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Thumbs up, thumbs down, three stars: Bulldogs fourth liners seize opportunity as injury bug hits

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Fourth-ranked Minnesota Duluth fell 3-2 on Friday to Western Michigan at Lawson Ice Arena as Broncos senior center Colt Conrad scored with 9.9 seconds left in regulation.

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Fourth-ranked Minnesota Duluth fell 3-2 on Friday to Western Michigan at Lawson Ice Arena as Broncos senior center Colt Conrad scored with 9.9 seconds left in regulation.

Freshman center Jesse Jacques and sophomore center Justin Richards scored for the Bulldogs, giving them a 2-1 lead going into the third period.

A full game recap can be found here.

Below are the thumbs up and thumbs down Friday from News Tribune college hockey writer Matt Wellens, plus his three stars of the night.

Thumbs up to UMD's fourth liners

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The Bulldogs started the night minus two of their top six forwards. They finished the night minus a third.

In response to the injuries, UMD coach Scott Sandelin said some players stepped up, others didn't.

Count UMD's fourth line of Jade Miller, Jesse Jacques and Kobe Bender among the players who stepped up Friday.

The fourth line was the trio that got UMD on the scoreboard with 1:08 to play in the first. Jacques took a pass from sophomore defenseman Matt Anderson and buried it for his first NCAA goal. Bender also registered an assist on the play for just his second college point.

"I thought Jesse Jacques and that line had a really good game," Richards said. "He scored that goal in the first period to keep us in it after Western was really bringing it to us. That line was really good tonight."

It was important that line had a good night Friday, as all three are battling for a spot in the lineup.

Miller, who has played in nine games now, has been rotating with Jacques, who's played in seven, as the fourth-line center. Bender was making just his fourth appearance of the season and 13th in the last two years.

It's a hungry group that would wisely seize the opportunity given to them as long as the injury bug lasts.

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Thumbs down to UMD's third period

It didn't appear this way to me up in the press box on Friday night in Kalamazoo, but according to Richards, the Bulldogs let up in the third period against the Broncos.

Here's what he said after the game, full quote, with the bolded part for emphasis added by me:

"We didn't play a 60-minute game tonight. We didn't start the game on time," Richards said. "They got that first goal and so they had a lot of momentum right there in the first period. We got our feet going a little bit and we started establishing our game. We took over in the second period, but they got that goal right as the penalty ended in the third period. That gave them a lot of momentum. I feel like we let up a little bit. The end result is they scored with 10 seconds left. There's nothing you can do about it. Like you said, we were on the other end a couple weeks ago. We just have to bounce back tomorrow and be pissed off about this loss."

To me the Bulldogs looked like a team that was physically and mentally gassed from the injuries that have hit in the last seven days. The amount is nothing close to last fall when they were without five at one point, but the magnitude of these injuries seems greater.

All three injuries are to top-six forwards: sophomore wing Nick Swaney, senior wing and captain Parker Mackay and senior center Peter Krieger. All three are among the Bulldogs top five scorers as well.

In their absence, UMD needs other players to step up. Jacques did on Friday. Will anyone join him on Saturday?

Matt's Three Stars

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3. Bulldogs freshman center Jesse Jacques: He picked up his first college goal Friday and did a nice job filling Krieger's spot when the senior center went out in the second.

2. Broncos junior center Hugh McGing: Four seconds after the Broncos power play expired, he tied the game at 2-2 in the third period.

1. Broncos senior center Colt Conrad: He got open on the backside of Bulldogs goalie Hunter Shepard and buried the game-winner with 9.9 seconds left on the clock.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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