DULUTH, Minn. – When a team is playing with the confidence Minnesota Duluth currently has, things usually go as planned.
The Bulldogs reinforced that notion on Friday night, exploding for four goals in the opening period on their way to a 5-0 win against Alaska-Anchorage at Amsoil Arena. The win extended UMD’s unbeaten streak to seven games, the longest since they opened the 2010-11 season 6-0-2.
“A big first period goes a long way in this league,” Bulldog forward Joe Basaraba said. “We have a lot of smiles on our faces right now, but we need to keep plugging away.”
Basaraba, Chris Casto and Jack Connolly scored for UMD during a two-minute flurry in the first, chasing Seawolves’ starting goalie Rob Gunderson after only seven shots. Jake Hendrickson welcomed Chris Kamal to the contest with a goal six-minutes later, giving the Bulldogs a huge lead to sit on.
For most of the second and third periods, the Bulldogs seemed content doing just that.
After being outshot 15-4 in the first, the Seawolves found their energy in the middle period. They forced UMD goalie Kenny Reiter to make some good saves, and started being the pesky, physical squad they usually are.
“It’s nice to get off to a nice start against teams like Anchorage, but I wasn’t really happy with how we finished,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “We showed good spurts, but overall we need to be a lot better than we were for 60-minutes.”
Even though the Seawolves struggled to sustain offensive zone pressure, they did outshoot UMD 23-16 in the final 40 minutes, possibly giving them a mental boost going into the series finale on Saturday.
“I was hoping we’d get better as the game went on,” Sandelin said. “We know we need to be better, and I’m glad Reiter showed up.”
Reiter finished with 27 saves for his second-straight shutout and ninth of his career, tying him atop the all-time UMD shutout list with former All-American Alex Stalock. After starting the year 1-2, Reiter has backstopped the Bulldogs in each game during their 5-0-2 run, boosting his goals against average and save percentage in the process.
“I’m seeing the puck well, and the guys are playing well in front of me,” Reiter said. “I was focused throughout the game tonight.”
Basaraba opened the scoring 4:38 in with a one-timer that beat Gunderson low after a perfect saucer pass from Connolly found it’s way through several UAA sticks. Casto floated a shot through traffic that bounced in just 30 seconds later, and Connolly batted home a power play goal before the seven-minute mark.
Hendrickson put the Bulldogs up 4-0 six-minutes later, giving UMD and Reiter more than enough cushion.
Travis Oleksuk scored the final goal of the contest, his tenth of the year. UMD’s power play went two-for-three, the Bulldogs were perfect shorthanded and Connolly and Brady Lamb each had two assists.
However, UMD coaches and players know they must play a more complete game tomorrow night, as UAA is certain to come out hungry for it’s first points in WCHA play.
“They pressed pretty hard in the third period,” Reiter said. “We’re going to look at some video and try to patch things up so they don’t have those stints tomorrow.”