KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Minnesota Duluth’s big offensive guns turned out in force Friday, but defensive breakdowns in the third period led to a 5-3 loss to Western Michigan in NCHC play at Lawson Arena.
Junior defenseman Scott Perunovich gave UMD the all important 1-0 lead while sophomore wing Cole Koepke and junior center Justin Richards put UMD ahead 3-2 going into the third.
The Broncos scored three goals in a span of 1:49 in the third period, including the game-tying and game-winning goals 22 seconds apart.
Below are the thumbs up and thumbs down from Friday’s loss by News Tribune college hockey writer Matt Wellens, plus his three stars of the night.
Thumbs up to Scott Perunovich
Perunovich was responsible for two goals on Friday, scoring the first goal of the night 7:27 into the first period on a give-and-go with junior wing Nick Swaney.
It took Perunovich two tries to get the play going, initially getting blocked in the neutral zone. He stuck with it, though, because he caught the Broncos napping on the play.
“Their defensemen were standing still at the blue line for quite a bit,” Perunovich said. “I knew once I got it to (Swaney) I needed to get a jump. I know if I get it to Swanes, I know he can make a play. I was fortunate to get that one.”
Perunovich’s second point of the night and team-best 35th of the season came in the second period during a power play. He sent a perfect pass to Koepke, who one-timed the puck through to tied the game at 2-2.
Vision led to Perunovich’s goal, but his trust in his teammates produced the second.
“I talk to (Koepke) all the time. Whenever he’s out there with me, be ready for a one-timer,” Perunovich said. “He seems to be ready every time and he seems to be scoring every time, so I figured I’ll keep doing that.”
Thumbs down to UMD’s defensive play in the third
My co-host on the Bulldog Insider podcast, My 9 Sports’ Zach Schneider, likes to tweet the phrase “win a period, win a game” when the Bulldogs enter the final minutes with a lead.
UMD had a 3-2 lead to start the third on Friday at Western, and instead of winning the period and the game, they got crushed.
The Broncos scored three goals in 1:49, with senior center and captain Hugh McGing setting up the game-tying goal and scoring the game-winner.
Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said during that 2-3 minute span, his team didn’t manage the puck well. The coverage was loose and poor. They made a bad read on a rush.
It was a defensive disaster that just spun out of control on UMD.
“All you need is a shift where you don’t do the right thing. Next thing you know, whether they get a goal or not, they get some momentum,” Sandelin said. “When they did get a goal, we got running around. You have to stay in your structure and be disciplined and we lost some coverage.”
Bulldogs senior defenseman and co-captain Nick Wolff said Friday was not the Bulldogs' best defensive game. They were loose in the D zone, didn’t man up on the opposition and they didn’t talk enough.
Wolff said the Bulldogs were “just soft” on defense, but they’ll be a lot harder to play against in the defensive zone at 6:05 p.m. Saturday in the series finale at Western.
“We've got to capitalize on opportunities and get stronger in the D zone,” Wolff said. “That’s the story of the night.”
Matt’s Three Stars
3. UMD junior defenseman Scott Perunovich: A goal and an assist for the Bulldogs' leading scorer.
2. WMU junior center Austin Rueschhoff: A game-tying goal, plus two assists in Friday’s win.
1. WMU senior center Hugh McGing: The captain finished with the game-tying assist and game-tying goal.