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If you were enough of a diehard UMD hockey fan to spend six hours in AMSOIL Arena last Saturday, there should be some sore of medal available for endurance, if not frustration.
First, the UMD women lost 3-0 to new No. 1 Wisconsin in the afternoon, as the Badgers followed up their first-game 6-1 romp with a shutout. Then the IUMD men came out, wearing their very impressive throwback uniforms to the mid-1980s era of WCHA domination, and presenting coach Scott Sandelin with a tribute for becoming the all-time winningest coach in UMD hockey history, and hoping to follow up on their very impressive 5-2 first-game victory. But it didn’t happen. Devin Cooley made his return to the Denver nets and stymied the Bulldogs for a crowd-stifling 1-0 shutout.
Six hours of hockey, and no goals — zero — for the two home teams combined.
UMD’s men’s hockey team may have fallen out of realistic reach of the NCHC championship by the sliver-thin margin of that 1-0 loss to Denver at AMSOIL Arena, although the Bulldogs rose to the No. 3 national ranking with the split against the powerful Pioneers.
As the Bulldogs head for Grand Forks to face North Dakota this weekend, they stand 11-6-1 for 34 points in the NCHC, which now trails St. Cloud State’s 13-2-3 record for 44 points by a 10-point gap. Right behind UMD is Western Michigan, two points back at 10-7-1, with Denver (8-7-2) at 28 and North Dakota (8-9-1) at 25.
The Fighting Hawks are following their tradition of a second-half surge, and will give the Bulldogs all they can handle this weekend. Then UD comes home to face Miami of Ohio, before ending the regular season at league-leading and No. 1 ranked St. Cloud State.
Sandelin switched up his forward lines during the week’s bye, reuniting Noah Cates at left wing with center Peter Krieger and right wing Nick Swaney, and the key move was reuniting freshman Cole Kopek at left wing with center Justin Richards and right wing Parker Mackay. That also allowed Sandelin to put big left winger Riley Tulfte on a line with freshmen Jackson Cates at center and right wing Tanner Laderoute, and adding the balance of Jade Miller centering Kobe Roth and Billy Exell on a fourth line.
The move ignited some offense as UMD spotted Denver an opening goal by Les Lancaster with a screened shot from the right point, then Richards got his first of two goals in the game to tie it 1-1. Mackay ducked around a defenseman on the left and cut to the net for a shot. Denver goalie Filip Larsson locked it and when Koepke couldn’t get his stick on the rebound, Richards did for his ninth of the season. The Bulldogs inched ahead 2-1 when Swaney scored from the left edge midway through the second period, and the defensive struggle boiled along into the third period. Hunter Shepard made a dazzling save on Lancaster’s break-in, then Nick Wolff was stopped at the other end.
But at 9:40 of the third, Richards got loose coming up the right boards and yelled loud enough for the whole arena to hear. Mackay sent a perfect diagonal pass from the left boards to spring Richards, saying in along, and he beat Larsson with a neat deke to get to his backhand at the left edge for his 10th goal of the season — after scoring nary a goal in his freshman year.
The 3-1 lead was huge at 9:40, and a minute later, Tufte carried in on a 2-on-2 that became a 2-on-1 as he fed across the slot to Laderoute, who snapped his seventh goal into the upper right corner. Denver closed the gap to 4-2 with 3:46 left, but Krieger fed Koepke breaking clear for an empty net goal and the 5-2 final.
“Obviously, we knew each other because we had played well as a line through the first half of the season,” said Richards, after his line scored three of the five. “We had a good response to their early goal.”
Sandelin said he thought his team played well, “Once we started playing the game the way we had to play. We need everyone going to beat a team like that.”
The next night, however, Denver defenseman Slava Demin got a 35-footer to glance past Shepard at 8:04 of the first period, but this time goalie Devin Cooley stopped everything the Pioneer defense let through — which wasn’t much. Denver outshot the Bulldogs 27-16, and the play of the game was in the third period, when the Bulldogs put on their best pressure in the closing 3:20.
With Shepard pulled for a sixth attacker, Koepke escaped a checker and plunged between two defensemen to get to the net. He was hauled down, and while he managed to get the puck toward the net, the obvious penalty would have given UMD a huge edge for the finish. But there was no call. And Denver escaped with a huge victory in their quest for home ice.
The UMD women had less success. Despite talking all week about how they could play up to the level of Wisconsin, the Bulldogs fell behind 1-0 in a first period dominated by the Badgers, who had a 17-5 edge in shots. Emily Clark got the goal, when she looped back from the blue line and ripped a slap shot into the upper right corner on Maddie Rooney.
Presley Norby made it 2-0 on a second-second-period deflection, then Clark got clear and converted a perfect goal-goal-mouth pass from Annie Pankowski, who scored herself at 19:45 for a 4-0 cushion and a 31-13 edge in shots. UMD broke through Krisen Campbell’s goaltending when Kailee Skinner scored at 0:22, but Sophie Shirley countered that one for the 6-1 final.
There was no reason to believe that one goal would be UMD’s total for the series, but Campbell made saves on all 24 shot attempts in the second game, while the rollicking Badgers fired 52 missiles at Rooney, who held them off the board until Alexis Mauermann scored early in the second period. Clark then got her third of the weekend at 14:47 for a 2-0 lead and Sam Cogan’s goal in the first minute of the third made it 3-0.
Wisconsin now leads the WCHA with an 18-4 record, and closes against third-place Ohio State this weekend, while Minnesota needs a Badger loss and a sweep of Bemidji State to regain first.
“We know we’ll be first or second,” said Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson. “In the WCHA playoffs, if we both win to make the finals, it doesn’t really matter; just whether we’re the home or road team. We look good in red.”
UMD finishes at MSU-Mankato, and home or road matters less than that the Bulldogs regain their scoring touch after being outgunned 9-1 by the Badgers.