Nick Swaney struck twice and fellow junior wing Kobe Roth picked up the game-winner as ninth-ranked Minnesota Duluth scored three goals in the third period to defeat Western Michigan 6-3 on Friday at Amsoil Arena.
Sophomore wings Noah Cates and Tanner Laderoute also had a goal and an assist in the victory that pulled the Bulldogs within a point of league-leading North Dakota in the race for the NCHC’s Penrose Cup.
Sophomore wing Cole Koepke extended his point streak to six games with a pair of first period assists while senior goaltender Hunter Shepard made 35 saves in his 100th consecutive start.
Below are the thumbs up and thumbs down from Friday by News Tribune college hockey writer Matt Wellens, plus his three stars of the night.
Thumbs up to Miller Line 2.0
Since the graduation of winger Billy Exell after last season, the Bulldogs have been searching for that third piece to complement senior center Jade Miller and Roth.
I think they’ve found it in sophomore wing Tanner Laderoute.
The trio was strong at Merrimack right out of the break and on Friday in the series opener against Western Michigan, they were difference makers as Laderoute set up Roth for the game-winning goal just under five minutes into the third.
“We just gel well together,” Roth said. “We’re not the cutest or anything. We just play hard, cycle in the corner, stuff like that. We move our feet, make the easy plays and it seems to work out.”
The three now have three goals and two assists for five points in the last three games together, but for coach Scott Sandelin, the points aren’t what makes this line successful.
“I though they had a real good game, strong game, regardless of whether they scored,” Sandelin said. “It’s nice to see them score, nice to see guys get rewarded. They played well, they gave us a lot of energy.
“Jade and Kobe have played together a lot. Tanner has just gotten on that line but you know how Tanner plays, right? He goes to the hard areas. Those guys appear to have some pretty good chemistry so that’s good.”
Thumbs down to the Bulldogs' second period
Friday’s game began to spiral out of UMD’s control in the second period before everything leveled out in the third.
The Bulldogs got the first two goals and the first seven shots on goal in a dominating opening 10 minutes.
But in the second period, shots on goal swung in Western’s favor 19-7. Shot attempts were 33-13 in favor of WMU.
UMD took five penalties for 21 minutes in the second, including a five-minute major and game misconduct for a blatant check from behind by junior defenseman Scott Perunovich.
Two more Bulldogs defenseman took penalties later in the period — junior Dylan Samberg and senior Nick Wolff — while junior wing Koby Bender also found himself in the box after a scrum.
Sandelin said the major — the second one Perunovich has taken this year — really threw the team out of rhythm and the penalties that followed didn’t help with calming the chaos.
“Things were getting a little goofy there,” Sandelin said of the second period. “They’re a team that goes north quick. They get forwards out of the zone and sometimes that style tends to lend to that type of game. We lost some structure and we just need to get some of that back, play a little bit smarter and a little bit tighter. We did a better job of that in the third period.”
Matt’s Three Stars
3. UMD junior wing Nick Swaney: The Minnesota Wild prospect finished with two goals and an assist with both goals coming in the third.
2. UMD sophomore wing Tanner Laderoute: A first period power play goal, redirecting a shot by sophomore wing Cole Koepke. Then he set up the game-winner for Roth, who gave Laderoute all the credit for that score.
1. UMD junior wing Kobe Roth: His game-winner 4:54 into the third period wasn’t all Laderoute as it was Roth who battled the puck into the zone initially. Roth now has eight goals this season.