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Thumbs up, thumbs down, three stars: Bulldogs forecheck their way to a pair of goals, win over NCHC-leading Huskies

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Minnesota Duluth teammates Noah Cates (21) and Nick Swaney celebrate after Cates scored the game-winning goal Friday against No. 1 St. Cloud State at Amsoil Arena. Clint Austin / 2 / 2

Fifth-ranked Minnesota Duluth toppled No. 1-ranked St. Cloud State on Friday 3-1 in league play at Amsoil Arena, gaining crucial ground in the NCHC title race.

The third-place Bulldogs went from eight-points back to five back of the Huskies going into Saturday's 7:07 p.m. rematch at Amsoil Arena. Second-place Western Michigan beat Miami to move within four points of the league-leading Huskies.

Sophomore wing Nick Swaney, freshman wing Noah Cates and sophomore center Justin Richards scored for UMD while junior goaltender Hunter Shepard made 30 saves.

A full game recap can be found here.

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

Thumbs up to the Bulldogs' forecheck

All three Bulldogs goals came off of Huskies turnovers on Friday, with the first two coming via strong forechecks.

Senior center Peter Krieger set up Swaney's goal in the first period by forcing Huskies freshman defenseman Nick Perbix to cough up the puck along the end boards, giving him a little bump.

Cates' goal, the game-winner in the third, resulted from his own forecheck. Cates' pressure forced Huskies defenseman Jon Lizotte to not only fumble the puck behind his own net, but to then knock it to the top of the crease where Cates buried the shot.

"I really liked our first two goals. They were hard working goals off the forecheck," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. "Kriegs got in on the first one and it was a good finish by Swanes. I thought Noah did an outstanding job staying on the puck and scoring the game-winning goal."

Thumbs down to puck management

The Huskies weren't the only ones coughing up the puck on Friday and creating scoring chances for the opposition. The Bulldogs did their fair share of that as well, but Shepard was there to clean up any messes.

The Bulldogs found themselves trapped in their own zone much of the night against a relentless Huskies team that Krieger said was spinning off the Bulldogs' hits. Plays like that led to the Huskies' lone goal, and a number of UMD penalties, including one by Krieger early in the third.

"In the D-zone, they are a really good team spinning off hits and you saw we took a couple penalties," Krieger said. "They scored on the one going to the net beating our guy off the corner. A couple times it happened to me too. My penalty was like that."

The Bulldogs got outshot 31-18 on Friday and power plays were 5-0 in the Huskies favor thanks to the visitors' ability to control the puck all night.

In Saturday's rematch, UMD is looking to control the puck much more, and they believe a strong forecheck can create that result, just as it created a couple goals Friday.

"We played a little too much in our own D-zone chasing them too much," Krieger said. "We know we're going to have to weather some storms. We bent but didn't break tonight, but even more so going forward, especially tomorrow, we got to work on doing more forechecking, moving our feet and getting more opportunities."

Matt's Three Stars

3. Bulldogs senior center Peter Krieger: Krieger made a great play to force the turnover that led to Swaney's goal, putting UMD ahead 1-0.

2. Bulldogs freshman wing Noah Cates: Cates' forecheck led to another Huskies turnover behind the net, and the game-winning goal scored by him.

1. Bulldogs junior goaltender Hunter Shepard: The Cohasset native made 30 saves and was stellar on the penalty kill for UMD.

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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