College men's hockey: Toninato’s late game-winner helps Bulldogs finally beat Bemidji State

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bulldogs finally found a cure for their 'Beaver Blues' on Saturday night, and they did it in Bemidji of all places.Top-ranked Minnesota Duluth killed off two late penalties to beat No. 15 Bemidji State 2-1 in nonconference p...

Minnesota Duluth captain Dominic Toninato controls the puck in the second period of Saturday’s game against Bemidji State at the Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minn. Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI, Minn. - The Bulldogs finally found a cure for their ‘Beaver Blues’ on Saturday night, and they did it in Bemidji of all places.
Top-ranked Minnesota Duluth killed off two late penalties to beat No. 15 Bemidji State 2-1 in nonconference play at Sanford Center, snapping a seven-game winless streak against the Beavers that dates to 2012.
The 0-5-2 skid was UMD’s longest active streak against any opponent. Saturday’s victory was the first for the Bulldogs (12-3-3) over the Beavers (13-6-3) since a 4-2 win in Duluth on Dec. 7, 2012.
“Overall we played a really good 60 minutes of hockey,” said UMD senior captain, center and Duluth native Dominic Toninato, who recorded the game-winner in the third period.

“That’s what we needed to beat this team. They are a good team and they are really good defensively. It was another grind-it-out game. It was good to end that streak against them.”
Toninato scored the game-winning goal for the Bulldogs with 7½ minutes to play in regulation by redirecting the shot of senior defenseman Brenden Kotyk into the net.
Because the puck came hot off the stick of the 6-foot-6 defenseman, the former East High School standout had to get his stick up a bit for a piece of the puck, forcing a video review that confirmed it was a good goal.
“Dom made an amazing tip,” Kotyk said. “This (win) is absolutely huge for us, mainly for confidence. We’ve been doing a lot of things right and it’s just fitting we go into break on a win and get that blue ox back in Duluth.”
Bulldogs junior wing Karson Kuhlman of Esko tied the game at 1-1 at 7:20 of the second period with UMD on a power play. Kuhlman had an open net to score on after Beavers junior goaltender Michael Bitzer was caught on the opposite side of the crease thanks to the quick puck movement of sophomore wing Adam Johnson of Hibbing and sophomore defenseman Neal Pionk of Hermantown.
Just prior to Kuhlman’s goal, Toninato failed to finish off a one-on-one breakaway against Bitzer on the same power play. Toninato later put a puck through Bitzer during a power play in the third period, but the puck hit the inside of the post and bounced out.
The game-winning goal proved to be a nice piece of redemption for Toninato after a number of missed chances not just on Saturday, but during Friday’s 1-1 tie in Duluth as well.
“It just felt like it didn’t want to go in,” Toninato said of his close calls all weekend. “It was good to get that one and get us on top.”
The Beavers jumped out to a 1-0 lead for the second consecutive night when junior center Kyle Bauman walked into the Bulldogs’ zone against senior defenseman Carson Soucy. Bauman made a move from his left to right to easily avoid Soucy and fire a clean shot top-shelf, glove side on UMD freshman goaltender Hunter Miska.
The goal came just 44 seconds into the game. It was the 10th time this season the Bulldogs fell behind 1-0 - they’re 6-1-3 when that happens - and the third time this year UMD gave up a goal in the opening minute. UMD won the previous two times it went down 1-0 in the opening minute, which was both nights Nov. 4-5 at St. Cloud State.
“It was a very good win,” Sandelin said. “I thought our team played a very good hockey game tonight from start to finish. We made it interesting at the end with a couple penalties, but our guys did a good job. They stuck with it. Everyone contributed tonight and it was a real good team win, a much needed team win going into the break.”
Grand Rapids native and junior forward Avery Peterson made his debut with the Bulldogs in Bemidji centering the third line alongside Kuhlman and freshman wing Riley Tufte. Johnson was moved from center back to the wing, where he played last season. Per NCAA rules, Peterson had to sit out two full semesters after transferring from Nebraska-Omaha to UMD last January. UMD’s fall semester ended Friday.
UMD was without freshman wing and second-leading scorer Joey Anderson this weekend. He’s at a U.S. National Junior Team training camp in Buffalo, N.Y. in preparation for the IIHF World Junior Championship.
The Bulldogs are now off for two weeks for the holidays and return to action Jan. 6-7 against Colorado College in NCHC play at Amsoil Arena.

Bemidji State 1-0-0-1
Minnesota Duluth 0-1-1-2
First period - 1. BSU, Kyle Bauman 7 (Phillip Marinaccio, Tommy Muck), 0:44. Penalties - Marinaccio, BSU (major and game misconduct for checking from behind), 10:55; Carson Soucy, UMD (interference), 17:00.
Second period - 2. UMD, Karson Kuhlman 4 (Neal Pionk, Adam Johnson), 7:20 (pp). Penalties - Soucy, UMD (elbowing), 4:10; Kyle Bauman, BSU (interference), 5:40; Alex Iafallo, UMD (holding), 15:47.
Third period - 3. UMD, Dominic Toninato 5 (Brenden Kotyk, Iafallo), 12:33. Penalties - Justin Baudry, BSU (slashing), 4:59; Kuhlman, UMD (holding), 16:23; Soucy, UMD (delay of game), 18:56.
Shots on goal - BSU 7-5-7-19; UMD 10-10-7-27. Goalies - Michael Bitzer, BSU (27 shots-25 saves); Hunter Miska, UMD (19-18). Power plays - BSU 0-of-5; UMD 1-of-3. Referees - Bobby Lukkason, Brady Johnson. Linesmen - Matt Ulwellling, Andy Dokken. Att. - 3,498.

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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