Minnesota Duluth played its third game in five days Tuesday, and the Bulldogs did it minus the services of second-leading scorer Austin Farley and up-and-coming freshman Parker Mackay.
Both wings watched from the stands with undisclosed injuries, but their absence didn’t matter to head coach Scott Sandelin.
That’s because his team played so poorly, he doubts either could have prevented Bemidji State from completing a season sweep of the Bulldogs via a 2-1 nonconference victory on Tuesday night at Amsoil Arena in a makeup game from Oct. 9.
“Not very happy. I thought we didn’t play a very good game. I thought we turned the puck over a lot and gave them two soft goals,” Sandelin said.
“If those guys were in the lineup the way I think we played tonight, I’m not sure how much they would have helped. You know what, maybe they would have, but that’s not … we’re not looking for excuses. It’s an opportunity for guys to step up and play and we had guys in there to do the job and we didn’t play very well.”
Tuesday’s game between the Beavers (12-11-5) and Bulldogs (11-12-5) was supposed to be the 2015-16 season opener for both schools, but a power outage at Amsoil on Oct. 9 caused by a Minnesota Power subcontractor boring into an unmarked private underground cable forced the postponement of the game due to deteriorating ice conditions.
That early October day now serves as a metaphor for where UMD - picked to win the NCHC and slotted second in the national preseason polls - sits with six games remaining in the regular season.
Thanks to a lack of energy in the loss to Bemidji State, the Bulldogs’ NCAA tournament chances have deteriorated worse than the Amsoil ice did in October. UMD went into the night 18th in the Pairwise Rankings - the system used to mimic the NCAA tournament selection process - needing to get to at least 14th, if not higher.
Now the Bulldogs sit 26th with an NCHC postseason championship looking like the only way to extend their season into late March.
At least the Bulldogs are still in a position to start the NCHC playoffs at home, sitting fourth in the league.
“There was nothing,” UMD junior center Dominic Toninato said of Tuesday’s game. “There was no emotion. There was no talk on the bench. Guys were dead and it showed. We didn’t play how we should have.
“We need the whole team to contribute to be successful and we weren’t ready to play. That’s unacceptable at this time. … We had no room for error. It’s late February. We have six games left and we’re on the outside looking in. We need every (win) right now and that’s going to hurt us.”
Toninato assisted freshman wing Adam Johnson of Hibbing on the Bulldogs’ lone goal of the night, which came just past the midway point of the first period with UMD on the power play, tying the game at 1-1.
The Bulldogs were given a golden chance to take the lead and bury the Beavers later in the first after a major penalty for checking from behind was assessed to Bemidji State junior defenseman Ruslan Pedan of Russia, giving UMD a five-minute power play that included a 93-second two-man advantage after Beavers freshman defenseman Dan Billett was called for slashing toward the end of the major.
The Bulldogs were unable to convert, however, even giving up a pair of short-handed chances to Bemidji State, who last played Jan. 31.
“We didn’t play to our ability,” Toninato said. “It’s sad because we did make a push there in the second and we didn’t come out in the third and play like that. We had a little momentum going there in the second and we didn’t bring it in the third and in the end it cost us.”
Both Bemidji State goals came on rushes into the UMD zone.
Sophomore defenseman Brett Beauvais was able to slip into the Bulldogs’ zone unmarked to easily tally his first goal of the season and second of his career, putting UMD down 1-0 just 1:47 into the game.
Senior wing Markus Gerbrandt tallied the game-winning goal at the midway point of the third period by outmuscling a Bulldogs defenseman to the front of the home net. Gerbrandt buried a pass from sophomore center Kyle Bauman to give the Beavers their second win over UMD this season, with the first coming Oct. 10 in Bemidji when the Beavers scored in the final minute for a 3-2 triumph.
According to Johnson, he and his teammates may have forgotten about that season-opening loss.
“I don’t think we came ready to play,” said Johnson, whose team is 0-5-1 against Bemidji State dating to Dec. 7, 2012. “We thought maybe it was going to be an easy game and we took them lightly and it came back to bite us.
“It was a home game. They’re obviously not ranked very high, but we didn’t respect them like we should have. They’re a good team. They play good defensively. They’re hard to play against. If we came ready to play, we would have had a good chance, but we didn’t.”
In addition to Farley, a junior wing, and Mackay, a freshman wing, UMD also was minus junior defenseman Dan Molenaar due to injury. Sandelin didn’t know how long any of them would be out. UMD doesn’t play again until Feb. 19-20 at North Dakota
Junior wing Kyle Osterberg missed his eighth game with a hand injury Tuesday, though he did practice in limited fashion Monday.
Junior defenseman Brenden Kotyk was suspended by the NCHC after using his stick to make an illegal hit Saturday against the Tigers.
Bemidji State 1-0-1-2
Minnesota Duluth 1-0-0-1
First period - 1. BSU, Brett Beauvais 1 (Gerry Fitgerald), 1:47; 2. UMD, Adam Johnson 4 (Dominic Toninato, Alex Iafallo), 10:23 (pp). Penalties - Jordan Heller, BSU (boarding), 9:52; Ruslan Pedan, BSU (checking from behind major and game misconduct), 13:14; Dan Billett, BSU (slashing), 16:42; Neal Pionk, UMD (slashing), 18:45.
Second period - No scoring. Penalties - Cory Ward, BSU (tripping), 5:40; Jared Thomas, UMD (cross checking), 9:53; Nick McCormack, UMD (tripping), 13:30.
Third period - 5. 3. BSU, Markus Gerbrandt 6 (Kyle Bauman, John Parker), 10:00. Penalties - None.
Shots on goal - BSU 4-12-11-27; UMD 13-9-4-26. Goalies - Michael Bitzer, BSU (26 shots-25 saves); Kasimir Kaskisuo, UMD (27-25). Power plays - BSU 0-of-3; UMD 1-of-4. Referees - Todd Anderson, Brad Shepherd. Linesmen - Nick Biondich, Andy Dokken. Att. - 5,843.