MINNEAPOLIS- The Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs began the third period in great shape Friday night at Mariucci Arena. They were ahead in the shot department and scored 3 goals in the second period – including Austin Farley’s second of the game with 44 seconds left in the period – to tie the game at 3.
But as has been the norm lately for UMD, it wasn’t enough over the final 20 minutes.
Gopher sophomore Kyle Rau scored the game-winning goal with 6:35 remaining as Minnesota (21-6-4, 13-6-4 WCHA) defeated the Bulldogs 5-3 in the first of a two-game series. The loss left Minnesota-Duluth (10-7-4, 8-13-4 WCHA) winless in their last 8 games and looking to once again right the ship.
Nate Condon began the scoring for Minnesota 4:05 into the game when his shot trickled past Bulldogs goalie Matt McNeely and crossed the line on a second effort. That was followed by a shorthanded goal by Erik Haula 7:50 into the second before Justin Crandall evened things out 27 seconds later on the same power play. The two teams once again traded quick goals 5 minutes later as Farley tied the game at 2 and Sam Warning responded to give the Gophers back the lead before the UMD freshman’s second of the game near the end of the period.
Giving up a goal in the last minute of a period can be a rallying cry for the team who scores but Minnesota never allowed that. Instead, they out-shot Minnesota-Duluth 16-4 over the final 20 minutes and made McNeely, who made 29 saves, work. Their persistence was eventually rewarded with Rau’s 14th goal of the season and first in 8 games. Haula then added his second goal of the game on an empty-netter with 5.4 seconds remaining to seal the deal.
What I saw:
-Minnesota-Duluth came out of the gate looking for a gritty goal and was all over the crease for most of the first 40 minutes. It paid off against Minnesota on the power play as they moved the puck well and were able to catch Adam Wilcox, who made 26 saves while fighting the puck, and the rest of the Gopher penalty kill off-guard with a pair of goals off rebounds. They didn’t match that effort in the third, but the Bulldogs did become the first team to score 2 power play goals against Minnesota this season.
-At the same time, Minnesota was passive during stretches before doing a better job crashing the net in the third. Although they scored three goals in the opening 40 minutes, that time felt like a battle between finesse (UMD) and skill (UMN) with no overlap. That changed in the third period and I don’t think it was a coincidence Rau’s goal occurred in front of the net off a deflection.
What I thought:
-Austin Farley has a nose for the net. The freshman forward had 4 shots on goal and was Minnesota-Duluth’s most noticeable player throughout the game despite his 5’9″, 170 lb size.
-Sam Warning’s goal was Sportscenter top 10 material. After dangling Andy Welinski, he then skated across the slot while moving the puck to his backhand and beat McNeely.
Words don’t do it justice so here’s a link to the video. Minnesota has had its share of highlight-reel goals this season. Warning’s goal Friday might not be the best, but at the very least it is in the discussion.
-As much as taking the #2 team in the country to the brink can be a moral victory, that’s a disappointing way to finish for Minnesota-Duluth. UMD head coach Scott Sandelin seemed to have taken it that way as well and honestly I think that is a good thing. The third period hasn’t been kind to them lately to the point where this has become the norm. There were chances for the Bulldogs to win (they hit a couple posts, held the Minnesota PP off the board and the Gophers had a long stretch of being unable to connect on passes) and if they don’t treat it like they will have trouble getting over the hump.
-Zach Budish deserves a lot of credit for setting up Erik Haula on the junior forward’s shorthanded goal. Budish out-hustled a Bulldog defenseman after a lazy back pass and got there before feeding the Pori, Finland native in front of the net.
What they said:
-Scott Sandelin on Condon’s goal, which was reviewed: “Not from what I saw. We have replay and I’m sure they got it right.”
-Sandelin on Farley: “The puck seems to find him. It’s good he’s doing well. He’s had a good year for a freshman, it’s not easy for a young kid.”
-Minnesota head coach Don Lucia: “Sometimes you get a 2-0 lead and feel like it’s almost game over. I never felt like that way tonight. I thought it was one of those games where they were doing plenty to be in that game. We may have been ahead at that point but we just made a couple plays that we finished on. The score the way ended up was more indicative of the way the game was played.”
-Sam Warning on his goal: “I have to give some credit to Christian Isackson. I meet him after practice and just work on some moves that we would see (Pavel) Datsyuk do.”
-Kyle Rau on getting a gritty goal: “I’ll take it (the goal) anyway I can get it. It was just nice to find the net again, and hopefully we can keep it up tomorrow.”
-Minnesota played at home for the first time since January 25th following a 3-2-0 road trip to Mankato, St. Cloud, Madison and Chicago.
-Minnesota-Duluth has been out-scored 8-0 in the third period of their last 4 Friday night games.
-Attendance was announced as 10,078.
-The two teams play at Mariucci Arena again tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. CT. It will be televised on BTN.