A record-setting night for Amsoil Arena and its anchor in net the past three seasons, Minnesota Duluth senior goaltender Hunter Shepard, was spoiled by a 3-2 victory for NCHC-leading North Dakota on Saturday.
Shepard, the Cohasset native, made 20 saves for the Bulldogs in his NCAA-record 105th consecutive start. He did so before 7,711 fans, the largest crowd ever at Amsoil Arena.
Starting every game for UMD since Oct. 21, 2017, Shepard topped the previous record for consecutive starts by a goalie set between 2007-10 by Cornell’s Ben Scrivens — who recorded a congratulations video that was played in the arena during the first media timeout.
“It was a good atmosphere playing for that many people is fun,” Shepard said. “The (start) record part of it, the most important thing for me is the team winning games. We didn’t win tonight, so it doesn’t matter.
“We had a couple bad bounces. It is what it is. We played hard. You can’t fault our effort. We took a step in the right direction, but we can’t be interested in moral victories. We need to get wins.”
Junior defenseman Scott Perunovich of Hibbing put the Bulldogs on top 2-1 in the opening eight minutes of the third period by setting up and scoring a pair of goals, but the Hawks got a pair of goals from defenseman Matt Kiersted and Jonny Tychonick in the span of 94 second to go back on top.
North Dakota got 22 stops from junior goaltender Peter Thome, who started over sophomore Adam Scheel — who got shelled in the series opener on Friday, giving up seven goals on 38 shots in a 7-4 Bulldogs’ win. A 2016 sixth-round draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Thome was making just his second start and fourth appearance in the Fighting Hawks’ net this season. Both starts have come in the last two Saturdays.
“Every time you play them it’s a battle,” said Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin, who both played and coached at North Dakota. “Sometimes the games take on different forms. Last night there was a lot of goals. Tonight it was a little harder to score. Both goalies played better, the teams defended better. That’s the way it is.”
Perunovich — who had to leave the game briefly in the third with an injury before returning — set up a tying goal by fourth-line freshman wing Luke Loheit 3:42 into the period. Loheit, an Ottawa Senators draft pick that was healthy scratched last Saturday at St. Cloud State, went top shelf for his third goal of the season to knot the game at 1-1.
Four minutes later, Perunovich scored his fourth goal of the season and team-leading 28th point, burying a shot from the slot that was set up on the power play by brothers Noah and Jackson Cates.
Cloquet native Westin Michaud, a senior wing who transferred to North Dakota in the offseason after graduating from Colorado College, picked up the first goal of the game for the second night in a row, giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead just before the four-minute mark of the second.
Michaud, who was credited with his second goal of the weekend after the puck went in off a Bulldog, was held without a point in his four games at Amsoil Arena as a Tiger. He had a goal and an assist Friday, and now heads back to play his old school next week with 12 goals and 10 assists in 25 games after posting 13 goals and 17 assists in 41 games last year with the Tigers.
With the win Saturday, North Dakota maintains the lead it held over UMD in the NCHC standings before the weekend started — eight points. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, fall to third place, two points back of Denver. The Bulldogs travel to the state of Colorado next week to play the Pioneers.
“Chasing the team that’s ahead of us, playing one of the best teams in the country, we know that we can play with them,” UMD junior wing Nick Swaney said. “We showed that this weekend. We know when we’re playing our kind of hockey, we’re a really good hockey team.
“We got to take whatever we can away and come back and work on the things that we need to on Monday, get ready for Denver next weekend. We know it's another big, big opponent for us and six more points that are huge.”
Saturday’s announced attendance of 7,711 topped the previous record of 7,569 vs. Minnesota on Oct. 17, 2015. Combined with Friday’s crowd of 7,016, UMD set a two-game series attendance record with 14,727. This weekend’s games are the Bulldogs only sellouts this season, with the previous high in 2019-20 being 6,655 against Minnesota on Oct. 26.
No. 5 decals on their helmets this weekend in memory of 9-year-old Marshall Bader, a Grand Rapids youth hockey player who died last Sunday in an accident on his family farm. A moment of silence was also held for Bader prior to Friday’s game.
North Dakota 0-1-2—3
Minnesota Duluth 0-0-2—3
First period — No scoring.
Second period — 1. ND, Westin Michaud 12 (Matt Kiersted, Shane Pinto), 3:52.
Third period — 2. UMD, Luke Loheit 3 (Scott Perunovich), 3:42; 3. UMD, Perunovich 4 (Jackson Cates, Noah Cates), 7:42 (pp); 4. ND, Kiersted 4 (Jasper Weatherby), 10:24; 5. ND Jonny Tychonick 4 (Cole Smith), 11:58.
Shots on goal — ND 8-6-9—23; UMD 8-6-10—24. Goalies — Peter Thome, ND (24 shots-22 saves); Hunter Shepard, UMD (23-20). Power plays — ND 0-of-4; UMD 1-of-5. Penalties — ND 5-10; UMD 4-8. Referees — Stephen Reneau, Cameron Voss. Linesmen — Brandon Schmitt, Jeff Schultz. Att. — 7,711.