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MINNEAPOLIS. — Lead changes, scuffles and more power-play opportunities than you could shake a hockey stick at, the NCHC Frozen Faceoff final had it all.
In the end, it came down to a shot from the goal line that went off a defenseman’s skate and into the net that gave Minnesota-Duluth a 4-3 victory over North Dakota.
The game-winning goal came late, with 50 seconds left in the third to be exact, and was the result of a five-on-three power play that UMD was granted. Joey Anderson got credit for the goal.
Anderson’s goal came shortly after North Dakota’s Trevor Olson tied the score at three apiece, also on the power play.
“Once they scored that third goal we all had to take a deep breath on the bench,” Anderson said. “We got a couple lucky breaks with the penalties and we ended up taking advantage of it.”
Penalties and power plays were a theme on Saturday night. The teams combined to take 27 penalties for a grand total of 57 penalty minutes. Duluth scored three power-play goals and North Dakota had two.
“It was certainly a battle, for sure,” UMD head coach Scott Sandelin said after the game.
North Dakota broke through on its second power play of the first period when Tyson Jost took his time finding a passing lane and delivered a perfect one-time pass to Brock Boeser, who beat Hunter Miska to give North Dakota a 1-0 lead.
Three and a half minutes after Boeser’s goal North Dakota went back on the power play again. While killing the penalty, Minnesota-Duluth’s Neal Pionk got around a UND defender and made his way towards goaltender Cam Johnson, except instead of shooting Pionk lowered his shoulder and ran over the goaltender. He was given a five-minute major for charging. UND was unable to capitalize on the one-minute five-on-three advantage or the rest of the major power play that followed.
Despite being on the power play for half of the period, North Dakota was only able to muster the one goal in the first. The Fighting Hawks outshot the Bulldogs 16-4 in the period. Attempted shots were 42-6 in favor of UND.
“I wouldn’t call it a missed opportunity,” UND head coach Brad Berry said of only scoring one goal in the first period. “I thought we had momentum in the first period.”
Sandelin said he was “fired up” after the Bulldogs escaped the period only down one goal.
“I thought our guys did one hell of a job and I tried to make sure they understood that,” he said. “I was really excited about how they responded, because it was a great job. It’s not an easy situation at all, because if you start going down two or three, and they had the opportunity to do that, they’re a tough team to battle back from.
Minnesota-Duluth got back on track in the second period, quickly. Dominic Toninato scored and tied the game at the 1:30 mark of the second. Before the stadium announcer could finish announcing Toninato’s goal, Riley Tufte gave the Bulldogs the lead 17 seconds later. Shortly after that Adam Johnson gave UMD a 3-1 lead at the 2:28 mark of the second.
“After that three-minute barrage I thought we came back and played pretty strong,” Berry said. “For the most part, I thought we played a very strong game. We didn’t win this weekend as far as this championship game, but it made our group a lot stronger.”
North Dakota stopped the bleeding six and half minutes later when Jost cut the lead back down to one goal. The second ended with the Bulldogs holding a 3-2 lead.