UMD men's hockey: Bulldogs refuse to blame fatigue for first loss of NCHC Pod, a 4-1 defeat against Colorado College

After playing 3 games in 4 days, UMD will take 2 days off before seeing host Nebraska Omaha again on Wednesday.

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A shot by Colorado College forward Josiah Slavin (27) (right) gets past from left: Minnesota Duluth defenseman Hunter Lellig (8), forward Noah Cates (21), defenseman Connor Kelley (25) and goaltender Ryan Fanti (39) in the second period Sunday, Dec. 13, at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha. Tyler Schank / Forum News Service

Colorado College picked up its first win of the NCHC Pod on Sunday while league-leading Minnesota Duluth suffered its first defeat in a 4-1 victory for the Tigers at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Bulldogs, coming off a 4-1 win over Denver on Saturday, were playing their third game in four days and fifth game in eight days at the NCHC Pod.

Meanwhile, Sunday was the Tigers’ fourth game total of the Pod after a delayed start due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program in the leadup to the NCHC’s start. CC played Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday last week and were off Saturday.

Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin refused to use fatigue as an excuse for his team’s performance, however, on Sunday.


“Give CC credit,” Sandelin said. “They didn’t give us a lot. We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be, but give them credit. They played a strong game and probably deserved to win.”

A pair of special teams goals by junior wing and captain Grant Cruikshank allowed Colorado College to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

Cruikshank scored the first goal on a shorthanded breakaway, forcing a UMD turnover at the blue line and getting a shot off before junior wing Cole Koepke could run him down. Cruikshank’s second goal came on the power play off a puck that deflected off UMD senior defenseman Matt Cairns.

Cruikshank set up a third goal for the Tigers, 76 seconds into the second period, using a UMD neutral zone turnover to go on a second solo breakaway on Sunday afternoon. UMD sophomore goaltender Ryan Fanti made the initial save, but CC sophomore center Josiah Slavin was allowed to skate in to put away the rebound.

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Colorado College forward Grant Cruikshank (21) skates in to celebrate Josiah Slavin's goal on Minnesota Duluth in the second period Sunday at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha, Nebraska. (Tyler Schank /

“It’s one of those nights as a coach, you’re on the bench, and you’re going, ‘You know, this might not be our night,’” Sandelin said. “But I don’t want to discredit what CC did. They worked hard; they played hard. They did what you need to do when teams make mistakes.”


Freshman center Luke Loheit picked up the Bulldogs' lone goal in the final 64 seconds, with freshmen wings Blake Biondi of Hermantown and Luke Mylymok getting assists for their first college points.

Fanti made his sixth start in seven games for the Bulldogs in the Pod, finishing with 23 saves.

Colorado College freshman goaltender Dominic Basse — a 19-year-old, 6-foot-6, 2010 sixth-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks — made his first collegiate start Sunday and finished with 30 saves.

The Bulldogs and Tigers were originally scheduled to play twice in the Pod this month; however, their second meeting was postponed to 2021 due to the Tigers’ late arrival in Omaha. The rematch will happen at Amsoil Arena in Duluth on a date yet to be determined.

Thumbs up to two days off for UMD

After playing every other day last week and on back-to-back days this weekend, the schedule will ease up for UMD’s final week in the Pod.

The Bulldogs will get two days off before playing the Mavericks at 3:35 p.m. on Wednesday, and then another two days off before closing out the Pod against North Dakota at noon on Saturday.


Sandelin said the team will take the rest of Sunday and then all of Monday off while he and the coaching staff will begin preparing for a second and final Pod game against the Mavericks. They’ll all then return to the ice Tuesday for what the coach said will be “a good practice.”

“We need to rest and reset; there’s no question,” Sandelin said. “Right now the guys just need to get away. I told them, ‘This game, just flush it; it’s done. You got to move on.’ We’ll see CC again in the second half.”

RELATED: Photos: Minnesota Duluth vs. Colorado College Sunday, Dec. 13, at NCHC Pod

When the NCHC built the Pod schedule, it made sure teams played only one weekday game during a school’s final exam week. That happens to be this week for UMD, and the rest couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bulldogs.

Bulldogs junior center and captain Noah Cates said the team was “a little fatigued” today, but they wanted to play and would have done whatever it takes to play after COVID-19 delayed this season by two months and cut last season short.

“It was a fun stretch,” Cates said of the previous two weeks. “We would have liked to cap it off with a better one. The guys felt good; we just felt some bounces went against us, and we lost some energy from those bounces.”

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From left: Minnesota Duluth forward Tanner Laderoute (13), Colorado College defensemen Nicklas Andrews (28) and Bryan Yoon (4), and Minnesota Duluth forward Jesse Jacques (18) vie for the puck near Colorado College goaltender Dominic Basse (22) in the first period Sunday at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha, Nebraska. (Tyler Schank /


Thumbs down to UMD playing from behind

Sunday marked the sixth time in seven games the Bulldogs fell behind in the NCHC Pod, but this was the first time UMD failed to come back to win or tie.

The Bulldogs’ previous five deficits were all by a single goal. They rallied to beat Omaha and Miami after falling behind in the first period, same after going down 1-0 to Denver in the second period on Dec. 2.

North Dakota led by one goal in the third against UMD on Thursday, only for the Bulldogs to tie the game late and win a shootout.

“It’s always tough climbing back from a hole,” Cates said. “We did it earlier, kind of when our energy was a little better. Today would have been nice playing with a lead, being in control and dictating this game. Hats off to them for getting that lead and staying with it.”

The Tigers' first two goals came within 1:23 of each other late in the first, and a third goal came in the opening minutes of the second.

Sandelin said it’s likely fatigue set in mentally for his team Sunday after they faced a 2-0 deficit going into the intermission.

“It’s like, ‘Oh, this is a bigger hill,’” Sandelin said. “You never want to play from behind, but I think the first one was livable. The second one, it makes a bigger hill to climb. I don’t care who you’re playing, it makes it difficult, but we had 40 minutes of hockey left. We didn’t come out and start the second period very well.”


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Minnesota Duluth goaltender Ryan Fanti (39) flips in the air as Colorado College forward Logan Will (20) collides with him after a missed shot on goal in the third period Sunday at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha. (Tyler Schank /

Matt’s Three Stars

3. CC goaltender Dominic Basse — Was 64 seconds away from pitching a shutout in his first start.

2. CC sophomore center Josiah Slavin — Key goal in the opening minutes of the second period to put UMD down 3-0.

1. CC junior wing Grant Cruikshank — Scored a pair of special teams goal in the first and set up a dagger at the start of the second.


Minnesota Duluth 0-0-1—1

Colorado College 2-1-1—4

First period

1. CC, Grant Cruikshank 2, 16:00 (sh)


2. CC, Cruikshank 3 (Jack Millar, Ben Copeland), 17:23 (pp)

Second period

3. CC, Josiah Slavin 1 (Cruikshank), 1:16

Third period

4. CC, Troy Conzo 1 (Copeland, Brian Hawkinson), 10:13

5. UMD, Luke Loheit 2 (Blake Biondi, Luke Mylymok), 18:56

Saves — Ryan Fanti, UMD, 6-9-8—23; Dominic Basse, CC, 9-11-10—30.

Power plays — UMD 0-2; CC 1-1; Penalties — UMD 2-4; CC 3-6.

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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