Once Minnesota-Duluth had victory in its sight in the Northeast Regional semifinals Saturday, the Bulldogs really hunkered down. Not only did UMD not allow Maine to respond to any of its five goals, it held the Black Bears to only three shots in the third period.
“They kept on us and it was tough to get in our zone,” Maine forward Spencer Abbott said. “There’s not much you can do when you can’t get into your zone.”
Maine scored two goals on 13 shots in the first period, but then only got 12 shots off in the second and third frames combined.
“They were just playing solid defensively,” Abbott said. “They were all over us tonight and did not give us much space to do what we do.”
The Bulldogs third line, the “checking line,” consisting of Joe Basaraba, Jake Hendrickson and David Grun, took on Maine’s top line and largely shut it down. Abbott, a Hobey Baker Award finalist, Brian Flynn and Joey Diamond have been a dangerous combination, totaling 63 goals this year. But UMD limited them.
“We’ve been playing against a lot of the top lines the last couple of games,” Hendrickson said. “Our role is to be a shutdown line and any offense we get is a bonus. We strive to shut down their offense anyway we can.”
Hendrickson’s offensive production may be a bonus, but he was the one who scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period. He batted in a rebound off Brady Lamb’s shot to give UMD the lead it maintained through the third frame.
“They did a real good job,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said of UMD’s third-period defense. “We tried to do a lot of things, we tried to get a guy out of the zone. They just clamped down defensively and we had trouble sustaining pressure in their end.”
In the third period, Maine attempted nine total shots, only three of which reached UMD goaltender Kenny Reiter. None of the attempts were grade-A chances — they were all behind the dots. Even on the power play, Maine could not create an opportunity in the period.
“We’re not a team that really sits back, but we tried to be a little smarter,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “They were trying to double up on the weak side with longer passes and trying to outnumber us. We didn’t get caught as much on the wrong side of the puck and we had numbers back.”
Though the Bulldogs kept players back to fend off Maine’s offense, they still sent their own offense. About halfway through the frame, JT Brown beat Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan through the five hole to give UMD a two-goal lead. Hendrickson fired off an empty-netter with 41 seconds left.
Coaches talk about the need to win a period to gain momentum or to seal a game. Now they can point to the example of UMD’s third period over Maine; the Bulldogs won the frame in every way a team can win a period — offensively, defensively and mentally.