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College men's hockey: Bulldogs, Shepard blank Colorado College in NCHC opener

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Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com Minnesota Duluth goaltender Hunter Shepard (32) blocks a shot on goal from Colorado College during Friday's game at Amsoil Arena. 2 / 5
Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com Colorado College forward Erik Middendorf (16) takes the puck away from Minnesota Duluth goaltender Hunter Shepard (32) during Friday's game at Amsoil Arena. 3 / 5
Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com Minnesota Duluth forward Justin Richards (19) shoots the puck on goal as Colorado College defenseman Kristian Blumenschein (3) and goaltender Alex Leclerc (1) defend during Friday's game at Amsoil Arena. 4 / 5
Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com Minnesota Duluth forward Justin Richards (19) shoots the puck on goal as Colorado College defenseman Kristian Blumenschein (3) and goaltender Alex Leclerc (1) defend during Friday's game at Amsoil Arena. 5 / 5
Coming off a bye week, coach Scott Sandelin sensed some rust early on from his top-ranked Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in their NCHC season opener.

Hunter Shepard was the exception, however. The junior goaltender from Cohasset was as sharp as ever, making 19 stops for his first shutout of the season and ninth of his career to backstop the Bulldogs to a 3-0 victory over Colorado College before a crowd of 5,499 at Amsoil Arena.

Shepard totaled eight shutouts a year ago as a sophomore to set a UMD single-season record. His latest blanking ties him with current Minnesota Wild goaltender Alex Stalock for career shutouts by a Bulldog.

“Like always, he’s been the backbone of the team,” UMD junior defenseman Nick Wolff said of Shepard. “He’s always making big saves at crucial times. To have him back there is a big confidence (boost) for us.

“He’s always lights out, always lights out.”

The Tigers, whose goalie Alec LeClerc made 29 saves, used their newfound depth to put some quality scoring chances on Shepard early. Colorado College (4-4-1 overall, 0-3 NCHC) had two power plays in the first period that came up empty, then a 7-1 shot advantage early in the second period.

After that, Shepard faced few challenges. Tigers senior wing Trey Bradley found himself one-on-one against Shepard late in the second, but instead of going face-to-face with the national champion goaltender, he felt the need to get cute and try a wraparound that failed miserably.

Tigers junior wing and leading goal-scorer Alex Berardinelli had a shorthanded breakaway late in regulation that also was turned away by Shepard.

“We’ve seen the format a billion times over the last year and a half. When we get the lead and play with the lead, once we get that second or third one, it’s pretty shutdown for the most part,” Shepard said. “We weathered a storm in the first part of the second. We got through it and got the goal right after it. That was a big momentum swing. Guys were on cruise from there for the most part.”

UMD (7-1-1, 1-0) scored a goal in each period with sophomore center Justin Richards and Wolff each picking up their second of the season. Senior wing and captain Parker Mackay netted his team-best fifth.

Richards deflected in a goal 8:17 into the first and Wolff put a puck in off a Tiger 7:31 into the second. Mackay scored cleanly on a power play 7:35 into the third. That was the Bulldogs’ first power play of the night.

That third goal was a big one for Sandelin, whose Bulldogs will go for the sweep at 7:07 p.m. today at Amsoil Arena.

“A two-goal lead is not much against a team like that which has some offensive weapons,” Sandelin said. “That was a big goal for us and anytime you can score on the power play, I’ll take one a game anytime. It was a good shot. We had good traffic. We scored a couple goals with traffic and that’s what you need against good goaltenders.”

  • Prior to Friday’s game, the Bulldogs held a tribute and moment of silence for the legendary Keith “Huffer” Christiansen, who died Monday at the age of 74 after complications from cancer. A memorial service will be held next door to Amsoil Arena today in the DECC’s Harborside Ballroom. Visitation starts at 12:30 p.m. and runs until the memorial service begins at 2.

UMD players are sporting a No. 9 decal on their helmets the rest of the season in honor of Christiansen, whose retired No. 9 hung alone on the north side of the rink Friday. Sandelin said the team plans to attend the visitation.

“It’s important for our guys to be there,” Sandelin said. “He was a big part of our Bulldog family. If we can do something, we’ll get there and show our support.”

Colorado College 0-0-0—0

Minnesota Duluth 1-1-1—3

First period — 1. UMD, Justin Richards 2 (Matt Anderson, Louie Roehl), 817. Penalties — Nick Wolff, UMD (hooking), 8:35; Riley Tufte, UMD (interference), 15:28.

Second period — 2. UMD, Nick Wolff 2 (Scott Perunovich, Peter Krieger), 7:31. Penalties — None.

Third period —  3. UMD, Packer Mackay 5 (Perunovich, Krieger), 7:35 (pp). Penalties — Mason Bergh, CC (tripping), 6:34; Bergh, CC (charging), 19:41.

Shots on goal — CC 5-9-5—19; UMD 12-10-10—32. Goalies — Alex Leclerc, CC (32 shots-29 saves); Hunter Shepard, UMD (19-19). Power plays — CC 0-of-2; UMD 1-of-2. Referees — Jarrod Ragusin, Brad Shepard. Linesmen — Jeff Schultz, Kevin Cassidy. Att. — 5,499.

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.

(218) 723-5317