U swept by Minnesota-Duluth, again

Lou Raguse

DULUTH, Minn. – If there is one thing Minnesota’s men’s hockey team has relied on this season, it has been its specialty teams.

But moments after the Gophers were whistled for having too many men on the ice in the third period Saturday, Minnesota-Duluth forward Junior Lessard put the puck through Kellen Briggs’ five-hole for the Bulldogs’ third power-play goal of the night.

Minnesota-Duluth (20-8-3, 16-5-1 WCHA) went on to win 4-1 and complete the sweep against the Gophers (18-11-3, 11-10-1) in a series that the Bulldogs outdid the nation’s top power-play unit each night.

“We played well (Saturday) other than specialty teams,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said Saturday. “That’s unfortunate, because we worked on it a lot (last week).”

The Bulldogs converted on six of 10 power-play opportunities in the series while holding Minnesota scoreless on 10 attempts.

And although the Gophers showed an improved effort Saturday, they came home without any points in the crucial league series.

Minnesota-Duluth struck first Saturday as junior Marco Peluso scored a power-play goal seven minutes into the game.

Minnesota tied the game at one in the second period when Keith Ballard tapped in Jerrid Reinholz’s shot.

“That was one of the few times we used our speed this weekend,” Ballard said.

But Peluso scored his second goal of the game with under a minute left in that period, and the Bulldogs added two more in the third.

The Gophers had scoring opportunities Saturday, but Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Isaac Reichmuth stopped 28 of 29 shots on goal.

“The bottom line is great goaltending makes the difference on a great penalty kill,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “The two common things this weekend were our goaltending and specialty teams.”

After Saturday’s game, Ballard said the Gophers began to second-guess themselves when Reichmuth denied them the net time after time. Ballard was also critical of some of his team’s choices on the ice and the weekend effort in general.

“It shows we’re not there yet,” Ballard said. “You can’t play hard one night and come out of a series with points.”

Friday’s game was not nearly as evenly matched. Minnesota-Duluth scored four goals in the second period to leave with a 6-1 victory.

The Bulldogs were fired

up from the opening faceoff – beating Minnesota to the puck all over the ice – and got on the scoreboard 2:03 into the game.

The Gophers came within one goal midway through the first period when Barry Tallackson scored on a wrist shot from the left circle at the power play’s end.

They were able to hold the 2-1 deficit to the period’s end, but a scuffle stemming from a Thomas Vanek penalty left Minnesota shorthanded to begin the second period. Vanek served consecutive two-minute penalties for charging and crosschecking while defensive pair Peter Kennedy and P.J. Atherton sat in the penalty box for roughing.

Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Beau Geisler capitalized on the man-advantage to make the score 3-1.

The Gophers were unable to recover.

“Our goal on the four-minute power play took the wind out of their sails and set us apart,” Geisler said. “Everything dropped for them after that.”

Lucia was unhappy with the second period, the worst period of hockey the Gophers have played this season.

“I don’t remember the last game like this where it was over after the second period,” Lucia said. “As far as executions go, this one was quick and painless.”