2 seed when the NCHC playoffs begin next weekend. UMD will host Miami in a best-of-three quarterfinals series March 13-15 at Amsoil Arena while No. 1 North Dakota hosts Colorado College.

Photos: UMD St. Cloud Men's Hockey Saturday Photos by Clint Austin
"We checked the score of the North Dakota game, it was 3-0 after the second, so we knew it wasn't likely," UMD junior center Justin Richards said of winning a share of the Penrose Cup. "It's not really the biggest deal. We're just going after that trophy in mid-April."

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It was a good night Saturday for Richards and his fellow juniors on the scoresheet. He and winger Koby Bender both scored twice. Kobe Roth, a wing, also got a goal and defenseman Dylan Samberg finished with four assists.

Richards scored both of his goals in the first period, driving the Huskies net for the first one 96 seconds into the game and one-timing a cross-zone feed by junior defenseman Scott Perunovich just past the 13-minute mark. Richards now has 14 goals on the year.

Bender, who upped his modest total to five, scored both of his goals in the second period. He drove the net on the heels of a successful UMD penalty kill six minutes into the second to put UMD ahead 3-0. His second goal with just under three minutes remaining in the period came off a rebound to put UMD ahead 5-1.

A Cloquet native, Bender came into the final weekend of the regular season with just three goals all season. He finished with three total in the series against the Huskies, scoring the game-winning goal Friday in the third period of the 4-1 win.

Grand Rapids native Micah Miller, a sophomore for the Huskies, spoiled Shepard’s senior night shutout bid with 3:17 to go in the second by scoring his seventh goal of the season. Shepard, of Cohasset, finished with 29 saves on 30 shots.

"The most important thing was to play a better game, get a win for our seniors and close out the year the right way," Sandelin said. "I thought our guys came out and had a real good first period. We got two goals and it could have been more."

The Bulldogs head into the postseason with nine wins in their final 10 regular season games, but that still wasn’t enough to close the eight-point margin North Dakota built in late January. The Hawks were able to hang on going 7-2-1 in their final 10 games.

The 2019-20 season is UMD’s third runner-up finish in the NCHC regular season standings in the league’s seven seasons. All three have come in the last four years.

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The Bulldogs have won three regular season conference championships in program history and all three came in the WCHA under coach Mike Sertich. UMD won back-to-back WCHA regular season championships during the historic 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons, when the program also won WCHA postseason titles and appeared in back-to-back Frozen Fours. The most recent was in 1992-93.

Bulldog Bites

Sophomore wing Cole Koepke assisted on Richards’ second goal in the first period to extend his point streak to 10 games. He has seven goals and six assists in the last 10 games.

  • Freshman wing Luke Loheit got his fifth goal of the season off a faceoff late in the third. Freshman center Ben Almquist, who joined the Bulldogs after the holiday break, assisted on the goal for his first collegiate point.

St. Cloud State 0-1-0—1
Minnesota Duluth 2-3-1—6

First period — 1. UMD, Justin Richards 13 (Louie Roehl, Dylan Samberg), 1:36; 2. UMD, Richards 14 (Scott Perunovich, Cole Koepke), 13:07.

Second period — 3. UMD, Koby Bender 4 (Samberg), 6:06; 4. UMD, Kobe Roth 13 (Samberg, Jade Miller), 15:02; 5. SCSU, Micah Miller 7 (Nick Poehling, Jack Poehling), 16:43; 6. UMD, Bender 5 (Samberg, Miller), 17:05.

Third period — 7. UMD, Luke Loheit 5 (Ben Almquist, Jesse Jacques), 17:13.

Shots on goal — SCSU 7-13-10—30; UMD 14-12-10—36. Goalies — David Hrenak, SCSU (23 shots-19 saves); Joey Lamoreaux, SCSU (13-11); Hunter Shepard, UMD (30-29). Power plays — SCSU 0-of-3; UMD 0-of-2. Penalties — SCSU 2-4; UMD 3-6. Referees — Ryan Hersey, Timm Walsh. Linesmen — Brandon Schmitt, Jeff Schultz. Att. — 6,579.

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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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