Minnesota Duluth sophomore wing Tanner Laderoute and junior defenseman Scott Perunovich scored in the third period to force overtime while senior goaltender Hunter Shepard matched a collegiate-high of 41 saves to give the ninth-ranked Bulldogs an important 3-3 tie with Western Michigan in NCHC play at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
While second-place UMD missed out on a bonus point after losing in the second-round of a shootout, it did finish the weekend one point closer to league-leading North Dakota cutting a four-point margin to three.
Below are the thumbs up and thumbs down from Saturday’s game by News Tribune college hockey writer Matt Wellens, plus his three stars of the night.
Thumbs up to the Bulldogs in the face of adversity Saturday
The Bulldogs faced a pair of potential back-breaking moments in Game 2 of their series with Western.
The first was at the end of the second period when the Broncos scored with 1.2 seconds left to pull ahead 3-1.
“I was proud of our guys because that goal at the end of the (second) period to make it 3-1, we said this can go one of two ways,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “This group doesn’t quit and they showed that.”
They showed it the most when sophomore wing Noah Cates was sent to the penalty box with less than nine minutes remaining in the third.
Laderoute had pulled UMD within a goal at the 9:11 mark and a hooking call on WMU senior Dawson DiPietro put UMD on the power play. Midway through that advantage, however, WMU freshman wing Jason Polin went on the attack shorthanded with Cates on his tail. The two crashed into the boards together hard — Polin had to be helped off the ice — and Cates got called for boarding.
The call enraged the 6,000 fans at Amsoil Arena, and everyone on the Bulldogs’ bench. In real time it appeared as if Cates did indeed board Polin, but replay showed it shouldn’t have been a penalty.
The play was actually reviewed for a major, during which everyone saw a replay, stoking the anger. Unfortunately, referees can’t overturn a minor no matter how wrong their call may seem on replay.
So UMD and Western went on to play 4-on-4, and Perunovich was able to use that extra time and space on the ice to convert on a wrap around to tie the game at 3-3.
Sandelin said after the game, “You control what you can control,” in talking about the adversity his team faced in that moment and others Saturday. UMD wound up turning a negative into a very, very positive moment.
“The bench was really fired up, especially after the replay,” Perunovich said of the Cates penalty. “But stuff happens fast. He made the call, it happens, it’s hockey.
“The bench started to talk a little bit more (after the penalty), trying to fire some guys up. That’s exactly what happened, too. We took a negative experience and turned it into a positive, created momentum.”
Thumbs down to the Bulldogs start Saturday
After the Bulldogs recorded the first two goals on Friday in their 6-3 win and first seven shots on goal that night, the opposite happened on Saturday. Western got the first goal and outshot the Bulldogs 7-1 early on.
“Our start yesterday was way better,” Sandelin said. “But give Western credit. We knew they were going to come hard. They did to us tonight what we did to them last night in the first period.”
For me, the start was especially disappointing considering the night before, players stressed how important it would be to duplicate Friday’s start again on Saturday. That didn’t happen and it wasn’t until adversity mounted in the third that the team found a spark.
“We came out a little flat,” Laderoute said. “If we come out the way we do in the third, that’s a whole different game. But that’s hockey sometimes. We need to learn to prepare and get ready to play from minute No. 1 through the whole 60 (minutes).”
Matt’s Three Stars
3. WMU junior wing Josh Passolt: The Hayward, Wis., native, playing 75 miles from his hometown, scored his second and third goals of the season to stake the Broncos to a 3-1 lead.
2. WMU senior goaltender Ben Blacker: Making his first start since Nov. 3, 2018, Blacker made 32 saves and stopped both the Bulldogs shooters in the shootout.
1. UMD senior goaltender Hunter Shepard: In his 101st consecutive start, Shepard tied a career high of 41 saves, stopping 17-of-17 shots on the penalty kill and 20-of-20 in the third period and overtime.