Slow starts have plagued Minnesota Duluth early in the season, and on Saturday night, it looked another slow start would hurt the Bulldogs again. But after surviving an early five minute stretch in which they were outshot 6-1, the Bulldogs cruised to an easy 6-1 victory over the #13th-ranked Denver Pioneers tonight at AmSoil Arena.
The Bulldogs had multiple high quality chances in the first period, but 18 first period saves--including some dandies--by Denver sophomore goalie Evan Cowley kept the game scoreless.
The Bulldogs would finally break through at 5:06 of the second period when Karson Kuhlman raced down the ice on a shorthanded breakaway and beat Cowley to give the Bulldogs the lead. Austyn Young extended the lead at 11:10 of the second period when his weak backhand shot deflected in off a Denver skate.
If Denver had any designs on coming back in this game, they disappeared when top defenseman Joey LaLeggia was ejected for hitting from behind at 16:05 of the second period. Cal Decowski would add to the lead on that power play before the period was done.
The route was on in the third period, as the Bulldogs would add two more goals on Cowley, and one on his replacement Tanner Jaillet. Denver's Nolan Zajac would break up the shutout late in the third period when he scored a 4-on-3 power play goal to give the game its' final score.
The win earned the Bulldogs a split in their series with the Pioneers. Each team now has three points in two NCHC conference games. Minnesota Duluth has salvaged a split on the second night of all three of their series this year, to bring their season record to 3-3-0. The loss was Denver's first of the season, bringing their overall record to 3-1-0 on the year.
Shots on goal: UMD 18-14-16-48 DU 12-7-11-30
Power plays: UMD 3-8 DU 1-5
Corsi(even strength shot attempts): UMD: 16-18-14-48 DU: 18-12-16-46 (51%-49% UMD)
Prime scoring area attempts: UMD 11-8-10-29 DU: 0-4-5-9
-If there was one key in this game, it was Denver's inability to generate chances from within the prime scoring area. The Pioneers didn't attempt any shots from that area in the first period, and had only four attempts in the second period, with one of them making it on net. The third period was slightly better, but the entire third period felt like garbage time. Denver has some big, grinding power forwards, but I felt like they had a really bad night. They didn't win many puck battles, and struggled to gain position in front of the net.
-By comparison, Minnesota Duluth did a great job of outbattling Denver's smaller defense and generating a lot of second chance opportunities. It didn't work in the first period, but it was only a matter of time before those quality second chance opportunities started going in.
-He ended the night with some terrible stats, largely because of the team in front of him, but I was very impressed with Evan Cowley, especially though the first two periods. His first period was sensational. I counted three sure-goals that he saved with tremendous stops. He looked very poised and confident throughout the night. There were just too many quality chances against him tonight. But that's very promising for Denver with how good he looked. Tanner Jaillet looked good in the little he played too. Goalie won't be an area of concern for the Pioneers this year.
-Minnesota Duluth lost senior winger Adam Krause early on in this game with a suspected wrist injury. That gave some of UMD's lower line players the opportunity to step up, and Cal Decowski, who started the night as fourth line center took advantage with a power play goal and an assist. The play from UMD's lower lines has been a bit of a concern early on this season, but they came through well. Six goals from six different skaters is pretty good balance for the Bulldogs tonight.
-Karson Kuhlman showed off some serious speed on his goal. Denver's defense got caught napping a little bit on the blue line turnover, but Kuhlman turned that play into a clear-cut breakaway.
-Also, an underrated play on that first goal, but 6-6 defenseman Brenden Kotyk used his long reach to pokecheck Denver's Trevor Moore at the blue line. That's two games in a row I've seen UMD play where they do a tremendous job of pressuring the opposition at their own blue line, making it really hard for the other team to gain zone entry.
-That's two straight Saturdays I've watched UMD cruise to easy wins. Next time I see them will be a Friday night in St. Cloud in two weeks, so maybe that will break their 'lose the first night, win the second' pattern.
-There's still a lot to like about Denver's team, even if they got blasted tonight. I'm really liking what they've got in goal. The goal scoring should be there, even if it wasn't tonight. They got pushed around in front of their own net tonight, which is a bit concerning, and the bottom two lines didn't contribute much, but they should still be in the conversation in the NCHC home ice race.
5:06- Karson Kuhlman from Brenden Kotyk (shorthanded) 1-0 UMD
Kotyk broke up a play at the UMD blue line and knocked the puck ahead to Kuhlman. Kuhlman used his tremendous speed to create a breakaway and beat Cowley with a quick move to his backhand.
11:10- Austyn Young from Cal Decowski and Nick McCormack 2-0 UMD
Young spun around and fired a harmless looking backhand from the slot, but Decowski and a Denver defender were crashing hard to the net. The puck hit off the skate of the DU defender and into the net.
16:31- Cal Decowski from Sammy Spurrell and Willie Raskob (power play) 3-0 UMD
Spurrell took a shot from the left circle. The rebound was picked up by a Denver defender who lost the puck in his skates. Decowski crashed the net and knocked the loose puck in.
5:47: Dominic Toninato from Alex Iafallo and Austin Farley 4-0 UMD
Iafallo skated down the left wing and fired a low shot that Cowley saved, but Toninato was there for the rebound, which he slid along the ice for the goal.
9:21 Austin Farley from Jared Thomas (power play extra attacker) 5-0 UMD
During a delayed Denver penalty, Farley came down the right wing on a 2-on-1. He kept the puck and ripped a wrist shot past Cowley for the goal.
10:16 Sammy Spurrell from Kyle Osterberg and Tony Cameranesi (power play) 6-0 UMD
Spurrell got a pass from behind the net. His first shot was stopped, but he jammed at the puck again for a second time and it barely slid past Jaillet for the goal.
11:25-Nolan Zajac from Will Butcher and Trevor Moore (4x3 power play) 6-1 UMD
Zajac ripped a slap shot from the high slot that beat a screened Kaskisuo high to the blocker side.