Ninth-ranked Minnesota Duluth survived a rollercoaster return to NCHC play Friday, using a trio of third-period goals to beat Western Michigan 6-3 before a crowd of 5,864 in the series opener at Amsoil Arena.
The Bulldogs, who moved within a point of league-leading North Dakota in the regular-season title race, posted the first two goals of the night and the first seven shots on goal before the Broncos rallied to tie the game going into the second intermission. A couple of blunders by Broncos freshman goaltender Brandon Bussi in the opening seven-plus minutes of the third, however, put UMD back on the winning track.
Tied 3-3 after two periods, Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said his team hit the reset button during the second intermission.
“It’s a three period game and it was 0-0 going into the third,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “We just said, ‘Hey, we got to go win a period,’ and our guys found a way to do that.”
Nick Swaney scored two of the Bulldogs’ three third period goals, getting his first of the night shorthanded by sniping a puck past the shaky glove of Bussi, who was promptly replaced by senior backup Ben Blacker. Swaney’s second went into an empty net in the final minute.
Kobe Roth, a junior wing like Swaney, got the game-winner five minutes into the third when he found himself in front of a wide open net with the puck. Roth was the one who initially brought the puck into the zone before losing it briefly and getting it right back at the top of the crease. Sophomore wing Tanner Laderoute then lured Bussi out of position.
“Credit to Tanner for forcing the goalie to make that play,” Roth said. “Without that pressure, I’m not getting that puck. I just went to the goal, (the puck) hit my skates and I just tapped it in. It was a little gift for me. It was nice.”
UMD dominated play early, with freshman wing Quinn Olson scoring his second goal of the season 11:03 into the game on a two-on-one breakaway with junior center Justin Richards. Laderoute got the next goal by redirecting a blast by sophomore wing Cole Koepke through on the power play 13 and a half minutes in.
Koepke assisted on both of UMD’s goals in the first to extend his point streak to six games. He’s registered a point in 11 of the last 12 games. Richards, who got blasted just after dishing the puck to Olson, extended his point streak to four games with his assist.
Swaney said the Bulldogs will need a similar start Saturday in the 7:07 p.m. rematch at Amsoil Arena.
“The start tomorrow night is going to be huge,” Swaney said. “They’re going to want to come back and come out after losing tonight. For us it starts with the first five minutes of the game and getting ourselves in the game, taking control right from the start. Then just build every shift from there.”
UMD saw Western’s ability to bounce back on Friday.
Junior wing Ethen Frank started the Broncos’ rally late in the first by scoring off a faceoff to pull the Broncos back within one. The goal came less than 30 seconds after Laderoute’s goal made it 2-0 and the timeout Western coach Andy Murray called right after to settle his team down.
Western then tied the game twice in the second — outshooting UMD 19-7 in the period — with junior center Paul Washe knotting the game at 2-2 on the power play and sophomore wing Rhett Kingston making it 3-3 after sophomore wing Noah Cates gave the Bulldogs a brief lead by tipping a shot by junior wing Nick Swaney on the power play.
Washe’s power play goal that made it 2-2 came during a major penalty that got UMD junior defenseman Scott Perunovich ejected for checking from behind. It was Perunovich’s second game misconduct of the season — the first came 2:32 into an Oct. 18 loss at Wisconsin — and a third this year would earn the Hibbing native and Bulldogs’ leading scorer an automatic one-game suspension.
“We needed to get our composure back a little bit and just settle down,” Sandelin said of the second period, adding the major threw the team out of rhythm initially. “Things were getting a little goofy there. I though we did that in the third. I thought we played a much better period. We played less chaotic.”
UMD senior goaltender Hunter Shepard finished with 35 saves on 38 shots as he made his 100th consecutive start in goal. He’s now four starts away from tying the NCAA record set by Cornell’s Ben Shivens from 2007-10.
Western Michigan 1-2-0—3
Minnesota Duluth 2-1-3—6
First period — 1. UMD, Quinn Olson 2 (Justin Richards, Cole Koepke), 11:03; 2. UMD, Tanner Laderoute 4 (Cole Koepke, Dylan Samberg), 13:36 (pp); 3. WMU, Ethan Frank 5 (Austin Reuschhoff, Dawson DiPietro), 14:01.
Second period — 4. WMU, Paul Washe 8 (Josh Passolt, Michael Joyaux), 5:47 (pp); 5. UMD, Noah Cates 11 (Nick Swaney, Dylan Samberg), 10:38 (pp); 6. WMU, Rhett Kingston (Hugh McGing, Brett Van Os), 13:59.
Third period — 7. UMD, Kobe Roth 8 (Laderoute and Roehl), 4:54; 8. UMD, Swaney 6 (Nick Wolff), 7:21 (sh); 9. UMD, Swaney 7 (Noah Cates, Jackson Cates), 19:19 (en).
Shots on goal — WMU 11-19-8—38; UMD 18-7-14—39. Goalies — Brandon Bussi, WMU (31 shots-26 saves); Ben Blacker, WMU (7-7); Hunter Shepard, UMD (38-35). Power plays — WMU 1-of-4; UMD 2-of-3. Penalties — WMU 5-10; UMD 7-25. Referees — Gino Binda, Joe Sullivan. Linesmen — Nick Biondich, Elliott Bucholz. Att. — 5,864.