ST. PAUL – While it didn’t have the same implications of their last postseason meeting, it still proved critical.
In the first postseason meeting between 8th-ranked Minnesota-Duluth and 4th-ranked Denver since last season’s national championship game, it was the Pioneers once again getting the better of the Bulldogs in a 3-1 victory on Friday night at Xcel Energy Center in an NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal.
The DU defense and backcheck was simply too much for UMD to overcome all night long, and they couldn’t capitalize on the few chances they did get.
“It was disappointing. I don’t think we played a good game offensively at all,” Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin said.
The Bulldogs are still a near-lock for the NCAA Tournament, however, and will claim their spot with a win over North Dakota on Saturday. Even if they lose, they are most likely in
For the Pioneers, their spot in the NCAA’s was already guaranteed. Head coach Jim Montgomery liked what he saw from his team after struggling at times to put away Colorado College last week.
“It was a good team win,” Montgomery said. “It’s exciting to be back in the championship game here in the NCHC.”
“I did think we were poised. I liked that part of our game.”
Denver was the better team in the first period, getting a power-play goal from NCHC Player of the Year Henrik Borgstrom and not letting UMD get anything going.
The Bulldogs were much better in the second period, tying the game on a power-play goal by Scott Perunovich and challenging Denver goaltender Tanner Jaillet with an improved forecheck and multiple power-play opportunities against one of the least penalized teams in the country, including a minute-long 5-on-3 late in the period.
Other than the Perunovich goal, however, they were uneven one man up all night long, and against a very good DU defense, you have to take advantage of what you can get.
“Gotta capitalize, especially against this team,” Sandelin said. “That was the difference.”
“One or two here or there, but it’s not good enough in a game like that,” UMD forward Peter Krieger added.
The Pioneers regained the lead for good not long after the Perunovich goal as Colin Staub knocked in a rebound in close range.
DU did lose Blake Hillman late in the second period to a checking-from-behind major and misconduct. Montgomery wasn’t pleased with his team’s discipline overall, but liked how they responded after going shorthanded five times.
“I thought our penalty-kill effort and the five [defensemen] that were remaining after Blake was ejected played great,” Montgomery said. “I think that was our best penalty kill of the whole night.”
That certainly made the job easier for Jaillet.
“They were blocking shots; guys were sacrificing,” Jaillet said. “A lot of credit to the guys in front of me.”
Meanwhile, Minnesota-Duluth lost their own cool at inopportune times late to give Denver two late power plays, which essentially cost them the game and led to a game-sealing empty-net goal by Adam Plant.
“I was very disappointed in the penalties at the end for sure,” an agitated Sandelin said. “It’s a one-goal hockey game; those are the things you gotta learn. It’s about the team.”
Jaillet made 24 saves for DU and UMD goaltender Hunter Shepard finished with 16.
UMD will face North Dakota at 3:30 Saturday afternoon for third place in the tournament, while Denver takes on regular-season champion St. Cloud State in the Frozen Faceoff title game at 7:30.
DU power-play goal at 8:55: Henrik Borgstrom (22). Assisted by Ian Mitchell (23) and Troy Terry (31).
UMD power-play goal at 1:37: Scott Perunovich (11). Assisted by Mikey Anderson (17) and Jared Thomas (13).
DU goal at 4:22: Colin Staub (7). Assisted by Logan O’Connor (12) and Michael Davies (8).
DU empty-net goal at 19:11: Adam Plant (6). Assisted by O’Connor (13).
Power plays: UMD 1-4, DU 2-4.
Shots on goal: UMD 25, DU 19.
First NCHC Semifinal: #1 St. Cloud State edges North Dakota 3-2 in overtime
ST. PAUL – For the 4th time in five meetings this season, UND and SCSU went to overtime. Once again, it was the Huskies coming out on top as Nick Poehling picked up a Josh Rieger turnover along the right wing boards in the offensive zone and fired home from the high slot just 1:47 into the extra session.
St. Cloud State will play for the Frozen Faceoff against Denver, while North Dakota remains alive for the NCAA Tournament for now. However, their hopes were thrown into serious peril with the loss and their season will officially be over if they lose the third-place game to Minnesota-Duluth. Even if UND does win, they will need some outside help.
SCSU goal at 5:54: Patrick Newell (6). Assisted by Jack Ahcan (20) and Blake Lizotte (19).
UND goal at 4:39: Nick Jones (15). Assisted by Trevor Olson (9) and Colton Poolman (21).
SCSU goal at 5:53: Easton Brodzinski (14). Unassisted.
UND goal at 10:10: Jordan Kawaguchi (5). Assisted by Olson (10) and Jones (14).
SCSU goal at 1:47: Nick Poehling (7). Unassisted.
Power plays: UND 1-5, SCSU 0-2.
Shots on goal: UND 23, SCSU 34.