It had been two years, five months and 16 days since Minnesota Duluth had played at the Xcel Energy Center. But for Bulldog head coach Scott Sandelin and his squad, the return to the “X” was ever so sweet.
Minnesota-Duluth used three second-period goals to propel its offense in a 5-1 victory over St. Cloud State in the opening game of the inaugural State of Minnesota Hockey Showcase.
The Bulldogs jumped on the board early in first period when Matt Greer netted his first goal of the year, with helpers from Andrew Carroll and Trent Palm.
“I think you could tell just by the way we played, that scoring the first goal we were able to get the momentum,” Greer said. “We just kind of kept rolling from there.”
The scoring ceased for the remainder of the first period with Duluth outshooting the Huskies 11-7, a stat that would remain in favor of the Bulldogs throughout all three periods.
Of UMD’s three second-period goals, two came on the power play. Nick Kemp buried his second goal of the year with assists from MacGregor Sharp and Mike Connolly at the 1:35 mark of the period. The tally was the lone even-strength goal in the second.
Just over 12 minutes later, Duluth landed its first power-play goal of the contest as Evan Oberg and Jack Connolly connected with Josh Meyers for his third goal of the 2008-09 campaign.
The final UMD goal of the period came with just under a minute to play. The Bulldogs netted their second power-play goal as Mike Connolly buried the biscuit with assists to Sharp and Meyers.
After seven-plus minutes of scoreless hockey in the third, the Huskies netted their lone goal of the game at the 7:11 mark.
Husky captain Garrett Raboin found Nick Oslund, who fired a spinning shot from the left wing, beating Bulldog goalie Alex Stalock.
Besides that goal, Stalock was solid in net for Duluth. Facing 31 shots, Stalock turned away all but one as the winning netminder of record. Jase Weslosky was tasked with the loss, stopping 40 of 45 shots.
The Bulldogs netted one more to wrap up the scoring on the afternoon. Jack Connolly and Justin Fontaine hooked up with Drew Akins on his third goal of the season, another power-play goal for Duluth.
Overall, UMD’s special teams were phenomenal. The Bulldogs went 3-for-7 on the man advantage, but even more impressive may have been their penalty kill.
Facing a highly-touted SCSU power play, the Bulldogs continually found ways to shut down the Huskies, and St. Cloud ended up a dismal 0-for-6 with the man advantage on the afternoon, with only eight shots on net on the power play.
“Our penalty-killing up until the last two games was pretty average,” Sandelin said.
“We’ve tried to work a little harder on it, being more aggressive in different areas. It’s hard sometimes when you have so many special-teams opportunities to try to get everyone some ice time.”
But while the special teams were excellent for Duluth, Sandelin was quick to add that it all comes back to the man in net, Alex Stalock.
“The bottom line is, good penalty killing is goaltending,” Sandelin remarked. “(Stalock) made some great saves tonight, on the power play and on the five-on-five that gave us an even better opportunity to win.”
The Huskies and Bulldogs meet again Thanksgiving weekend in Duluth for the completion of this split-up series on Nov. 29.
Next week UMD will be on the road against Denver, while SCSU will be at home, hosting Robert Morris in nonconference action.