College men's hockey: Penalty killers save the day for undisciplined Bulldogs at Colorado College

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Minnesota Duluth battled Colorado College to a 2-2 tie, and then picked up an extra point via an Alex Iafallo goal in the shootout Saturday night at World Arena for a five-point weekend in NCHC play.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Minnesota Duluth battled Colorado College to a 2-2 tie, and then picked up an extra point via an Alex Iafallo goal in the shootout Saturday night at World Arena for a five-point weekend in NCHC play.

But the rays of sunshine were few and far between for Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin as his second-place team slipped two points back of first-place Denver with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

The only positives Sandelin could take out of Saturday's tie were the success of his penalty killers and the play of freshman goaltender Hunter Miska, who stopped 34 of 36 shots and 11 of 12 pucks on the penalty kill.

"We were rolling in the first period," said Sandelin, whose team led 2-0 until late in the second period. "Then the last 40 minutes and overtime, it felt like we were in the box the whole time. You're not going to win many games that way. Fortunately, our killers did a great job again."

UMD took a season-high 12 penalties for 35 minutes on Saturday. The 10 Colorado College power plays the Bulldogs had to kill were also a season-high.


"Kudos to our penalty killers because that's what ultimately got us five out of six points," said UMD senior wing and penalty killer Kyle Osterberg, who Sandelin made sure to credit in the post-game.

"Everyone at least got a chance to get in on the penalty kill," Osterberg said. "It's one of those things we practice and we preach and we watch video and do all that kind of stuff. Having a big penalty kill this weekend ultimately got us two wins."

Having a deep roster of penalty killers proved important at World Arena because UMD was without many of its regular killers late Saturday with the game going into overtime, then to a 3-on-3 period.

The Bulldogs were without senior defenseman Brenden Kotyk. He suffered a lower-body injury during the first period of Friday's 2-1 win. Regular penalty killer Sammy Spurrell, a fourth-line center, also was scratched from both games this weekend.

On top of that, senior defenseman Willie Raskob went to the box three times for six minutes and senior defenseman Carson Soucy took four penalties for 19 minutes.

Soucy put the Bulldogs in a tight spot at the end of overtime after getting ejected for contact to the head with seven seconds remaining. The major carried over into the 3-on-3 period, which because of the penalty became a 4-on-3 period.

The Bulldogs were left to kill a 4-on-3 Tigers advantage all but the final seven seconds of the unofficial second OT. Osterberg credited assistant coach Jason Herter for coming up with a game plan using two forwards and a defenseman to get UMD through the difficult disadvantage that was only magnified playing on the wider Olympic-sized ice sheet.

"It's too bad that five-minute major was at the end," Osterberg said. "We could have used that momentum on our side if we were given a chance."


UMD took four penalties for 19 minutes on Friday, resulting in just three power plays for the Tigers. They scored once and put five shots on goal.

One of those three power plays was a five-minute major handed out in the opening minutes of the third period to junior wing Karson Kuhlman - another key penalty killer - for boarding. Minus Kuhlman and Kotyk, UMD killed off the major.

Both Osterberg and sophomore defenseman Neal Pionk said the momentum UMD gained from killing that major penalty is what led to the win that night.

About 10 minutes after UMD killed off the Kuhlman major, sophomore center Adam Johnson scored the game-winning goal on a Bulldogs power play.

"When you get a five-minute major, you get put in the hole a little bit," Pionk said. "Once you come out of that hole, it's really a boost. It really helps when you kill a five-minute major like that."

Bulldogs set to relinquish No. 1 ranking

When the national polls conducted by and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine are released today, the Bulldogs will likely no longer be the No. 1 team in either.

That's because UMD (19-5-6 overall, 13-4-3 NCHC) has fallen out of the top spot in the Pairwise rankings. Like in NCHC, Denver (22-6-4, 14-3-3) is now No. 1 there as well, leading the Bulldogs by an even slimmer margin than the league standings.


UMD and Denver are both near locks to get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but the team that gets the top overall seed likely will get to play closer to home. That would either be the West Regional in Fargo, N.D., or the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.

North Dakota is the host in Fargo, so it gets placed there automatically if it makes the NCAA tournament, and that is a big 'if' right now. The Fighting Hawks have lost seven of their past 10 games and would be the last team left out of the 16-team NCAA tournament field if the season ended today, with the leaders of the WCHA, Atlantic Hockey and Hockey East all sitting below the No. 14 Hawks in the Pairwise.

If North Dakota does get in and is a No. 4 seed, neither Denver or UMD would go to Fargo, so as to avoid a first-round NCHC matchup. One would get sent east to Providence, R.I., or Manchester, N.H. The Bulldogs have played in the Northeast Regional each of the past two seasons, in Manchester in 2014-15 and Worcester, Mass., in 2015-16.

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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