College men’s hockey: Omaha goalie cools red-hot Bulldogs
DULUTH — After torching mediocre goaltenders for a total of 21 goals the last two weeks, Minnesota Duluth met a formidable foe in the opposing net Friday, March 2.
Nebraska-Omaha junior Evan Weninger made 41 saves Friday to backstop the No. 14 Mavericks to a 4-1 victory over No. 7 Minnesota Duluth in NCHC play before a spring-break crowd of 5,287 at Amsoil Arena.
The Bulldogs, who host the Mavs again at 7:07 p.m. today in the regular-season finale, came into the series against Omaha riding a four-game winning streak and had outscored their last two opponents — Miami and Western Michigan — 21-1 during that span.
A week ago at Western Michigan, UMD lit up three Broncos goalies for a total of 14 goals on 69 shots. Weninger proved himself to be of a much higher caliber in leading the Mavericks to just their second road win since Christmas (2-5).
“We didn’t play hard enough. We didn’t play with the urgency or the compete level you have to play with at this time of the year,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “Maybe our guys thought it was going to be easy. Maybe they thought it was going to be another 14-goal weekend. Not against this team. Not against any team. You got to play hard for 60 minutes and last weekend we did it. Tonight we found out playing hard for five doesn’t get it done.”
Omaha, which moved into a tie for fourth in the NCHC, took a 2-1 lead into the third period thanks to a 5-on-3 power-play goal by Duluth native Jake Randolph 7 1/2 minutes into the second. The eventual game-winning goal was the sixth goal of the season for the former Duluth East Greyhound, who 24 hours earlier watched his father, Mike, coach East to a section title at Amsoil Arena.
“There's not a team I like to beat more, to be honest,” Randolph told Tony Boone of the Omaha World-Herald. “This one feels good. The boys played really well on both sides of the puck tonight. We showed how to shut down a team, too, when we've got a lead.”
After a quiet first period for the referees, they made their presence felt in the second with a pair of soft calls on the Bulldogs — holding on Louie Roehl and hooking on Dylan Samberg — just 30 seconds apart to create the two-man advantage that Randolph, a senior wing, scored on.
Three players received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the period, with UMD defenseman Nick Wolff receiving a 10-minute misconduct for throwing the puck into the netting after Randolph scored. UMD sophomore wing Riley Tufte and Omaha senior defenseman Grant Gallow later received two minutes each for some light pushing and jawing.
It wasn’t the off-kilter officiating in the second period that threw UMD off, however. The Bulldogs said it was their inability to do what they did in the opening five minutes — which was get bodies to the net along with all those pucks they put on Weninger.
“We have to make sure we get the second and third opportunities around the net,” UMD junior center Peter Krieger said. “Any time you get pucks on net and bodies on net, generally good things happen. When we’ve been successful this year, that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Getting pucks and bodies to the net was exactly how the Bulldogs scored their lone goal Friday 3 1/2 minutes into the game.
Sophomore wing Riley Tufte initially charged the net for an chance he failed to finish, only to return right to the top of the crease, along with sophomore wing Joey Anderson, to put another shot on Weninger. Tufte put the puck past Weninger and Anderson was there to push it the rest of the way across the goal line.
The Mavericks tied the game just over three minutes later when sophomore wing Zach Jordan stuck with his own rebound on a breakaway and snuck a shot past the near post to beat sophomore goaltender Hunter Shepard, who along with another UMD defenseman thought the puck had been covered.
Omaha added two insurance goals in the third period, with sophomore wing Tristan Keck putting UMD down by two with 8:45 to go and junior wing Steven Spinner scoring into an empty net with less than a second left.
“Last weekend at Western we were doing every right thing,” Tufte said. “Once we got one, we didn’t stop. Tonight we got one and we thought we had the game. That can’t happen tomorrow night. That can’t happen in this league, especially this late. We’re going to have to play a lot better if we’re going to make a run in the playoffs.”
- With North Dakota’s 4-3 overtime loss at home to St. Cloud State, the Bulldogs are locked into third in the NCHC and will host the sixth seed in a best-of-three playoff series March 9-11 at Amsoil Arena.
- UMD will honor its six-member senior class in a pregame ceremony tonight at approximately 6:45 p.m.
First period — 1. UMD, Joey Anderson 8 (Riley Tufte, Peter Krieger), 3:24; 2. UNO, Zach Jordan 16 (Dean Stewart), 6:43. Penalties — Mikey Anderson, UMD (holding), 13:21; Fredrik Olofsson, UNO (hooking), 14:09.
Second period — 3. UNO, Jake Randolph 6 (Tyler Vesel, Joel Messner), 7:27 (pp). Penalties — Louie Roehl, UMD (holding), 6:02; Dylan Samberg, UMD (hooking), 6:32; Nick Wolff, UMD (unsportsmanlike conduct misconduct), 7:27; Grant Gallo, UNO (unsportsmanlike conduct minor), 12:45; Riley Tufte, UMD (unsportsmanlike conduct minor), 12:45; Riley Alfred, UNO (elbowing), 12:45; Jared Thomas, UMD (tripping), 15:49.
Third period — 4, UNO, Tristan Keck 10 (Stewart), 11:15; 5. UNO, Steven Spinner 10 (Pope, Ryan Jones), 19:59 (en). Penalties — David Pope, UNO (hooking), 1:03.
Shots on goal — UNO 12-9-7—28; UMD 15-17-10—42. Goalies — Evan Weninger, UNO (42 shots-41 saves); Hunter Shepard, UMD (27-24). Power plays — UNO 1-of-4; UMD 0-of-3. Referees — Ian Croft, Timm Walsh. Linesmen — Sterling Egan, Jeff Schultz. Att. — 5,287.