Bulldogs sophomore forward Dominic Toninato (Toronto Maple Leafs) continues to the find the back of the net.
Toninato needed 28 seconds Saturday to score his third goal in as many games against the Gophers this season as Minnesota Duluth's fast start for the second straight night withstood Minnesota's late charge in a 2-1 win at AMSOIL Arena.
Playing in front of a record crowd of 7,424, Saturday was the first time Minnesota Duluth (8-4-0, 4-2-0-0 NCHC) has swept its in-state foe since November 20-21, 2009.
Leon Bristedt scored his second goal of the year for Minnesota (7-3-0, 0-0-0-0 Big Ten), which went over 111 minutes without a goal in the two game home-and-home series. Kasimir Kaskisuo made 24 saves for the Bulldogs.
In a repeat of Friday's 3-0 win where Minnesota Duluth got a power play on the first shift and eventually capitalized, UMD did not take long to get on the board. Toninato's opening shift ended when he poked a rebound past Gopher goaltender Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) for his NCAA-leading 9th goal of the season (tied with 6 others).
Karson Kuhlman doubled the lead on the power play with 2:55 remaining in the first period. The 5'11", 180 lbs freshman deflected a Willie Raskob shot that went through traffic. The Bulldogs, hosting Minnesota for the first time since 2011, had all the goals it would eventually need.
Both teams had opportunities Saturday. Minnesota Duluth and the Gophers were each successful killing a 5 minute major and the Bulldogs were 4 for 4 on the PK. Wilcox, for the second straight night, kept the game within reach after an early hiccup for Minnesota with several outstanding point-blank saves. The junior goalie finished with 32 saves; once again topping the 30 save mark.
Offensively, Saturday was a better performance for Minnesota in terms of testing Kaskisuo. The freshman goaltender faced more shot attempts and the visitors were more successful creating offensive opportunities. However, Minnesota Duluth limited second chances and rebounds. UMD kept Minnesota at bay with a mixture of players blocking shots and clearing the zone. It was one of the better team performances of the season. In particular, the Bulldogs did it against a team that entered the weekend ranked first in the country.
Gopher head coach Don Lucia made several changes to his lineup in the second game of the two-game series - most notably Vinni Lettieri returned after missing Friday's game - in an effort to spark some energy and get someone to step up offensively. Lettieri's line paid off in the third period.
Playing on a line with Seth Ambroz (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Lettieri, an uncontested Bristedt took advantage of Dan Molenaar falling and sniped a shot past Kaskiskuo with 8:42 remaining. That goal re-energized the Gophers in a way which was missing throughout the weekend. Despite several late chances, Minnesota was unable to get the equalizer, though.
With the win, Minnesota Duluth extends its win streak to 5 games. The Bulldogs travel to Omaha next weekend to play Nebraska-Omaha.
Minnesota, meanwhile, faces the US Under-18 exhibition team Friday at Mariucci Arena. Having a week off will be beneficial for the Gophers, who are nursing several injuries in addition to being swept. Minnesota returns to college action November 28th and 29th with games in Boston against Boston College and Northeastern.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate