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Last Friday night, when the UMD men’s hockey team thrashed Maine’s rebuilding Black Bears, there was a special guest in the stands. Todd Richards, who played four impressive seasons for the University of Minnesota, went on into pro hockey, and wound up as head coach of the Minnesota Wild, lost that job in a series of tumultuous management decisions after Jacques Lemaire retired.
Richards landed on his feet as an assistant coach at Tampa Bay. The Lightning played at the Wild’s St. Paul home on Saturday night, so Todd came in with the team, and had arranged for an old friend, Bo Nickoloff, to drive Todd and his wife and parents up to Duluth and back so they could watch the UMD game and check out second-line sophomore center Justin Richards, who happens to be Todd’s son.
Justin Richards came to the right college, because coach Scott Sandelin has established a reputation for seeing things he likes in players and then sticking with them as they develop, even if it takes a while. He did it for four years with Jared Thomas, who didn’t score a lot but worked hard both offensively and defensively, and his solid citizenship led to a chance to keep playing. As a senior, he not only kept playing, he scored his 11th goal of the season at Excel Center to give UMD a 2-1 victory over Notre Dame in the NCAA championship game.
Justin Richards seems cut from the same mold, a tireless worker who gets to the right places at the right times, and makes his line better. As a center, he failed to score a single goal in his freshman year. He started this season and kept working hard, centering freshman flash Cole Koepke and captain Parker Mackay. The line has arguably been UMD’s best through the early stages of this season, and I had told Todd Richards that I agreed with that assessment.
At any rate, with his family watching live, Justin Richards scored his first collegiate goal in the 8-2 victory over Maine. They got together quickly afterward, then Todd had to leave for St. Paul to rejoin the Lightning.
“My dad didn’t say too much, just to keep playing my game,” said Justin Richards. “He was just happy for me and said to keep working, watch a lot of videos, and as long as I’m doing the right thing, that’s all that matters.”
That was good advice during that seemingly long time without any goals, and it remains good advice now that he’s broken through that barricade.
The Wild held off Tampa Bay and beat the Lightning 5-4 in overtime Saturday night. But one night later, the Lightning went to Chicago and whipped the Blackhawks 6-3, recording 55 shots on goal in the process. Included was an all-time NHL record 33 shots in a 3-0 second period rally.
The Bulldogs are still outside the NCHC, but they have a big weekend coming up at Notre Dame, against the team they beat 2-1 in last April’s NCAA final.
UMD Women beat Bemidji State twice
Naomi Rogge said she didn’t hear anybody giving her grief for not scoring in the first half dozen games for the UMD women’s hockey team. “If there was any pressure, it was self-imposed,” she said.
And there was some, because Rogge, a sophomore from Eden Prairie, scored 16 goals as a freshman, proving the Bulldogs had found some scoring potential, after all. So not scoring in a sweep over Boston College, a split against Minnesota, and in two tough losses at Wisconsin may have been a self-imposed load.
But Rogge broke through in the most-unusual 6-1 victory over Bemidji State on Friday afternoon. It was a weird game, and if you only looked at the scoresheet you might assume UMD totally dominated play. Very misleading. The teams both had 28 shots, and there were several pivotal plays that, by chance, all went in UMD’s favor and several of them led to goals.
Jalynn Elmes scored at 2:00 of the first period, and 13 seconds later the Beavers appeared to score, but the goal was disallowed by review. At 3:13, Anneke Linser scored for a 2-0 UMD lead, and at 3:29, Paige Beebe scored on a power play for Bemidji State. It was 2-1 with all the goals - and a disallowed goal by Bemidji State - coming in a span of 1:29.
In the second period, Gabbie Hughes scored on a rebound in the crease for a 3-1 lead. Early in the third period, two players went for a puck that had popped up high in the crease. Ashton Bell and Bemidji State’s Lindsey Featherstone both swung high at the puck, and their stickblades both came together right at the puck, and right at the crossbar. The puck wound up in the net, and a lengthy review couldn’t change it, with all hands agreeing the puck was struck almost exactly at crossbar height - the 4-foot legal limit - so the goal stood. Big break, and a 4-1 lead. Exactly 35 seconds later, Rogge scored to make it 5-1.
The game went on and in the closing seconds - make that second - Rogge was deep on the left side of the net, pulled the puck back and stuffed it in as time expired. The official clock on the video showed the puck went in and 0.005 remained, so the goal stood, UMD had another big break, and a 6-1 victory, and Rogge had scored twice.
“Now that you’ve broken through, you can score a goal every game,” I said to her. She smiled.
On Saturday, Bell fired a perfect pass to Rogge, breaking behind the defense, and she sailed in to score on the breakaway at 3:42. Near the end of the first period, Rogge skated down the left side with Bell on the right, against two Beavers defenders and a fast closing backchecker. Bell zipped a pass across the slot and Rogge fired, beating goaltender Lauren Bench for a 2-0 lead.
The game ended 2-0, and, after not scoring through the first six games, Rogge now has scored four consecutive goals for the Bulldogs, who play in St. Cloud this weekend.