Finishing deadlocked with Wisconsin a week ago, left Minnesota Duluthâ€™s players feeling they had lost an opportunity for a Western Collegiate Hockey Association victory.
Tying No. 20-ranked North Dakota 2-2 in overtime Friday at the DECC had the Bulldogs feeling at least a bit better about their effort before a crowd of 4,680.
â€œYou always want to win, but we battled back to tie it at the end and then even had some decent chances in overtime,â€ said defenseman Josh Meyers, who logged the most ice time among the Bulldogs. â€œWe just played a better game.”
North Dakota (4-6-1 and 4-4-1 WCHA) came into the game with an 8-1 mark in the last nine games in Duluth and 10-1-1 the last 12 games overall in the series. The Fighting Sioux took 1-0 and 2-1 leads, including freshman winger Jason Gregoireâ€™s rebound score at 4:26 of the third period.
UMD (4-4-4, 1-4-3) created some luck with 90 seconds left in regulation on a power play. Meyers shot from the left circle and the puck went off one North Dakota stick, then off a raised stick of Matt Watkins of the Fighting Sioux and finally off the glove of freshman goalie Brad Eidsness.
All four goals were on power plays. UMD led in shots on goal 35-33 and total shots 63-61. Eidsness had 33 saves and UMDâ€™s Alex Stalock 31. Twice the Bulldogs had 5-on-3 power play shifts and failed to score.
â€œFor the most part, we didnâ€™t have any letdowns,â€ said UMD center MacGregor Sharp, who had a first period goal, his sixth of the season. â€œWe played a solid game from start to finish, a more complete came than last weekendâ€™s [series with Wisconsin].”
UMD got itself in a hole early as Michael Gergen (interference) and Trent Palm (holding) took penalties at 4:43 while on a power play. That gave North Dakota 95 seconds of a 5-on-3 shift and the only shot on goal during that time produced a goal.
Winger Matt Frattin connected from the left circle 6:39 into the game for a 1-0 lead.
The Bulldogs countered less than three minutes later. Sharp scored six seconds into a power play, skating through the crease at 9:17.
In a scoreless second period, UMD lost winger Kyle Schmidt of Hermantown when he blocked a shot while defending a power play. The puck hit him in the forehead, opening a cut that took seven stitches to close. He didnâ€™t return, and was observed for a concussion, but said he hoped to play in Saturdayâ€™s 7:07 p.m. rematch.
The tie was broken as Stalock stopped a Brett Hextall shot, but Gregoire was at the crease for his fourth goal of the season. Then Meyers tied as UMD came back in the third period on the second straight Friday.
â€œWhen you look at quality chances, I thought there were quite a few each way,â€ said North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol. â€œI thought both goaltenders played well. We did have a couple of bounces that didn’t go our way in overtime a couple of others that were a factor of the ice conditions late in the period. It was a hard-fought game. Two goaltenders played very well and that brought it to a 2-2 tie.â€
Summarized UMD coach Scott Sandelin: â€œIt was a good intense, hard-nosed battle. An even game.”
Kevin Pates covers Minnesota-Duluth for the Duluth News-Tribune in Duluth, Minn.