A snipe from the slot by sophomore wing Blake Biondi of Hermantown midway through the third period gave Minnesota Duluth a 2-1 nonconference victory over Bemidji State on Saturday before a crowd of 5,874 at Amsoil Arena — the largest audience the venue has seen since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Biondi, who had just two goals a year ago as a freshman, tallied his first game-winning goal with 9:50 remaining to give UMD a season-opening sweep of the Beavers following a 4-2 win Friday in Bemidji.
Biondi started the attack himself by picking the puck up at center ice and backhanding it across the blue line to junior wing Quinn Olson, who was along the boards. Olson then dished to Biondi, who was open in the middle.
“Yeah, that one felt good,” Biondi said of his game-winner. “I just ripped it and, luckily, it went in.”
The Bulldogs and Beavers traded goals in the second period, scoring within 31 seconds of each other to break the scoreless tie and ensure there wasn’t a repeat of the 0-0 battle between the two teams back on Oct. 14, 2017, in Duluth.
Fifth-year senior wing Kobe Roth scored on UMD’s third power play of the second period, burying a feed by senior captain Noah Cates to give UMD the brief advantage. BSU responded on a rush shortly after, however, as senior wing Alex Ierullo was able to evade a Bulldog block and slide the puck past UMD junior goaltender Ryan Fanti.
Roth — who later in the second had to race back to make a diving poke check on a Bemidji breakaway after getting caught up in the rush — said UMD didn’t have its best game Saturday, but the team stuck with it and got the sweep.
“It's never easy to sweep anybody, it's never easy to win on Saturdays in college hockey,” Roth said. “The first two games, it's awesome to get two wins. That's how you want to start.”
Fanti, who got the start Saturday after sophomore Zach Stejskal made 18 saves on 20 shots Friday, finished with 15 saves on 16 shots Saturday.
Fanti was aggressive playing the puck outside the crease on Saturday, getting himself into a number of sticky situations that reminded coach Scott Sandelin of another former UMD goaltender who used to wander from the crease to play the puck — Alex Stalock.
“Yeah, we had a couple anxious moments there, little Stalock moments,” Sandelin said. “I’m sure coach (Brant) Nicklin will have some discussions on those. … At the end of the day, (Fanti) only gave up one goal. It was good.
“I’m glad they both went in, I’m glad they both got wins, so it’s good moving forward.”
Minnesota Duluth 0-1-1—2
Bemidji State 0-1-0—1
2. BSU, Alex Ierullo (Kyle Looft), 13:06
Saves — Gavin Enright, BSU, 27; Ryan Fanti, UMD, 15.
Power play — BSU 0-3; UMD 1-4. Penalties — BSU 6-12; UMD 5-10.