MINNEAPOLIS – Mix a team stuck for over 24 hours in a hotel with a solid opposing goalie and no luck on the power play and you have what Minnesota-Duluth experienced Sunday afternoon.
The Bulldogs, who were forced to walk around skyways in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday because they couldn’t get to Mariucci Arena to skate, had little energy early and couldn’t crack Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson when they found their legs on their way to a 2-2 tie with the Gophers.
Call it a lack of vigor or a lackadaisical approach in the opening 20 minutes, but either way, it wasn’t pretty.
“We looked like a team that sat around a hotel all day,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “I didn’t like the first period at all.”
Luckily for Minnesota-Duluth, the Gophers were only able to exploit the Bulldogs’ lax effort once, thanks mostly to goalie Aaron Crandall, who was rock-solid throughout the contest.
Crandall, who was pulled last Friday against Denver after allowing three soft goals, kept UMD in it early, then came up big in the clutch. He made 15 saves in the first period, and 34 on the night.
Most of the oomph the Bulldogs did have was used in the second period, when they were able to take a 2-1 lead after Jack Connolly’s late goal in the first and Mike Seidel’s snipe on an odd-man rush with nine minutes gone in the second.
Seidel, along with Keegan Flaherty and Dan DeLisle on UMD’s third line, could be credited with getting the momentum in the middle frame. Flaherty won ten of 15 draws, and produced a turnover after a laboring back-check that led to Seidel’s goal. DeLisle connected on some big hits, and the line was a nuisance for the Gophers in their own end.
“They had a good weekend. Keegan was good on faceoffs, Seidel had a big goal, and that’s what we need,” Sandelin said. “You can’t rely on just the other lines, I thought everybody played well in the second and third.”
But with every chance in the second came a big save from Patterson. UMD only had four minutes of power play time in the second period, but they managed seven shots, many of which came from the slot and made Patterson look like he was grabbing at dollar bills in a wind tunnel. However, the Bulldogs couldn’t find of the back of the net, and finished the night with 13 power play shots and no goals.
“It was kind of a tug-of-war out there,” Sandelin said. “You can blame it on the power play, or you can blame it on good penalty killing and goaltending.”
The back-and-forth lasted the final 20 minutes of regulation and all of overtime. After Jacob Cepis tied the score when he found himself behind the UMD defense, both teams had an abundance of chances.
The Gophers had a five-on-three that lasted 1:43 midway through the third, failed to score, then gave the Bulldogs a five-minute power play after Max Gardiner took a major penalty with a little over seven minutes to play. In overtime, Minnesota went a man up for the final 1:32 of the game, but barely managed to get a shot off.
“We wanted to play patient, and we didn’t want to play run-and-gun,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “I thought we played better tonight at times than we did Friday, but when both teams had their chances the goaltenders made some key saves.”
Patterson added 41 more saves to résumé Sunday. Jake Hansen scored Minnesota’s first goal, and Justin Holl, Kevin Wehrs, Nate Condon and Seth Helgeson tallied assists.
Flaherty, Justin Fontaine and Justin Faulk were credited with assists for the Bulldogs.
But UMD wishes they had another point where it really matters after the weekend.
“Coming down here, we were hoping for more than one point, but I guess at the end you have to settle for it,” UMD captain Mike Montgomery said. “Right now, we just have to look at it as the first half as a whole. We haven’t played out best hockey yet, and we need to build on what we have accomplished so far.”