DULUTH, Minn. – Minnesota Duluth soared to the top of the NCHC standings in the first two weeks of the NCHC Pod, going 5-0-1 to nab 17 of a possible 18 league points.
The Bulldogs head home on Saturday, however, with just a single point in their final week following a last-minute 2-1 loss to North Dakota to close out their time at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
UMD finished 0-2-1 over its last three games after Fighting Hawks senior wing Grant Mismash deflected a blast by junior defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker for the game-winning goal with 48.8 seconds left on the clock.
The Bulldogs — who along with St. Cloud State only play nine games in Omaha — do remain atop the NCHC standings through nine games at 5-2-2. They needed at least two points Saturday to secure first place at Christmas.
Instead three teams will have a chance to tie or overtake UMD over the final three days. On Sunday, the third-place Huskies — three back — get Denver in their ninth and final game at 4:05 p.m., followed by second-place North Dakota — one point back — vs. Miami in those schools’ 10th and final game at 8:05 p.m. Second-place Nebraska Omaha — two back — and Colorado College then cap the Pod at 12:05 p.m. Monday.
“Again, another tight battle between the two teams,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “I actually thought we had a pretty good third period to get the game even and they made a play at the end to win.
“It sucks to lose the last game, but we’re going to try and take some positives out of the pod and build on those.”
Senior center Collin Adams put the Hawks on top 1-0 in the second period, throwing a puck on net on the power play with 6:45 left in the period. However, Bulldogs captain Noah Cates tied the game at 1-1 just over seven minutes into the third by putting away a rebound that came off the shot of freshman wing Luke Mylymok.
The majority of Saturday’s rematch of a 2-2 overtime tie — UMD won the shootout — from Dec. 10 was a defensive battle. UMD sophomore goaltender Ryan Fanti finished with 17 saves on 19 shots while junior Adam Scheel made 23 saves in the North Dakota net.
Sandelin said the Bulldogs could have tested Scheel more. UMD took 49 shots, but had 14 blocked by the Hawks while 11 missed the net.
“You got to hit the net,” Sandelin said. “We had plenty, 3-4-5 opportunities, but you got to hit the net. You’re not going to score if you don’t hit the net. We’re trying to pick little corners right now. I thought Scheel was giving up some rebounds and we’re trying to create some second opportunities. But we had point-blank rush shots from 15-20 feet out and we’re missing the net. It’s trying to get too cute, too fine.”