Fifth-ranked Minnesota Duluth not only finished off a nonconference weekend sweep of No. 4 Minnesota on Saturday, the Bulldogs continued their post-realignment dominance over the Golden Gophers via a 2-1 victory before a crowd of 7,596 at Amsoil Arena — the second-largest to see the Bulldogs play at home.
Since UMD left for the NCHC and Minnesota for the Big Ten in 2013-14, the Bulldogs are 13-3-2 against their former WCHA rival, including 12-1-1 in the last 14 meetings.
“That’s a great weekend for us, great weekend,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “I’m really, really proud of our kids for battling. We knew it was going to be a tough hockey game, we knew they were going to be a better hockey team. It was nice to get the goals, because I don’t think we were the better team in the first period, maybe even the second.
“It’s tough to beat good teams twice. It’s tough to beat anybody twice, but especially good hockey teams.”
Bulldogs senior wing Tanner Laderoute and sophomore wing Blake Biondi scored in the first period to give UMD a 2-0 lead that held up until midway through the third period, when Gophers sophomore wing Mason Nevers deflected a shot into the UMD net.
Biondi’s goal with 2:16 to play in the first period was the second of the weekend — and third of the season — for the Hermantown native after he gave UMD a 1-0 lead 1:53 into Friday’s 5-3 win in Minneapolis.
“Just playing in the games is nuts to me,” said Biondi, the lifelong Bulldogs fan who grew up cheering against the Gophers. “They packed it, then a full house tonight. It’s special to play these guys, a really historic rival. It’s fun, that’s what it is. It’s awesome.”
Laderoute’s goal came off a shot by sophomore defenseman Wyatt Kaiser that had pinballed off a player or two. Laderoute later had a key shot block in the third period — taking a puck to the side of his knee — that sent him limping to the bench, and then into the locker room.
Nevers scored shortly after for Minnesota, giving Laderoute the motivation to battle through the pain and help his team finish off what it started.
“I heard them score right after that block,” Laderoute said. “I just knew that it was going to be a big game and our line has been that defensive line the last couple minutes. So I just knew that I had to do everything I could to try to get back out there and help.”
Gophers fifth-year senior goalie Jack LaFontaine made 24 saves while UMD junior goaltender Ryan Fanti, starting for the second consecutive night with sophomore Zach Stejskal out with an injury, finished with 28 saves.
Sandelin said Fanti was a “difference maker” for the Bulldogs, bailing the team out on breakdowns.
Gophers coach Bob Motzko thought the same of Fanti on Saturday in Duluth.
“I hate losing two games in a weekend, I can tell you that, but we played a lot better tonight,” said Motzko, who is 1-4-1 as coach of the Gophers against UMD. “Their first goal bounced off three or four guys and got in there, and they didn’t have many quality chances, and we did, I felt. Give their goaltender the nod tonight. He was the best player on the ice, because we definitely had our chances.”
Minnesota Duluth 2-0-0—2
1. UMD, Tanner Laderoute (Wyatt Kaiser, Connor Kelley), 10:51
3. MN, Mason Nevers (Ryan Johnson, Ben Meyers), 6:26
Saves — Jack LaFontaine, MN, 24; Ryan Fanti, UMD, 28.
Power play — MN 0-3; UMD 0-2. Penalties — MN 2-4; UMD 3-6.