Thumbs up, thumbs down, three stars: 'Jackson Three' put together strong performance for UMD in OT win over Omaha
Sophomore wing Nick Swaney scored with 6:18 remaining in overtime to give second-seeded Minnesota Duluth a 2-1 victory over seventh-seeded Nebraska-Omaha in Game 1 of a best-of-three NCHC quarterfinal series at Amsoil Arena.
Game 2 of the series is at 7:07 p.m. Saturday in Duluth.
Junior wing Riley Tufte scored for the Bulldogs 3:31 into the second period, but Omaha sophomore wing Kevin Conley tied the game with 55.8 seconds left in regulation.
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' 'Jackson Three'
UMD coach Scott Sandelin once again was unhappy about his team's inability to put together a full 60-minute game on Friday.
There was one exception to that, however. One trio of players did indeed put together a complete game. That was the third forward line listed on the chart Friday. We'll call them the 'Jackson Three' to continue with naming lines after their center.
The 'Jackson Three' consist of junior wing Riley Tufte, freshman center Jackson Cates and freshman wing Tanner Laderoute. It was one of two lines last week in St. Cloud — along with the 'Miller Line' — that Sandelin was very happy with. His approval of Tufte, Cates and Laderoute continued Friday.
"They were our best line. They played with a lot of energy. They created a lot certainly shift after shift. They had a real consistently strong game," Sandelin said. "But it's like I said, we need more than one line. We need four lines. That is how this team is going to win hockey games. Fortunately tonight we got the win."
While Tufte didn't score his goal Friday while on the ice with Cates and Laderoute, he really was at his best when playing with those three. While everyone else looked sleepy in the first period, that line was explosive with some great shifts early on.
Tufte said both Laderoute and Cates are good guys who work hard, and that's why the line is successful.
"The chemistry is there right now. We have to keep playing like that, but I think we can be better too," Tufte said. "We had quite a few chances tonight. We have to create more opportunities and bear down on those chances."
Thumbs down to UMD's first period
The way the Bulldogs came out in the first period on Friday, you'd think they were looking for a weekend off prior to the start of the NCAA tournament — that they had no interest playing in next week's NCHC Frozen Faceoff at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The Bulldogs took two brain-fart penalties in the opening 10 minutes, getting called for too many players on the ice 2:57 in and then again at the 8:24 mark while in the Mavs' zone on the power play.
It was a head-scratching start, one the team knows is unacceptable at this time of year.
"We just kind of came out slow. We weren't ready to play," Swaney said. "That's something that can't happen. It's playoff hockey now and we got to focus on playing a full 60 minutes. That means coming out of the jump ready to go."
Matt's Three Stars
3. UMD junior wing Riley Tufte: He extended his scoring streak to four goals in four games by scoring in the second.
2. UMD junior goaltender Hunter Shepard: He was strong in the first when much of his team wasn't. Shepard finished with 27 saves and was just 55.8 seconds away from his sixth shutout of the season, 14th of his career.
1. UMD sophomore wing Nick Swaney: He was patient on his game-winning goal in OT, which came via a pass by junior center Jade Miller that skipped off the skate of a Maverick.