OMAHA, Neb. — Minnesota Duluth survived a crazy third period on Friday, even after scoring on their own goal early, to beat Nebraska-Omaha 6-3 in the first half of an NCHC series at Baxter Arena.
Sophomore wings Noah Cates and Cole Koepke each scored twice Friday for the No. 14-ranked Bulldogs with both of Koepke’s goals coming within 48 seconds of each other in the third while sandwiching a goal by the No. 18 Mavericks.
“We responded well,” said coach Scott Sandelin, whose Bulldogs are back in Omaha to face the Mavericks at 7:07 p.m. on Saturday. “Obviously we could have went the other way. Instead we go back and get the next couple goals.
“Great response by our team.”
What UMD had to respond to early in the third was a blunder off a faceoff in their own zone when junior defenseman Dylan Samberg of Hermantown missed his mark trying to fire the puck over the UMD net to safety. Instead he beat his own goaltender, senior Hunter Shepard, top shelf to tie the game at 2-2.
“It’s just an unfortunate play. That’s going to happen maybe once every couple years?” Koepke said. “We were playing good and we can’t let that bring us down. We have to keep the energy up on the bench, especially being on the road, and get the next goal.”
The Bulldogs indeed didn’t let the misfortune bring them down and they sure did get the next goal, and then some, outscoring the Mavericks 4-1 after that with Samberg himself assisting on two of the four UMD goals.
Junior wing Nick Swaney, back after missing three games due to injury, put UMD back on top 3-2 by scoring on an attack with Cates. Then came Koepke’s scores via two-on-one rushes a few minutes after that. The Hermantown native held the puck both times to take the shot himself.
Junior defenseman Louie Roehl capped the madness with a slap shot from the blue line for his first goal of the season.
“Just crazy, back and forth,” Cates said of the third. “Good that we responded.
“The bench was a little down, but we just got right back to it and had a couple big goals there.”
Cates, who finished with three points on the night, put UMD on top 1-0 in the first and 2-1 in the second. The Philadelphia Flyers draft pick from Stillwater picked up his first goal of the night and eighth of the season by firing a puck from tough angle to an even tougher spot, hitting the far corner from below the faceoff circle. His second goal of the game and ninth of the season came via a rebound off a shot by Swaney.
“I thought Noah was our best player out there,” Sandelin said. “I thought he was a man out there.”
The Bulldogs had a chance to run away with the game in the second period, hence forgoing the theatrics of the third.
UMD was on the power play for a total of 7 minutes and 37 seconds in the second thanks to the Mavs taking a boarding major — resulting in the ejection of junior wing Kevin Conley — 25 seconds into the period and back-to-back minors in the later half of the period. UMD, which outshot Omaha 14-4 in the second, got just one shot on goal during the major, which was cut short by 1:23 via a too-many-players penalty.
Thankfully UMD was strong 5-on-5 Friday, and didn’t need the power play to jump start the offense.
“Our power play as kind of been carrying us a little bit offensively this year, especially this past couple weekends, it's been it's been very good,” Koepke said. “Tonight it actually struggled a little bit. We had that five minutes. It's huge all four lines five-on-five are able to create some offense and give our team momentum.”
Swaney returned to the lineup Friday after missing three games while senior defenseman Nick Wolff was back after missing all but a few minutes of last weekend’s home losses to Minnesota State-Mankato. Swaney was on the other end of the boarding major that got Omaha’s Conley tossed, but he was OK after the hit.
Minnesota Duluth 1-1-4—6
First period — 1. UMD, Noah Cates 8, 10:51; 2. UNO, Teemu Pulkkinen 2 (Kevin Conley, Brandon Scanlin), 15:18 (pp).
Second period — 3. UMD, N. Cates 9 (Nick Swaney), 8:20
Third period — 4. UNO, Joey Abate, 4:09; 5. UMD, Swaney 4 (N. Cates, Matt Anderson), 6:12; 6. UMD, Cole Koepke 4, 8:07; 7. UNO, Abate 5 (Dean Steward, Zach Jordan), 8:35; 8. UMD, Koepke 5 (Dylan Samberg), 8:55.
Shots on goal — UMD 8-14-9—31; UNO 11-4-9—24. Goalies — Hunter Shepard, UMD (24 shots-21 saves); Isaiah Saville, UNO (31-25). Power plays — UMD 0-of-3; UNO 1-of-5. Penalties — UMD 7-14; UNO 6-23. Referees — Nick Krebsbach, Nathan Wieler. Linesmen — Todd Lacina, Sam Rankin. Att. — 5,299.