Michigan natives Sheldon Dries and Griffen Molino led the way with four-point nights for No. 8 Western Michigan in a 7-4 win over No. 3 Minnesota Duluth on Friday night.
“It was a battle tonight,” said Western Michigan coach Andy Murray. “We’re playing one of the best hockey teams in the country, obviously, and they had not lost in their last 11 hockey games. We knew it was going to be a battle.”
In his last regular-season weekend at home, Dries completed his first collegiate hat trick with goals in each period, including an empty-netter to end the scoring for the night. Molino assisted on all of them and had the primary on the first two.
Dries, the NCHC’s player of the month for February, earned the Broncos’ first goal of the night, winning the puck from a hit at the end wall, passed to Molino, and then skated into the slot where Molino found Dries waiting for a feed that Dries slammed into the pad of Hunter Miska before burying the rebound at 9:12.
“He’s the motor. That’s his handle,” Murray said of his senior captain. “Tonight he was our motor – killing penalties, winning face-offs, sacrificing the body. He was a good player tonight.”
Hugh McGing struck for the Broncos on the man advantage at 18:13, slamming in his sixth of the season and giving the Broncos a 2-0 lead on another rebound created by a ruckus at the goalmouth.
“We took advantage of some early opportunities,” said Murray. “Things got sloppy; some of the penalties we took were not good ones. We’ve discussed that and realized we need to change some things.”
Western kept it rolling early in the second and went up 3-0 with freshman Luke Bafia’s first collegiate goal at 2:12 on a shot from the right side face-off circle on an assist from senior Chris Dienes. Just seven seconds short of a minute later, Dries skated down the slot and stuffed his second of the night on a feed from Molino and secondary assist from Matheson Iacopelli to make it 4-0.
“It was a little bit of a crazy game,” said Duluth coach Scott Sandelin. “We knew they were going to come out hard.”
Sophomore forward Parker Mackay put the visitors on the board at 4:24 on assists from Nick Wolff and Avery Peterson as Mackay snuck a rebound behind Ben Blacker for his sixth goal of the season. Dominic Toninato sat for slashing at 12:48 and Neal Pionk sat for a cross-check at 13:11, creating a five-on-three opportunity for the Broncos, but the Bulldogs held firm, keeping the score 4-1.
Broncos freshman forward Lawton Courtnall found the back of the net at 18:18 to make it 5-1 as play picked up toward the end of the second. Courtnall’s goal, assisted by Scott Moldenhauer and Dries, was reviewed after Duluth goaltender Hunter Shepard could only sit on it to try and save it, but the puck crossed the line and was thus held up on review. Courtnall’s tally stood up as the winner.
“Our guys didn’t quit, I was proud of that,” Sandelin said. “We’ve got to clean up a few things, but give them credit. They’re a good hockey team. They come at you. Their top line was good. Dries was good.”
Western took two minor penalties near the end of the second, interference minors to Wade Allison at 18:39 and Michael Rebry at 19:40, giving the visitors five-on-three time going into the third, but Duluth could only manage Karson Kuhlman’s sixth goal of the year at 1:21 of the third on assists from Willie Raskob and Avery Peterson.
“Our penalty kill was outstanding when we needed it,” said Murray. “I, actually, really liked our power play. I thought our five-on-three was outstanding. You want to score, but the important thing is to sustain the pressure.”
Things seemed to get quiet going into the late stages of the third until Duluth pulled Shepard to the bench for an extra attacker at 15:46. Frederik Tiffels potted an empty-net goal just six seconds later to make it 6-2, but the roller coaster ride was just getting started.
Brenden Kotyk tipped home the Bulldogs’ third of the night on an assist from Alex Iafallo at 16:22 to pull the visitors to 6-3, prompting Duluth to bring Shepard back to the bench. The move paid off as Adam Johnson scored at 16:49 with the extra attacker on on assists from Kyle Osterberg and Raskob, making the score 6-4.
“Whether you score it or not, they were going to continue to press,” Murray said. Western eventually was able to withstand the late surge and capped its night with the empty net tally from Dries.
“I thought we weren’t quick enough shooting the puck,” said Sandelin. “They’re a good team at blocking shots. I thought we left a lot of shots on the rink.”
Western Michigan (20-8-5, 13-8-2-1 NCHC) and Minnesota Duluth (20-6-7, 14-5-4-3 NCHC) will meet again Saturday at 7:05 p.m. as both teams are firmly entrenched into their seeding for the conference tournament, with the Broncos sitting at third and the Bulldogs at second.
No. 1 Denver 4, Omaha 2
Henrik Borgstrom’s two goals, including the game winner at 2:11 of the third, lifted the visiting Pioneers to a 4-2 victory at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Neb. With the win, Denver clinched its first ever Penrose Cup as NCHC regular-season champions. Mason Morelli and Austin Ortega helped stake the hosts to a 2-1 lead after Troy Terry’s 16th goal of the year to open things up. But Logan O’Connor tied the contest at 15:23 of the third, setting the stage for Borgstrom. Terry notched his 16th assist of the year on Borgstrom’s second goal at 9:56 of the third. Tanner Jaillet made 23 saves for the Pioneers as he won his league-leading 24th game of the season. The Pioneers (25-6-4, 17-3-3-2 NCHC) and Mavericks (16-14-5, 9-12-2-0 NCHC) will meet in the season finale 8:07 p.m. Saturday.
No. 15 North Dakota 3, Miami 2
Trevor Olson’s shorthanded goal at 18:20 of the third broke a 2-2 stalemate and provided the visiting Fighting Hawks with the victory at Steve Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio. Miami took a 2-1 lead on a first period goal by Kiefer Sherwood at 7:38 and a goal by Gordie Green at 10:39 of the second. Ludvig Hoff answered the hosts’ first tally at 17:49 of the first on assists from Chris Wilkie and Rhett Gardner to keep the visitors within striking distance. Tyson Jost tied it for North Dakota at 13:54 of the third on assists from Christian Wolanin and Tucker Poolman. Ryan Larkin’s 38 saves nearly got the game to overtime, but Cam Johnson and his 14 saves got the win in net. North Dakota (17-14-3, 10-12-1 NCHC) and Miami 9-17-7, 5-13-1-3 NCHC) will meet again Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
No. 19 St. Cloud State 5, Colorado College 2
Jack Poehling’s first period goal at 17:30 on assists from Jon Lizotte and Will Borgen put the host Huskies up for good after his twin brother, Nick, scored at 15:25 of the first to tie it on assists from Jack Ahcan and Jummy Schuldt. St. Cloud’s Jacob Benson, Judd Peterson, and Daniel Tedesco all helped in the scoring effort for the hosts. CC’s Mason Bergh and Luc Gerdes scored back-to-back goals in the first, but that would be it for the visitors. Jeff Smith’s 30 saves earned him the win in the net for the Huskies while CC’s Alex Leclerc made 29 stops. St. Cloud (16-16-1, 10-12-1-0 NCHC) and Colorado College (7-22-4, 3-15-4-1 NCHC) will meet in a regular-season finale at 8:07 p.m. Saturday.