DULUTH, Minn. – Night-in and night-out, Minnesota Duluth is doing the same things. In fact, the Bulldogs are starting to get unoriginal and repetitive in their plan of attack.
Don’t expect UMD to change anytime soon, though. The Bulldogs are on a roll.
Kenny Reiter added another methodical win to his résumé, freshman Caleb Herbert scored twice and added an assist and the Bulldogs beat Minnesota State, 5-2, in the opening game of their WCHA series at Amsoil Arena.
The win pushed the Bulldogs’ unbeaten streak to nine games (7-0-2), the program’s best stretch since it went 13-0-1 over 14 games in 2003-04. It also marked the 200th win for head coach Scott Sandelin behind the UMD bench.
“It feels good [getting 200 wins], but I’m really just happy with the two points. You can’t complain when you score five goals” Sandelin joked.
Jack Connolly scored to extend his points streak to 11-straight contests, JT Brown had two points and Travis Oleksuk recorded his 12th marker of the year.
Reiter did what he’s been doing best lately, especially during a first period that heavily favored Minnesota State in shots and scoring chances – he made huge, timely saves.
Reiter made 21 saves in the first period alone, including several from the edge of the crease, allowing UMD to escape with a 1-0 lead on Herbert’s fifth of the season. In all, Reiter finished with 34 saves to up his record to 8-2-2 after starting the year 1-2.
“We got a bit lucky on their last power play in the first period; we easily could have been down a couple goals,” Sandelin said. “Reiter was really good, especially in the first. In this league you have to grind out games.”
The Bulldogs woke up in the second period, started finding their lanes to the net and capitalized on their chances.
Brown started the scoring when made a great play on a 2-on-1 to give UMD a 2-0 lead 5 minutes into the second. As he skated in on Maverick goalie Austin Lee, he faked a shot, got Lee to bite and slide it around him on the backhand for his fourth goal of the year.
Ten minutes later, Herbert broke the game open when his centering attempt hit a Maverick skate and bounced in for his second of the night.
Just like that, UMD was up 3-0, even though they hadn’t seen much of the offensive zone in the penalty-filled, flow-lacking opening two periods.
“Yeah, there wasn’t much flow tonight,” Reiter said.
Again, like it has so often during the unbeaten streak, UMD’s persistence continues to pay off. Even though Minnesota State scored early in the final period, the Bulldogs jumped on opportunities, turned a 3-1 game into a 5-1 contest in just two minutes and coasted to another victory.
“We were on our heels to start, and Reiter had to bail us out,” Herbert said. “Coach comes in between the first and second periods and tells us to keep playing our game, finish our shifts and stick with it. That’s what we did.”
With Minnesota’s loss at St. Cloud State, the Bulldogs now find themselves only one point out of first place in the conference. UMD has its final home game of 2011 tomorrow night, meaning they could be alone at the top of the WCHA with a win.
“We have to limit turnovers tomorrow, and come out better,” Herbert said. “If we continue to be hard on pucks, we’ll keep winning games.”