Thumbs up, thumbs down, three stars: Olson, Shepard rise to the occasion in Bulldogs sweep of Gophers
Minnesota Duluth finished off a sweep of rival Minnesota on Saturday, winning 2-0 before a crowd of 6,655 at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Freshman wing Quinn Olson scored his first collegiate goal six minutes in and sophomore wing Jackson Cates picked up his second goal of the weekend and third of the season in the final minute, scoring on an empty net.
Senior goaltender Hunter Shepard made 21 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th of his career.
A full game recap can be found here.
Below are Saturday’s thumbs up, thumbs down and three stars from News Tribune college hockey reporter Matt Wellens.
Thumbs up to the Olson-Jacques-Puricelli line
Olson, sophomore center Jesse Jacques and freshman forward Brandon Purcelli may have been listed fourth on the UMD linechart Saturday, however, they were hands down the top forward trio.
That line was responsible for the lone goal — Jacques and Puricelli assisted Olson — until Cates clinched the win with an empty netter.
The trio was flying all over the ice tonight. They were pretty darn solid the night before in Minneapolis, too, with Puricelli scoring the second goal of the night and first of his career, with an assist from Olson on the play.
“It starts in practice, just talking to our linemates,” Olson said of the instant chemistry the three showed this weekend. “We started to make good plays in practice and it translates to the game.”
Olson cracked a rib and chipped a vertebrate in the Bulldogs’ regular season opener against UMass-Lowell on Oct. 11 in Duluth. He missed the next three games and returned to the lineup Friday in Minneapolis. The 18-year-old from Calgary said he thought he’d be out longer, but his recovery went quick.
Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin was happy to have the Boston Bruins’ 2019 third-round pick back in the lineup this weekend.
“He’s competitive, he’s smart. He brings a lot,” Sandelin said. “He’s a young, young kid but like I’ve said before, he plays the game with a lot of maturity. He’s going to help us a lot. Hopefully for him that’s a big confidence builder to get that first one and get back playing because we need all the bodies we can get.”
Thumbs down top the Bulldogs’ sloppiness with the puck
Not everything was roses in the Bulldogs’ locker room after sweeping the rival Gophers. Sandelin was once again unhappy with his team’s puck protection, something that has been an issue for UMD in the first three weeks of the season.
“We were sloppy with the puck tonight,” Sandelin said. “We weren’t hard enough on pucks. We threw a lot of pucks away with soft plays, which when you are playing good teams, you can’t. It fed into their game too. They like to play a fast game too.”
Those sloppy plays often led to Gophers breakaways, but thankfully Shepard was there to keep Minnesota off the scoreboard.
“We were playing with fire for awhile and Shep bailed us out,” Sandelin said. “That’s where you need your goaltender to win a game for you. Tonight he did that.”
Shepard, as he always does, gave credit to his teammates for playing strong in front of him. He did agree tonight was a night he needed to step up, though, as UMD was without sophomore wing Tanner Laderoute, freshman forward Brady Meyer and sophomore defenseman Hunter Lellig. All three are out with injuries.
Lellig’s injury is the most costly. He suffer a leg injury in practice that could keep him out for awhile and while UMD still has two other defensemen that could take his place in the lineup — senior Jarod Hilderman and sophomore Jake Rosenbaum — there seems to lack confidence in either right now as UMD rolled just five defenseman almost all weekend against the Gophers.
“You can tell we’re short on the back end right now. Guys are maybe a little tired,” Shepard said. “On nights like that, I might have to pick it up a little bit. That’s what I did. That’s part of being on a team, I guess.”
Matt’s Three Stars
3. UMD sophomore wing Jackson Cates: The elder Cates brother clinched the win with an empty netter, finishing the weekend with a goal and two assists.
2. UMD freshman wing Quinn Olson: The rookie has made an immediate impact in his return to the lineup, and immediately brought some scoring depth to the lineup.
1. UMD senior goaltender Hunter Shepard: In the words of Scott Sandelin: “Let’s not kid ourselves, our goalie was pretty good. He was the difference in the game for us.”