DULUTH, Minn. – Since being swept by Minnesota on the second weekend of the season, Minnesota Duluth has taken its play to a new level.
UMD is outworking its opponents, plain and simple. They are being stubborn around the net, finding ways to get greasy goals. They are shutting people down in the dangerous areas in their own end. Most importantly, goaltending is lights-out.
UMD wasn’t at the top of its game this weekend, but the persistence continued.
Although the Bulldogs couldn’t find the back of the net on their first 20-some shots, including six on some great power plays in the first and second periods, UMD pressed on, scored three-straight and held on to sweep Alaska-Anchorage, 3-1.
“Things are going our way right now, and we’ve been finding more wins,” JT Brown, who had two assists, said.
Kenny Reiter stopped 33 of 34 shots, upping his record to 7-2-2 on the year. He played a solid, simple game, giving Anchorage second looks only a handful of times.
When Reiter did give up a rare bad rebound, the Bulldogs, who locked up the slot all weekend, cleared it to the wall or chipped it to center.
As if the lockdown coverage wasn’t enough, UMD is getting production from its big guns at the other end of the rink, too.
Travis Oleksuk’s league-leading 11th goal was the eventual game-winner, two-time All-American Jack Connolly’s goal extended his point-steak to ten games and Brown could have scored a few goals on several grade-A chances.
Anchorage, who finished Friday’s contest with the better of the play and the momentum to go with it, opened the game by dominating UMD in the first ten minutes.
Eric Scheid put the Seawolves up 1-0, ending Reiter’s shutout streak at 166:45, a school record.
From there, the Bulldogs put their heads down and stowed their mettle.
“We knew they’d come out firing, but we came out sluggish,” freshman defenseman Derik Johnson said. “After the first goal we started to turn it on, played really well for the last 40 minutes and found a way to win.”
Good shifts from the fourth line sparked UMD all night, killing any momentum UAA gained from little flurries in the UMD zone – another example of how UMD is playing the best it has all year.
Johnson got the Bulldogs on the board at the midway point of the contest when his shot from the slot snuck past Chris Kamal, who made 33 saves of his own in a losing effort.
Oleksuk buried on the power play to put UMD up for good just four minutes later, and Connolly dangled through the entire Anchorage team for the put-away marker with ten minutes to play.
With the sweep, the Bulldogs have 11 points in the WCHA, good for a second-place tie. Struggling Minnesota State comes to Duluth next weekend, the last home series the Bulldogs have until January.
UMD knows it needs to have a big weekend before the long absence from the Twin Ports.
“We have to keep working hard, giving 60-minute efforts,” Brown said. “Every game is big in this league.”