DULUTH, Minn. – Besides last year’s national championship, things are going just about as good as they ever have for Minnesota Duluth.
Saturday night was just another example of that.
UMD ended its 2011 home schedule with another big win, this time beating Minnesota State 7-3 to complete their third-straight sweep at Amsoil Arena.
The Bulldogs are now on a ten-game unbeaten streak (8-0-2), are scoring goals at a ridiculous pace and are simply beating the you-know-what out of their opponents.
“Every team likes winning. We’ve been on a streak here, the guys are happy in the room and we’re all going to the rink to work hard everyday,” UMD’s two-time All-American Jack Connoly said.
Seven Bulldogs scored goals in the contest, four of which came during a 96-second stretch to begin the second-period, the second-shortest four-goal outburst in program history.
“I didn’t even see two of the goals,” coach Scott Sandelin said of the explosion to being the middle frame.
Neither did most the fans in the arena.
Perhaps the most important take away from Saturday’s game was the way UMD responded to Friday’s win. During their hot streak, the Bulldogs have been able to win easily on Fridays, but seem to struggle to put teams away on Saturday night’s rematch.
This game was the complete opposite.
Minnesota State came out with a lot of passion, which UMD expected. But, unlike some of their other games, the Bulldogs were able to respond quickly.
“We’ve been playing well on Fridays, but we’ve had trouble with teams on Saturdays,” Connolly said. “We wanted to match their intensity. It was a tight battle until we scored a few quick goals. We really put the pressure on them and opened it up, then cruised to a pretty nice win.”
After a scoreless first that lacked flow, Justin Crandall and David Grun perfectly executed a two-on-one to start the scoring just 1:40 into the second. JT Brown knocked in a backdoor pass on the power play 17 seconds later, then Caleb Herbert and Joe Basaraba scored in the next minute to put the game out of reach.
Mavericks coach Troy Jutting called a timeout to try and curb the energy in the building, and replaced starter Phil Cook between the pipes. It looked like his call had worked after the Mavs pulled to within two, but the Bulldogs pounced back on Minnesota State to end any hopes of a comeback.
“I don’t think I’ve been on a team where we scored that many goals that fast,” Brown said. “It definitely gave us a spark, and we kept riding that momentum throughout the game.”
Connolly, Jake Hendrickson and Brady Lamb netted goals for UMD in the third. The Bulldogs got consistently good shifts from all four lines, and the power play went three-for-ten with a whopping 19 shots on net.
“I liked the fact that every time they scored we responded,” Sandelin said. “We had a lot of scoring from a lot of different people. We capitalized on opportunities and went from there.”
Kenny Reiter, UMD’s backbone during their unbeaten streak, was buried in the box score, stopping 22 shots for his ninth win of the season.
Seven Bulldogs had multi-point games, and the defense played well, even though they were missing a body at the blue line after Chris Casto went down with an injury in the opening two minutes.
The Bulldogs will now have a week off before starting a long, long road trip that will keep them away from Amsoil Arena until late-January. And, even with the success, UMD doesn’t think it’s playing as well as it can.
“We’ve got to keep our focus during the break, but we’ve also just got to keep doing what we’re doing,” Connolly said. “I think we can get better every single day. There’s stuff we can clean up a little bit, and that will make us a better team.”
“We’ve yet to play out best hockey.”