A strong start and strong finish was enough to cover up a sloppy middle stage of the game as Minnesota Duluth rallied for a 5-3 victory over Miami on Saturday evening to sweep their NCHC first round playoff series and advance to next weekend’s Frozen Faceoff at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
The Bulldogs started the game in complete control, taking the game’s first 10 shots on goal in the opening five minutes and building a 1-0 lead on a goal by Brendan Kotyk. After Nick Wolff extended the lead to 2-0 midway through the second period, the Bulldogs seemed to take their foot off the gas and Miami began a comeback.
Justin Greenberg’s power play goal cut into the lead at 10:42 of the second period, and a pair of quick goals to start the third period gave Miami a 3-2 lead.
But goals by Jared Thomas and Alex Iafallo late in the third period put the Bulldogs back ahead, and an empty-net goal by senior captain Dom Toninato sealed the victory.
The win sends the Bulldogs back to the Target Center for the second straight season, and keeps them in prime position for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Notes and Thoughts
-Minnesota Duluth was dominant in the first period of this one. Miami didn’t attempt a shot at even strength until 12:50 into the first period, and the Bulldogs out-attempted Miami 27-6 at even strength in the first period(Corsi puts UMD’s puck possession at 82% in that period).
The Bulldog cycle was a problem for Miami all night, much as it has been for teams all season. The Redhawks sacrificed by putting a lot of forwards deep in the defensive zone, which left the points wide open for Minnesota Duluth all night, and the Bulldogs were able to capitalize twice from the blue line.
-Credit Miami for not packing it in once they got behind early. Down 2-1 heading into the third period, they came out flying with a pair of quick goals and for a few minutes, looked like they may extend this series longer than anyone expected.
-But UMD was able to take over the game when they needed to. Miami goalie Chase Munroe made a couple huge saves in the third period, but definitely looked like a back-up filling in for the starter on the final two goals, which were probably goals he’d like back.
-Denver continues to play great hockey every weekend, but every time I see Minnesota Duluth, I think they are the best most impressive team I’ve seen this season. It’s college hockey, so being really good only buys you a 60/40 edge in single-elimination playoff hockey, but I think the Bulldogs have as good a chance as anybody to go on a run in the NCAA tournament.
Shots on goal: UMD: 16-10-10-36 MIA: 4-12-8-24
Even strength shot attempts: UMD: 27-13-17-57 MIA: 6-17-14-37
Prime scoring area attempts: UMD: 9-3-7-19 MIA: 2-5-4-11
What do the numbers tell us?
Minnesota Duluth absolutely dominated the first period, but Miami bounced back and actually won the second period. The Bulldogs turned things on once they went behind early in the third period however.
2:49 Brendan Kotyk from Alex Iafallo and Dom Toninato 1-0 Minnesota Duluth
The Bulldogs cycled the puck deep in the Miami zone. Iafallo made a pass to Kotyk in the mid-slot and his wrist shot beat Munroe cleanly.
8:59 Nick Wolff from Parker Mackay and Kyle Osterberg 2-0 Minnesota Duluth
Wolff took a wrist shot from the left point that hit the far post, bounced off Munroe’s skate and back into the net.
10:42 Justin Greenberg from Grant Hutton and Kiefer Sherwood (power play) 2-1 Minnesota Duluth
Hutton’s shot from the right circle kicked out on the far side to an open Greenberg and he deposited the rebound.
1:25 Kiefer Sherwood from Zach LaValle and Gordie Green 2-2 tie
On a 3-on-2 rush, LaValle’s shot resulted in a rebound opportunity on the left side of the net that Sherwood slapped back into the net.
3:17 Anthony Louis from Willie Knierim and Scott Dornbrock 3-2 Miami
Louis took a wrist shot from the slot that deflected off a UMD stick, and the change-up fooled goalie Hunter Miska for the goal.
13:25 Jared Thomas from Kyle Osterberg and Nick Wolf 3-3 tie
After a sequence of long cycling in the Miami zone, Thomas got the puck near the goal line on the left side of Munroe and his low-angle shot leaked through Munroe’s pads for the goal.
15:37 Alex Iafallo from Joey Anderson and Nick Wolff 4-3 Minnesota Duluth
Iafallo took a wrist shot from the slot that deflected off Munroe’s glove and into the net for the game-winning goal.
18:55 Dominic Toninato from Joey Anderson and Neal Pionk (empty-net) 5-3 Minnesota Duluth
Shortly after Miami pulled Munroe, Toninato stole the puck and went in uncontested on the empty-net, and iced the game with an emphatic shot into the top shelf.