UMD’s Connolly makes history in 6-4 win over Gophers

John Hageman

DULUTH, Minn.—A hat trick wasn’t enough for Mike Connolly.

The junior wing had five goals on seven shots for No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth (18-5-4, 13-4-3) in a 6-4 win over the Minnesota men’s hockey team (11-11-4, 8-9-3) at Amsoil Arena Saturday night.

Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin put his top-three scorers, Jack and Mike Connolly (not related) and Justin Fontaine, on the same line for the first time in almost a month, creating all the offense the Bulldogs needed. 

“There’s not a lot of lines like that in college hockey,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. “[Connolly] was the difference.”

Eight minutes after scoring the first goal of the night, Connolly added a power play goal to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead after one period. He incited a slew of hats to land on the ice when he camped out near the Minnesota net and sent the puck past goaltender Kent Patterson for his third goal early in the second.

But despite being down by a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead, the Gophers wouldn’t go quietly.

Playing without an injured Jay Barriball, who came out with an undisclosed injury after the first period and didn’t play for the rest of the game, the Gophers added two second-period goals from Kevin Wehrs and Mike Hoeffel, cutting the lead to just one.

The Gophers nearly completed the comeback later in the period when Pat White sent his own rebound attempt past Bulldogs goalie Aaron Crandall. But in the process, Nico Sacchetti knocked down the goalie, nullifying the goal. It looked like Sacchetti was knocked into Crandall, but the call stood.

“It was a tough call,” Lucia said. “[Sacchetti] was doing the right thing; he was going to the net, trying to make a play.”

Connolly added his fourth goal just minutes later, extending the Minnesota-Duluth lead to 4-2 going into the final period. Instead of a tie, the lead once again widened.

But the Gophers cut the lead to one again when defender Cade Fairchild sent a wrister towards the net midway through the third. It looked like Mark Alt got a piece of the puck, redirecting it, but Fairchild was given credit for the goal.

UMD’s Travis Oleksuk added a goal at 16:59 in the third when his shot from the near left circle hit the far post and slide across the goal line. The goal counted after a lengthy review, and the Bulldogs took a 5-3 lead.

Down by two goals with just 2:07 left, the Gophers pulled Patterson 32 seconds before Nate Condon added a goal with the extra man. But Connolly finished what he started when broke free in the waning seconds, and added an empty net goal to seal the 6-4 win. Connolly’s five goals tied a team record set by Steve “Pokey” Trachsel in 1972.

“Probably the biggest positive we can take out of this is that we battled through some adversity,” Sacchetti said. “The outcome obviously wasn’t what we would have liked.”

The Gophers will return to Mariucci Arena next weekend for a series with No. 2 Denver.