Showing a little rust in its first game in 20 days, Minnesota-Duluth used a reliable power play and solid goaltending Friday night to open the inaugural Shillelagh Tournament with a victory at Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
Winger Justin Fontaine scored the winning goal in a 5-on-3 shift in the second period and goalie Alex Stalock made 27 stops as UMD defeated Massachusetts-Lowell 2-1 to stretch its unbeaten streak to eight (5-0-3). It marked the first game played in Illinois in UMD program history.
The Bulldogs (9-4-6) face top-ranked Notre Dame (14-3-2) in Saturday’s championship game at 7 p.m.
“After three weeks off, I wasn’t expecting us to be great. We did what we had to, to win,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We had some good chances in the third to put it away, but it was another game that came down to the wire. Alex was good and made some big saves at the end.”?
Lowell (8-9) of Hockey East took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period, on a Ben Holmstrom goal, then was shut out the rest of the way. The River Hawks, with 21 days since their last game, have lost four straight games, the last three by one goal.
Winger Andrew Carroll’s second goal of the season tied the game for UMD with 1:50 left in the first period.
The game’s only other tally was aided by two penalties on Lowell at 8:17 of the second period. After defenseman Maury Edwards was called for interference, Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald contested the penalty and earned a bench minor. Fontaine put in his team-leading 10th goal of the season, on a MacGregor Sharp feed, 86 seconds later with a two-man advantage.
UMD ranks fifth in Division I in power-play efficiency (22.2%), while eight of Fontaine’s goals have come with a man advantage.
A scoreless third period became hectic in the final minute. Lowell junior goalie Carter Hutton, making his first start since Nov. 7 because of an ankle injury, was pulled for an extra attacker with 50 seconds left. A UMD penalty gave the River Hawks a two-man advantage for the final 36 seconds and Lowell did put the puck in the net, but after time expired. Lowell led in final shots on goal 28-25.
During UMD’s unbeaten streak, Stalock has allowed just one goal in six of the eight games and has season marks of 2.09 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. The Bulldogs are 4-0-1 against Lowell the last three seasons.