Minnesota Duluth again scored a pair of key third period power play-goals Wednesday and sophomore goaltender Ryan Fanti finished with 28 saves in his second collegiate start to lift the third-ranked Bulldogs to a 2-1 victory over fourth-ranked Denver on Day 2 of the NCHC Pod at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.

The only team to play back-to-back games to open the ‘OmaPod’, the now 2-0 Bulldogs will get three days off before playing Miami at 4:05 p.m. Sunday in Omaha.

“It’s a good thing it was a three-period game,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “Ryan Fanti had an outstanding game for us. He kept us within distance. Our first 40 minutes wasn’t good, but that’s what a team like Denver does to you. They don’t give you a lot of room and we didn’t respond very well. We had spurts but they were carrying the play and he had to make some big saves.”

UMD beat host Nebraska Omaha 5-3 on Tuesday in the opening game via four goals in the third, including two on the power play.

The Minnesota Duluth bench reacts as Minnesota Duluth forward Koby Bender (11) checks Denver forward Connor Caponi (22) into the boards in the first period Wednesday, Dec. 2, at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
The Minnesota Duluth bench reacts as Minnesota Duluth forward Koby Bender (11) checks Denver forward Connor Caponi (22) into the boards in the first period Wednesday, Dec. 2, at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

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The first that night came from junior center Jackson Cates, who tied the a minute into the third period. On Wednesday, he struck with just under seven minutes to play, knotting the game at 1-1.

Denver took its second penalty of the third period only 24 seconds after Cates tied the game. And for the second night in a row, it was senior wing Kobe Roth putting UMD on top as he buried a rebound from the left side of Denver sophomore goaltender Magnus Chrona.

“The last two nights its been our power play in the third period that has carried us, but we got to start putting together more of a 60-minute game as we go along here,” Sandelin said.

The Bulldogs skated away from the second period trailing 1-0, but it could have been much, much worse. UMD was outshot 18-1 in the second, but Fanti stopped 17 of the 18 shots.

The only puck to beat him was a laser, four minutes into the period by Pioneers senior defenseman Bo Hanson that began in the top left corner of the UMD zone and ended in the top right corner of the UMD net.

The Pioneers then failed to capitalize on a power play late in the second in which UMD was trapped in its own zone twice, including the opening 1:24 of the Pioneers advantage.

Denver coach David Carle said Fanti was the difference in the second for UMD.

“He was their best player in the second period,” Carle said. “We had the puck on the stick of some really good players for us and he came up with big saves in key moments.”

Minnesota Duluth forwards Nick Swaney (23) and Jackson Cates (20) celebrate Cates' goal as Denver players react in the third period Wednesday, Dec. 2, at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
Minnesota Duluth forwards Nick Swaney (23) and Jackson Cates (20) celebrate Cates' goal as Denver players react in the third period Wednesday, Dec. 2, at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)



Thumbs up again to Ryan Fanti

After getting 26 saves from Fanti on 29 shots against Tuesday in the season-opening win against the Mavericks, Sandelin went back to the Thunder Bay native Wednesday against the Pioneers.

And based on Fanti’s performance, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Fanti in net again Sunday when UMD return to play at Baxter Arena.

Not only did Fanti finish with 28 saves on 29 shots Wednesday, he made key saves throughout the game, starting with a trio in the third on odd-man rushes by the Pioneers.

“The first period I looked up and they only had four shots, but three of them were point-blank,” Sandelin said. “They were great chances. He made the saves and that probably gave him confidence too. He was seeing the puck well and he did play with a lot of poise and calmness. I thought our team wasn’t playing with that calmness like we need to and he was, thank God.”

Fanti made three more critical saves in the second, starting with a right-pad save that saw him stretch from his left to his right with 4:39 to play in the period.

The next two came on the penalty kill after UMD junior center Jesse Jacques was called for cross checking late in the second. He swallowed up a pair of pucks to force whistles that saved a fatigued Bulldogs penalty kill unit that was trapped on the ice for the first 1:24 of Jacques’ minor and then again after the penalty expired.

“Tonight was a lot different than last night,” Fanti said. “Compared to Omaha, they both got pucks to the net, but I found Denver is a little more patient, especially not being too antsy and throwing the puck. They were taking the extra second to find the guy in the slot. That second they threw lots of traffic and everything, but I was able to find it. It was big to especially come back in that third. Overall a great game.”

Thumbs down to the second period for UMD

Minnesota Duluth forward Koby Bender (11) and Denver forward Jaakko Heikkinen (10) battle for the puck in the first period Wednesday, Dec. 2, at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
Minnesota Duluth forward Koby Bender (11) and Denver forward Jaakko Heikkinen (10) battle for the puck in the first period Wednesday, Dec. 2, at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

For the second night in a row, the Bulldogs had to survive a rough second before emerging in the third to claim victory.

The Bulldogs were outshot 18-1 in the second period on Wednesday. The lone shot came from senior wing Koby Bender — who put UMD up 1-0 against Nebraska Omaha on Tuesday — on a rush 10:17 into the period.

Sandelin said Denver did a good job with its transition game to put UMD on its heels. But the Bulldogs made some bad decision too, Sandelin said.

“Sometimes when you don’t get anything going, you just feel a little bit of that frustration,” Sandelin said. “When you’re frustrated and you don’t have any momentum going, you probably do mentally tire a little bit quicker. You got to give the other team credit. They were pushing the pace and they were playing their game. They weren’t giving us much time.

“We had nine shots for a long time and when you don’t have anything, it just feels like a struggle sometimes. You have to play through that and our guys did that.”

Denver forward Jaakko Heikkinen (10) and Minnesota Duluth forward Jesse Jacques (18) battle for the puck in a faceoff in the second period Wednesday, Dec. 2, at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
Denver forward Jaakko Heikkinen (10) and Minnesota Duluth forward Jesse Jacques (18) battle for the puck in a faceoff in the second period Wednesday, Dec. 2, at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

Matt’s Three Stars

3. UMD junior center Jackson Cates — Two more points for the older Cates brother, scoring the game-tying goal and assisting on the game-winner.

2. UMD freshman defenseman Wyatt Kaiser — The quarterback of the Bulldogs’ power play units that tallied the game-tying and winning goals, Kaiser also made some big goal-saving plays late in Wednesday’s game when UMD was on a two-man disadvantage with senior defenseman Louie Roehl in the penalty box and the Denver net empty. He threw a loose puck out of the crease to safety and blocked a couple shots as well.

1. UMD sophomore goaltender Ryan Fanti — Fanti made some big saves in the first and second periods, but also had another big glove save in the final minute to cap his 2-0 start.



Denver 0-1-0—1

Minnesota Duluth 0-0-2—2

First Period

No scoring

Second Period

1. DU, Bo Hansen 1, 4:00.

Third Period

2. UMD, Jackson Cates 2 (Nick Swaney, Noah Cates), 13:04 (pp); 3. UMD, Kobe Roth 2 (J. Cates, N. Cates), 13:52 (pp).

Saves — Magnus Chrona, DU, 8-1-9—18; Ryan Fanti, UMD, 6-17-5—28.

Power play — DU 0-4; UMD 2-3. Penalties — DU 3-6; UMD 4-8.