Bulldogs fall to Alberta, open again vs. Mass-Lowell

John Gilbert

Cole Koepke congratulated Justin Richards after his short-handed goal tied Alberta 1-1. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Cole Koepke congratulated Justin Richards after his short-handed goal tied Alberta 1-1. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Co-captain Nick Wolff (5) grabbed a loose puck and skated it out of danger to help co-captain and goaltender Hunter Shepard, who played only the first period of the 5-2 loss to Alberta. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Co-captain Nick Wolff (5) grabbed a loose puck and skated it out of danger to help co-captain and goaltender Hunter Shepard, who played only the first period of the 5-2 loss to Alberta. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Freshman winger Quinn Olson reacted after Dylan Samberg's shot from the blue line resulted in a power play goal for a 2-2 tie. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Freshman winger Quinn Olson reacted after Dylan Samberg's shot from the blue line resulted in a power play goal for a 2-2 tie. Photo credit: John Gilbert

When Scott Sandelin was finished addressing the media after UMD’s mens
hockey team fell 5-3 last Saturday night to the University of Alberta,
he threw back one final comment: “This is probably the only time
you’re going to see me somewhat OK after a loss.”

Things might get a bit more tense this weekend, when the Bulldogs take
on Massachusetts-Lowell in their official season-opening series at
AMSOIL Arena, complete with a pregame raising of the new 2019 NCAA
championship banner.

The loss to Alberta was almost pleasant in its demeanor, with a fast
pace and the chance to play a large part of the roster in a game that
wouldn’t count on the record. As it turned out, the loss didn’t hurt
UMD’s ranking. Being rated No. 1 in the country to start the season,
the Bulldogs are again rated No. 1, even after dropping the 5-3 game
to Alberta.

All things considered, the Bulldogs got what they wanted out of the
exhibition opener against the most prominent Canadian college team,
which had already played eight games, and which broke from a 2-2
second-period deadlock to score twice in the last three minutes of the
second period, and another on a power play after the Bulldogs had
closed to 4-3 in the third.

Sandelin was experimenting with forward line combinations, and a new
look among defensive pairings, and he also played all three of his
goaltenders, one period apiece. Some things looked good. Justin
Richards, a junior center on the first line who was just handed an “A”
as assistant captain to goaltender Hunter Shepard and defenseman Nick
Wolff, scorned a shorthanded goal to offset Ben Carroll’s opener for
Alberta.

And Dylan Samberg, a big, rangy 6-foot-4, 215-pound defenseman who
likes to rush the puck, was paired with Scott Perunovich, the
lightning-quick offensive leader of the defense through his first two
years, were not always the silky smooth tandem the coach might have
envisioned, although Samberg did rifle in a power-play goal at 6:21 of
the second period to tie the game 2-2.

And Perunovich, who had assisted on Samberg’s goal, also fed Nick
Swaney, who veered out of the right corner to shoot and then jam in
his own rebound at 0:33 of the third period, lifting the Bulldogs into
a 3-3 tie.

But Alberta rose from managing only one goal against Shepard in the
first period to score three in the second period on 8 shots at Ben
Patt, making his debut after an injury knocked him out of all last
season. The Golden Bears also gained the clincher midway through the
third period when Nolan Volcan looped in from the right corner and
placed a high, short-side goal past Ryan Fanti, a freshman goaltender
from Thunder Bay.

While Alberta outshot UMD 28-24, the biggest plus was the Golden Bears
showed none of the stereotypical Canadian tendency to try to beat up
its U.S. foes, and instead lived up to the lasting legacy of former
coach Clare Drake, a legendary 38-year coach at Alberta who also
coached the 1980 Canadian Olympic hockey team at Lake Placid, and
later rewrote the Canadian coaching manual and instruction plan for
youth hockey that has sent the Hockey Canada into a more progressive
future. Drake died at age 89, two years after being inducted into the
Hockey Hall of Fame for his influence on Canadian hockey. The Golden
Bears arena is Clare Drake Arena.

At Lake Placid, Drake’s Canadian team, formed on a similar plan to
Herb Brooks’s U.S. team, led the Soviet Union 3-1 in pool play before
the Soviets rallied in a 3-goal final period to win 4-3. After that
game, Drake was asked if he thought there was any way the Soviets
could be beaten, and Drake said: “Yes, I think it’s possible. Finland
should have beaten them, and I thought we could have. And if I was a
betting man, I would bet the U.S. will beat them.”

“His impact has had a lasting effect on our program, and on Canadian
hockey,” said Ian Herbers, coach of Alberta’s three-time defending
conference champions. “We always try to live up to his legacy.”

Sandelin said, “They play the game the right way, and they’re good at
it. We did some good things, but we shot ourselves in the foot a few
times, too. We took three penalties in the third period, which didn’t
help. It was good to get all three goalies in, and it was good to see
Justin Richards get a big goal. It was good for us to play against a
good hockey team, and at times it looked like a first game for us. But
now, there aren’t any more games where it doesn’t matter.”

After Alberta had taken a 1-0 lead on Carroll’s point-blank power-play
rebound at 13:04 of the first period, Richards and Cole Koepke went
out to kill a penalty to Samberg. Nick Wolff, a senior co-captain with
goalie Shepard, fed a pass ahead to spring Richards on the right side
of a 2-on-1 with Koepke.

“I saw them move to cover Koepke, so I picked a corner,” said
Richards, who also said being designated to wear the “A” meant a lot
to him. “It’s a great honor to have the ‘A,’ and I know I’m going to
have to be more vocal, which is something I’ve been working on. Maybe
I’ve got more confidence now.”

Richards also said that when he called his dad, Tampa Bay assistant
manager, he was excited. Todd Richards was captain at the University
of Minnesota before starting his pro career.

The UMD series against Mass-Lowell is a big part of Homecoming Weekend
at UMD, which includes two WCHA home games for the UMD women’s team
against Minnesota State-Mankato, a home pair of volleyball matches
against Northern State and MSU-Moorhead for the once-beaten Bulldogs,
and a 1 p.m. Saturday football game against Wayne State.

The Mass-Lowell series leads into the Big Ten scene for UMD, which
goes to Wisconsin next weekend, then plays home-and-home with
Minnesota. Those may be non conference games, but don’t expect Scott
Sandelin to be “somewhat OK” if the Bulldogs happen to lose any of
those games.