Fast starts propel UMD to sweep

Junior goaltender Adam Wilcox made 67 saves in two losing efforts.

Goalie Adam Wilcox blocks a shot on Friday at Mariucci Arena at the game against UMD. The Bulldogs beat the Gophers 3-0.

Juliet Farmer

Goalie Adam Wilcox blocks a shot on Friday at Mariucci Arena at the game against UMD. The Bulldogs beat the Gophers 3-0.

Ben Gotz

Apparently, an old rival can learn new tricks.

The Gophers (7-3-0) defeated Minnesota-Duluth in the first game of the season. But the No. 13 Bulldogs returned the favor on Friday and Saturday, sweeping top-ranked Minnesota.

The Gophers had no answers for the Bulldogs on Friday night at Mariucci Arena, where UMD dominated play in a 3-0 victory. The story remained mainly the same again in Duluth on Saturday, as the Bulldogs got off to a fast start and held on from there for a 2-1 victory.

A goal less than 30 seconds into last month’s game led the Gophers to defeat UMD. But this weekend, the Bulldogs pounced on early opportunities.

A holding call on Leon Bristedt put UMD on the power play early Friday, and the Bulldogs took the lead just over two minutes into the game.

“I think that’s how much the first 10 minutes can matter,” Gophers sophomore forward Justin Kloos said. “We just got behind early and kept chasing the game all night.”

When the chase for the lead proved fruitless, the Gophers’ frustrations started boiling over on the ice.

The Gophers spent 17 minutes of the game in the penalty box, leading to two UMD goals. Four of the Gophers’ penalties came in the last 10 minutes of the game, erasing any hope of a comeback.

“I’m embarrassed with some of those penalties at the end,” head coach Don Lucia said. “That’s not the way we play; that’s not the way we coach.”

The lone bright spot Lucia mentioned was junior goaltender Adam Wilcox, who made a season-high 35 saves in the loss and prevented things from getting out of hand.

“It could’ve been worse,” Lucia said.

The loss ended a 17-game home unbeaten streak for the Gophers, and it was the first time they were shutout since March 2013.

Despite Minnesota’s success at Mariucci, the Bulldogs weren’t intimidated stepping onto the ice. Bulldogs sophomore defenseman Dan Molenaar said his team had confidence because it earned a 6-2 victory at Mariucci last year.

“We weren’t stunned playing in front of the big crowd,” Molenaar said. “A lot of the guys are from this area, so we feel really comfortable in this situation.”

The Bulldogs were also comfortable back home in Duluth.

Sophomore forward Dominic Toninato scored 28 seconds into the first period Saturday, and the Bulldogs tacked on a power-play goal later in the first period to give them the cushion they needed.

The Gophers’ offense was unable to respond until halfway through the third period, when Bristedt picked up his second goal of the season.

Penalties plagued both teams Saturday, with the teams spending a combined 52 minutes in the penalty box.

The Bulldogs took advantage of one of their power plays with a goal, while the Gophers were 0-for-4 with a man advantage.

The Gophers may have had the bigger national reputation coming into the game, but UMD showed that the best team in Minnesota is still up for debate.

“We’re not intimidated by these guys,” Molenaar said. “You have to respect them because they’ve got an unbelievable amount of skill and they’re a great team, but you can’t come in intimidated, and I think that was the key to our success.”