Minnesota Duluth scores late goal to beat UND in series finale
Luke Loheit scored with 2:03 left in the third period to lift the Bulldogs to a split in the two-game series.
GRAND FORKS — The last play, the decisive one, is always what sticks out after a game.
On Saturday, that play happened with just over two minutes remaining in the third period of a tie game.
UND captain Mark Senden won an offensive zone faceoff so clean that it went all the way down the ice. Alternate captain Ethan Frisch gathered it in his own defensive zone and tried to make a pass to the neutral zone, but it was picked off by Bulldog forward Ben Steeves, starting an odd-man opportunity.
Steeves gave it to Dominic James at the goal line, James put it in the crease for Luke Loheit, and the puck bounced off the Bulldog forward's leg and behind UND goalie Drew DeRidder.
Loheit's goal with 2 minutes, 3 seconds remaining gave Minnesota Duluth a 2-1 win over UND and a series split in front of 11,773 fans in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
But the final play was not what irked UND coach Brad Berry the most about Saturday's game.
It was a first period in which the Fighting Hawks were outshot 13-3 and generated very little offense.
"That was a tough play to end it as far as two minutes left in the game with an offensive zone faceoff," Berry said. "But to me, the first period was the first thing. I went into the locker room and obviously had a few things to say, but I asked our team, 'If there's one thing that we weren't good at or we need to be a better at, what is it?' Everybody came out to a T and said, 'Our first period.' At least everybody knows.
"It's tough. At the end of the day, I thought we played pretty well for three periods last night and tonight we played OK for the second and third, but not good enough in the first. In this league, you can't play two out of three. You have to play all three periods."
UND got out of the first period thanks to goaltender Drew DeRidder (24 saves), who made several key stops, including one on Grand Forks native Cole Spicer on a breakaway.
But the Fighting Hawks wasted 20 minutes of potential to produce offense and ended up scoring just once on Bulldog netminder Zach Stejskal (20 saves). It came from Senden late in the second period to tie it 1-1.
"I thought we came out a little flat in the first period," Frisch said. "And then there were a couple moments of weakness in the third period there again. We have to make a hard play, especially that last goal, I have to make a harder play. Stuff happens. It's not coming easy right now. We'll have to stick together through it and get back to it next weekend."
Berry said he pulled Frisch aside after the game.
"I couldn't wait until Sunday or Monday, a day or two from now," Berry said. "I grabbed him right away and said, 'Hey, you've been a warrior for us for four years here. I can count on one hand how many mistakes you've made.' It wasn't that (play) that lost us the game. At the end of the day, maybe should have made a stronger play, but at the end of the day, he's not the culprit. He's got to know that he's been a backbone and a solid citizen for us all four years. We've got 10 games left here to get going and he's going to be a big part of it."
There were two big positives in the weekend — UND was much better in the defensive zone and DeRidder gave the Fighting Hawks a chance to win both nights.
DeRidder stopped 47 of 51 on the weekend for a .922 save percentage.
"That's another guy I grabbed tonight after the game," Berry said. "I said, 'You prepared, you had a mindset, you were in attack mode, you were confident in how you looked out there.' It translated to his game. I said, 'You've got to do that again in practice next week and you've got to get ready for the weekend in Miami.' That's the level we need from him."
There were two big negatives, too. UND once again lost a game in the third period, and it once again ended up on the wrong side of a one-goal game.
The Fighting Hawks (10-11-4) have now been tied or ahead in the third period in seven of their 11 losses this season. They're 2-6 in one-goal games.
"I thought it was pretty evident we definitely didn't get the start we wanted," Mark Senden said. "I think they had us in the first period, but Drew did a great job keeping the puck out of our net, making some big saves, keeping it 0-0 there. The second and third, I thought we started to take over. We were doing the right things. We were cycling down low. We were creating opportunities at the net. I thought we had a great last 40 minutes, but at this point in the season, we can't take 20 minutes off. We have to be ready from the drop of the puck."
Although Minnesota Duluth (10-13-1) has struggled this season, the Bulldogs have pulled out a majority of their wins at the end.
Minnesota Duluth has scored the winning goal in the final 2:03 or in overtime in six of its 10 victories. The Bulldogs also scored in the final two minutes in their lone tie as well.
UND dropped back to seventh in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with the loss. It heads to play at last-place Miami next week.
"We've got to move on and see what we can do next week," Frisch said.
Notes: UND played without center Jake Schmaltz (upper-body injury) for a second game in a row. Dane Montgomery (upper body) also remained out. UND moved Griffin Ness into the lineup. Jackson Kunz moved out. . . Minnesota Duluth made one change with its extra skater.