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UMD men's hockey: Bulldogs fall out of first in NCHC, have win streak snapped in loss at Western Michigan

The Bulldogs run ends at six-straight wins after the 4-0 defeat in Kalamazoo, Michigan. North Dakota beats Denver 3-0 in Grand Forks to take a two-point lead on UMD in the league standings.

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Western Michigan snapped Minnesota Duluth's six-game winning streak on Friday, Feb. 12 with a 4-0 victory in Kalazamazoo, Michigan. (Tyler Schank / 2020 File / The Rink Live)

The six-game winning streak that propelled Minnesota Duluth to the top of the NCHC came to a crashing halt on Friday in Kalamazoo, Michigan, via a 4-0 loss to Western Michigan in league play at Lawson Arena.

Game 2 of the weekend series is at 3:05 p.m. Saturday back at Lawson with the Bulldogs sitting second in the league, two-points back of North Dakota following the Fighting Hawks 3-0 home win Friday against Denver.

Bulldogs senior defenseman and assistant captain Louie Roehl said Friday was one of those nights when his team could sense things just weren’t going their way, but they need to do a better job of battling through that adversity against a Broncos team that was in their face from start to finish.

“We just learned what it takes to win a game,” Roehl said. “We didn’t do the little things right tonight and if we get back to that, we’ll be fine.”

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Senior wing Josh Passolt scored a pair of goals for the Broncos, while freshman goaltender Alex Aslanidis made 24 saves for his first collegiate shutout.

It was just the second time all season UMD was shut out, with the first being the game before the win streak started — a 1-0 loss at home to St. Cloud State.

In addition to the win streak — which started with a sweep of Western on Jan. 23-24 in Duluth — Bulldogs forwards Cole Koepke and Nick Swaney both had six-game point streaks stopped Friday. Koepke was also riding a five-game goal streak.

Breakaways and odd-man rushes — situations where Koepke and Swaney both thrive — were nonexistent Friday for UMD. Junior center and captain Noah Cates credited a Broncos team that played hard and disciplined for making that happen.

“When we can’t get quick plays out of our zone and get into the neutral zone, it’s tough for us,” Cates said. “They had good sticks and were hard on our wingers to not let us get out of the zone.”

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Western took a 2-0 lead into the third period after scoring twice in the second with help from power plays.

Passolt got Western on the board 5:46 into the second by tipping a blast by junior defenseman Michael Joyaux a second before UMD senior wing Nick Swaney stepped out of the penalty box. Junior wing Cole Gallant then scored an unofficial power-play goal by finishing an odd-man rush for Western a mere six seconds after UMD senior defenseman Matt Anderson was released.

The Bulldogs had an opportunity to tie the game in the closing minutes of the second period by going on a 5-on-3 advantage for the final 1:56 before the second intermission. Aslanidis made a pair of left pad saves during the kill, denying UMD senior wing Kobe Roth and junior center Jackson Cates on the back door both times.

“It was one of those games where we were a little bit off. I don't know if to we were certainly bearing down enough,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “Give them credit. They played a really good game. They were the hungrier team and the more determined team tonight.”

Thumbs up to Western Michigan

Not every Bulldog was on board Friday at Lawson Ice Arena, there were some passengers, Sandelin said.

However, the coach didn’t want to criticize those passengers in the postgame. Instead, he wanted to give credit to a Broncos team that, while out of the NCHC regular season title chase, has shaken it up with back-to-back wins over Penrose Cup contenders UMD and St. Cloud State.

“I thought they played a great game,” Sandelin said. “They did what they do in this building and put pressure on us all over the rink. They forced us into turnover and we didn’t handle it very well.”

Neither team had many scoring chances Friday, but Western was able to capitalize on theirs while the Bulldogs were not.

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The best example of that was the Broncos' third goal Friday, and second of the game by Passolt. It came 6:39 into the third and right after a barrage of shots by the Bulldogs. Aslanidis made saves on Koby Bender, Jackson Cates and Wyatt Kaiser before Tom Washe blocked a shot by Luke Loheit on a dominating shift by UMD.

But Passolt won a race to the cleared puck and quickly one-timed it past UMD sophomore goalie Ryan Fanti to make it 3-0 and put UMD away.

“We ran into a team today who was much hungrier and much more determined to win the races, the battles,” Sandelin said. “We didn’t capitalize and they did.”

Thumbs down to the Bulldogs power play

Friday in Kalamazoo was the second game in a row the Bulldogs failed to convert on a two-minute 5-on-3 advantage — four seconds of Joyaux’s interference penalty and Drew Worrad’s cross check carried over to the third — with UMD coming up empty at the end of the first period on Saturday in the 3-1 win over Miami.

The Bulldogs did put five shots on the Western net during the 5-on-3, but again, could not capitalize when they needed it the most.

“We were generating our chances, but maybe a little more east-west with the goalie movement,” Noah Cates said. “Taking advantage is the biggest thing. If we had gotten one there, that would have been huge for us going into the third. We need to take advantage, get some more shots or some quick plays through the middle of the ice.”

UMD’s power play finished the night 0-for-5 (the final chance was 19 seconds), generating eight shots on goal during its 6:19 on the ice.

Matt’s Three Stars

3. WMU junior wing Cole Gallant — Had one goal, giving Western a 2-0 lead late in the second period.

2. WMU freshman goaltender Alex Aslanidis — Made 24 saves for his first collegiate shutout.

1. WMU senior wing Josh Passolt — Two goals and an assist, he even set up Gallant’s goal Friday.

Boxscore

Minnesota Duluth 0-0-0—0

Western Michigan 0-2-2—4

First Period

No scoring.

Second Period

1. WMU, Josh Passolt 6 (Michael Joyaux, Luke Grainger), 5:45 (pp)

2. WMU, Cole Gallant 3 (Passolt, Aidan Fulp), 17:32

Third period

3. WMU, Passolt 7 (Hugh Larkin), 6:39

4. WMU, Ethen Frank 11, 18:25 (en)

Saves — Ryan Fanti, UMD, 4-6-9—19; Alex Aslanidis, WMU, 6-5-13—24

Power plays — UMD 0-5; WMU 1-3. Penalties — UMD 4-8; WMU 6-12.

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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