Minnesota Duluth’s third period rally on Saturday was wrecked by a pair of North Dakota goals that came 94 seconds apart, resulting in a 3-2 victory for the No. 2-ranked Fighting Hawks over the No. 11 Bulldogs before a record crowd of 7,711 at Amsoil Arena.
Freshman wing Luke Loheit and junior defenseman Scott Perunovich scored the Bulldogs two goals within four minutes of each other in the third to put UMD ahead 2-1 while senior goaltender Hunter Shepard made 20 saves in his NCAA-record 105th consecutive start.
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 ‘fourth’ line
For the first time this season, I thought the Bulldogs looked like a four-line team at forward.
The foursome of Koby Bender, Ben Almquist, Luke Loheit and Jesse Jacques had their best weekend of the season, with Almquist centering the line and Jacques — typically the line’s center — rotating in as a winger.
The line — listed fourth on the line chart, hence the fourth-line title — tied the game for UMD at 1-1 just under four minutes into the third when Loheit, the freshman wing who was scratched last Saturday in St. Cloud, scored off a feed by Perunovich. It was a great shot top-shelf by Loheit, and came just after Jacques had caught the post.
“Huge credit to Luke on the first goal,” UMD junior wing Nick Swaney said. “Great shot by him.”
Up until this weekend, the Bulldogs were a three-line team that used its fourth line just to spell the rest of the forwards early in the game. They were a forgettable group for spectators.
The Bulldogs need that fourth line to make an impact, like the fourth lines before them. That trio (or in this case, foursome) has played a huge roll in the Bulldogs making three-straight appearances in the NCAA championship and winning back-to-back NCAA titles.
UMD may have seen it’s NCHC regular season championship hopes dented severely this weekend by failing to gain any ground on league-leading North Dakota, but I like this program’s chances to win a third-straight NCAA title if the fourth-line foursome continues to grow.
“Coming down to the end of the year, you can win if you have four lines going every single night,” Swaney said. “They did an awesome job all weekend. Whenever your opportunity is up, you have to take it. All four did a great job this weekend.”
Thumbs down to bad bounces going against UMD
Last weekend at St. Cloud State, we saw the Bulldogs lose to the Huskies 2-1 on Friday after two pucks went into the UMD net off UMD players.
It happened again Saturday, resulting in a 3-2 loss to North Dakota.
Cloquet native and Colorado College transfer Westin Michaud gave North Dakota a 1-0 lead after his centering pass bounced off the stick of Bulldogs junior center Justin Richards.
North Dakota’s Jonny Tychonick then scored the game-winner at 11:58 of the third by rocketing a shot from the point that in his words, “went off, like, every player on the ice.”
“It’s just part of the game, it is what it is,” Shepard said of the bad bounces recently. “We just got to work through it.”
Like Shepard said, there’s not a whole lot a team can do about bad puck luck like that, and that’s what a lot of these goals have been.
But the Bulldogs need to find a way to create some puck luck for themselves, too, on the opposite end. They need to find a way to get more pucks on net in order to create the type of chances Tychonick did for North Dakota on Saturday. That was Tychonick’s second shot in a row after the first one got blocked.
Too often, the Bulldogs get caught holding onto the puck while waiting for that perfect shooting lane to open up. We’ve heard coach Scott Sandelin voice frustration on this topic in the past this season.
UMD needs to start letting pucks fly more from the point. Defensemen Dylan Samberg and Nick Wolff both have powerful shots, and while they may not be the most accurate, Tychonick showed puck luck can be just as effective.
Matt’s Three Stars
3. UND sophomore defenseman Jonny Tychonick: Scored the game-winning goal for North Dakota in the win.
2. UMD junior defenseman Scott Perunovich: Recorded a goal and an assist to put the Bulldogs on top 2-1 in the third period.
1. UND junior defenseman Matt Kiersted: Finished with a goal and an assist. His goal tied the game at 2-2 and killed the momentum UMD had built with two-straight goals to take a lead.