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College men's hockey: Shorthanded UMD relies on special teams in win over Yale

HANOVER, N.H. — Despite losing five players, including three defensemen, to the World Junior Championship, Minnesota Duluth breezed past Yale 5-0 on Friday in the opening game of the Ledyard Bank Classic at Dartmouth’s Thompson Arena.

Now the Bulldogs will have to find a way to pull out another victory under difficult circumstances when it takes on the host Big Green at 6:05 p.m. Saturday in the Ledyard Classic finale, minus a sixth player.

Senior defenseman Nick McCormack received a five-minute major and game disqualification 6 1/2 minutes into the third period Friday for a hit that was classified by the Eastern College Athletic Conference officiating crew as being contact to the head.

Video replay showed the center-ice hit was more of the shoulder-to-shoulder variety, but there’s nothing anyone can do to change the outcome because NCAA rules are clear. If a player receives a game disqualification, he is ejected for the rest of the game and automatically suspended for the next.

So let the adversity continue for the Bulldogs, who will only have 17 skaters — including just four defensemen — for their final game of 2017.

“That locker room is pretty tight and, at the same time, everybody wants to play so when you get a chance to get in there, guys are going to make the most of it,” said UMD sophomore goaltender Hunter Shepard, who made 29 saves for his third shutout of the season. “Young guys, guys who haven’t played a lot lately stepped up today.”

McCormack’s ejection led to one of the Bulldogs’ grittiest moments of the season thus far as UMD was able to kill off the entirety of McCormack’s major, even though Yale held a two-man advantage for two of the five minutes after freshman defenseman Louie Roehl was called for interference.

Yale, whose NCAA-worst power-play percentage dropped to 6.8 percent (4-for-59) after going 0-for-4 against UMD, generated just three shots on goal during the McCormack major and Roehl minor thanks to timely blocks and plenty of clearances out of the zone, even when UMD was down to three skaters.

“It was awesome to see, a lot of guys were blocking shots, doing the little things in order to get pucks out,” UMD junior wing Parker Mackay said. “We pulled together on the bench. We said we needed energy and we got it from that penalty kill after every block. It was important to continue to do that throughout the five minutes.”

UMD’s power play had quite the night as well Friday, staking the team to a 3-0 lead after two periods.

The first came in the final seconds of the first period when Mackay, while falling, batted a shot by freshman wing Nick Swaney out of the air and into the back of the net. There were just 2.3 seconds left on the scoreboard.

UMD’s captain, senior wing Karson Kuhlman, made it 2-0 just under three minutes into the second period and 14 seconds into a Yale penalty for tripping, blasting a shot from the slot.

Senior wing Blake Young — who came into the season with two collegiate goals — notched his fourth of the season nearly 12 minutes into the second by finishing a shot that came from Roehl. Young picked up his second goal of the day and fifth of the season late in the third for UMD’s one true even-strength goal of the game.

UMD senior center Jared Thomas was credited with the first even-strength goal, but that came on a breakaway that was finished seconds after McCormack’s major penalty expired, with the foot of the Bulldog still in the box.

“We kept it simple, obviously missing a few key guys on that as well,” Kuhlman said of the power play. “We got pucks to the net. On mine, I just put a puck on net and it got through. Blake Young’s there as well, just a rebound goal. Guys are at the net, bodies are there and that’s how you are successful.”

UMD coach Scott Sandelin, who after the game strongly voiced his displeasure about McCormack’s game disqualification to ECAC Director of Officiating Paul Stewart, didn’t want to talk about the call and its ramifications.

Sophomores Nick Wolff and Jarod Hilderman and freshmen Roehl and Matt Anderson are the lone defensemen available for tonight’s game against Dartmouth. Freshmen Mikey Anderson, Scott Perunovich and Dylan Samberg are playing alongside sophomore wings Joey Anderson and Riley Tufte on Team USA at the World Juniors in Buffalo, N.Y.

Sandelin had senior center Sammy Spurrell listed as a defenseman Friday on UMD’s line chart, though Spurrell was used mostly as a penalty killer, not a defensemen.

“On the back end, those guys have played but you’re rotating with different partners,” Sandelin said, evaluating his remaining defensemen. “I give those guys a lot of credit. You only get a couple days to really practice, but overall I was really pleased. I thought those guys did a really good job. We really harped on our forwards to try and help out more. They did a good job with that.”

Minn. Duluth 1-2-2—5

Yale 0-0-0—0

First period — 1. UMD, Parker Mackay 4 (Nick Swaney, Karson Kuhlman), 19:57 (pp). Penalties — Kuhlman, UMD (checking from behind), 5:59; Anthony Walsh, Yale (hooking), 11:49; Evan Smith, Yale (roughing), 19:09.

Second period — 2. UMD, Kuhlman 4 (Peter Krieger, Swaney), 2:51 (pp); 3. UMD, Blake Young 4 (Louie Roehl, Justin Richards), 11:46 (pp). Penalties — Brett Jewell, Yale (tripping), 2:37; Nick McCormack, UMD (interference), 4:38; Anthony Walsh, Yale (kneeing), 9:51.

Third period — 4. UMD, Jared Thomas 4 (Mackay), 11:35; 5. UMD, Young 5 (Koby Bender, Justin Richards), 13:06. Penalties — McCormack, UMD (contact to the head major and game disqualification), 6:30; Roehl, UMD (interference), 7:23.

Shots on goal — UMD 6-10-8—24; Yale 10-10-9—29. Goalies — Hunter Shepard, UMD (29 shots-29 saves); Sam Tucker, Yale (24-19). Power plays — UMD 3-of-4; Yale 0-of-4. Referees — Anthony Kenney, Kevin Graber. Linesmen — Mike Emantian, MIke Brady. Att. — NA.

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

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