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Thumbs up, thumbs down, three stars: Shepard shines again, but Bulldogs spend too much time in penalty box in loss to North Dakota

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t120218 --- Clint Austin --- 120218.S.DNT.UMDMPUX.C14 ---Forward Cole Koepke (17) of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs controls the puck near defenseman Jonny Tychonick (17) and goaltender Adam Scheel (31) of the North Dakota Fighting Hawks during Saturday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Minn. --- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com2 / 4
t120218 --- Clint Austin --- 120218.S.DNT.UMDMPUX.C08 --- Forward Rhett Gardner (22) of the North Dakota Fighting Hawks shoots the puck against goaltender Hunter Shepard (32) of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs during Saturday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Minn. --- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com3 / 4
t120218 --- Clint Austin --- 120218.S.DNT.UMDMPUX.C09 --- Defenseman Colton Poolman (6) of the North Dakota Fighting Hawks and forward Noah Cates (21) of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs compete for the puck during Saturday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Minn. --- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com4 / 4

Second-ranked Minnesota Duluth had to settle for a weekend split with North Dakota after losing 2-1 on Saturday in NCHC play at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.

The Bulldogs, whose lone goal came from freshman wing Tanner Laderoute, fell behind 2-0 early in the first period and were whistled 11 times for 33 minutes. Junior defenseman Nick Wolff was ejected for the second night in a row.

A complete recap from Saturday's loss can be found here.

Below are the thumbs up and thumbs down from Saturday's game by News Tribune college hockey writer Matt Wellens, plus his three stars of the night.

Thumbs down to all the Bulldogs penalties Saturday

Depending on where your allegiances lie, that heading will mean two entirely different things.

I can tell you how Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin will interpret that subhead:

"These games are intense, so you go into it with that mindset," said Sandelin. "The people that are also part of the game need to do the same thing. You can't be selective. Let the kids decide games."

Let me tell you what it means to me, an unbiased observer of the game (something my Detroit Red Wings-loving wife hates about me):

The Bulldogs were undisciplined on Saturday, something Sandelin agreed with, while also being displeased with the officiating.

Yeah, you could argue with a handful of penalties here and there. Which ones specifically? I don't know. I don't have all night to review all 10 calls (resulting in 11 penalties). I'd like to get home to see my family eventually.

Nor do I have the time to go back and review all the calls against North Dakota that were missed (and yes, some were). That's not a healthy life choice, to dwell on those. What is healthy is to focus on what you can and can't control.

For UMD, what you can control is making sure your top players don't get goaded into penalties by a team's fourth liners. That happened in the opening 2:22 when UMD's top defensive pairing of Wolff and sophomore Scott Perunovich took roughing calls after getting into an early scrum with Hawks sophomore wing Josh Rieger (a defenseman who was making his season debut, but at forward) and freshman center Jasper Weatherby (who has a goal and an assist to his name through 14 games).

Any team in the country would gladly take that trade. For North Dakota, that trade paid off huge on Saturday. While those four sat in the box (needing a stoppage to be released after the 4:22 mark had passed), the Hawks took a 2-0 lead.

Neither defenseman's night in the box was done after that, either. Perunovich took a hooking penalty later in the first (go ahead and argue that one) and Wolff got ejected for the second night in a row just over five minutes into the second.

Wolff's ejection on Friday was for standing up for a teammate. He also took a Hawk with him, though again it was a fourth-liner who got scratched Saturday. No one is scolding Wolff for what he did Friday. That's a good penalty to take.

Saturday's was not. He was ejected for hitting Hawks junior wing Cole Shaw high, launching himself at the player at center ice.

Argue with me all you want about "old time hockey" and scream from the top of your lungs that the officials need to "let them play." But I'm sorry, that's not a "hockey play" anymore. It hasn't been for years and years now. That's a hit that gets you ejected every single time. No questions.

That is a hit that a player of Wolff's caliber can't make because he is needed for an entire 60 minutes. UMD needs him on the ice, not the penalty box or in the locker room. That can be said about a lot of players on UMD, in fact.

The Bulldogs need to keep their cool in chippy series. This weekend won't be the last.

"We can't lose Nicky two games in a row," said Sandelin, who later added he was OK with Wolff getting ejected Friday for standing up for a teammate. "That's something we'll address internally. He plays hard. I got to look at the hit. That's how he plays. He's a big part of our team. We need him playing a 60-minute game. I'll look at that and we'll deal with it. I'm not disappointed because I can't take away the way he plays."

Thumbs up to UMD's penalty kill

I should have given a second thumbs down for that start to Saturday's game, but as Sandelin pointed out in the postgame, the Bulldogs overcame a 3-0 deficit in the third period at Denver. A 2-0 deficit in the first should be a cakewalk after that experience.

UMD was in a position to rally again Saturday, and that's thanks to the penalty kill, led by Shepard. Despite giving North Dakota seven power plays, the Hawks never scored on the man advantage. Shepard stopped all 11 shots on goal the Hawks power play produced — with most of those coming after UND learned how to actually run a power play late in the game.

"That's what we see out of him," Sandelin said. "He's doing his job. We need some other guys to do their jobs better. He was outstanding. I give our penalty killers (a lot of credit). Those guys did a lot. That's not easy to go back-to-back-to-back. They did a great job on the five (minute major), as did North Dakota."

The UMD PK was indeed outstanding, which is why they get the thumbs up. Too bad that in this case, it's the equivalent of giving a punter a thumbs up in football.

Matt's Three Stars

3. North Dakota sophomore wing Jordan Kawaguchi: This guy would have been a unanimous first star for scoring the first Hawks goal and assisting on the second, but he took the dumbest penalty of the night — a spearing major late in the first that could have derailed North Dakota's night.

2. North Dakota freshman goalie Adam Scheel: After Peter Thome's disaster of a performance Friday, Scheel brought stability to the UND net, making 28 saves.

1. North Dakota sophomore wing Grant Mismash: His goal at 4:41 proved to be the difference between North Dakota getting swept and UND scoring a split.

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