UMD hockey notebook: Bulldogs taking lessons from Merrimack series to Maine

As much as Minnesota Duluth senior center Jared Thomas wanted to focus on the positives of last Friday's 5-5 overtime tie with Merrimack, the veteran couldn't look past the elephant in the room that night -- penalties.

As much as Minnesota Duluth senior center Jared Thomas wanted to focus on the positives of last Friday's 5-5 overtime tie with Merrimack, the veteran couldn't look past the elephant in the room that night - penalties.

"Every game we've lost we've shot ourselves in the foot," Thomas said after Friday's game in which UMD led 4-2 late. "We're learning, but at some point you got to take those opportunities and not give them away like that.

"After tonight, we certainly have to address it."

On Saturday, that elephant was sent packing from Amsoil Arena as a much more disciplined Bulldogs team crushed the Warriors 7-2 thanks to strong penalty killing and a five-goal outburst in the third period. Now the Bulldogs hope to take that momentum and the lessons learned from Merrimack into this weekend's series against another Hockey East foe in Maine.

The Bulldogs and Black Bears will square off at 6 p.m. Friday and 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Alfond Arena, in Orono, Maine.


"That's the third period we wanted to have," Thomas said after Saturday's win. "We couldn't do it (Friday), so we came back tonight and got it done."

The four penalties for eight minutes on Saturday against Merrimack matched the season-low set a week before in a 0-0 home tie with Bemidji State. Those games also mark the two times this season UMD has been perfect on the penalty kill, going 4-for-4 against the Warriors and 3-for-3 against the Beavers.

Thomas and Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin referenced three games Saturday in which penalties cost them wins: the 5-5 overtime tie, and losses to Bemidji State and Michigan Tech. In those three games, UMD committed a combined 20 penalties for 51 minutes while going 9-for-18 on the penalty kill.

After Saturday, the Bulldogs hope nights like those are behind them.

"This is a learning process throughout the year," Sandelin said Saturday. "Last night we learned about discipline and how that can hurt your team. That was really the message last night. Hopefully we learned from it and understand the situations in the game. I thought our guys did a good job of that tonight and now hopefully we can move forward."

Swaney finds back of net

After tallying assists in his first three collegiate games, freshman wing Nick Swaney found the back of the net for the first time this weekend, scoring a goal each night against Merrimack to finish the weekend with two goals and two assists.
Swaney credited his new linemates, sophomore wing Joey Anderson and junior center Peter Krieger, for the boost offensively.

"Playing with Joey and Kriegs this weekend, it was good," Swaney said. "They are great players and setting me up well. I got a couple opportunities on the power play. It was good."


Swaney was named NCHC rookie of the week for his effort, a word Sandelin used Saturday to describe the crucial power-play goal Swaney scored in the third period to give the Bulldogs a 4-2 lead. It was a give-and-go with senior captain Karson Kuhlman that involved Swaney diving to get past a pair of Merrimack defenders to knock the puck in.

Swaney totaled 71 goals in two-plus seasons for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League before coming to UMD. Those numbers are why Sandelin said it was just a matter of time before Swaney started scoring.

"He's been getting chances every game," Sandelin said. "He's hit some pipes and some of those things. He's a shooter and likes to shoot the puck. For him, as long as you're getting those chances, we knew he was going to start getting goals at some point. It might not be in bunches, but he's still going to score for us."

Shepard in line to start Friday

Sophomore Nick Deery was the first UMD goaltender to start back-to-back games this season, backstopping the Bulldogs to a 0-0 tie against Bemidji State and the 5-5 tie with Merrimack.

Sandelin hinted Tuesday - using the word "probably" - that sophomore Hunter Shepard would be next after the Cohasset native stopped 20 of 22 shots in Saturday's win.

Deery has a .871 save percentage and 2.86 goals-against average with one shutout in three starts, but is 0-1-2. Shepard, with a 2-1 record, sports an .847 save percentage and 3.01 GAA.

"It's up to them. If one of them wants to take it and run with it for a while, that'd be good with me," Sandelin said.

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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