Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin challenged his veterans prior to Friday’s game at Miami and one in particular answered the call as senior center Jared Thomas scored his first two goals of the season to lead the Bulldogs over Miami 3-1 on Friday at Goggin Ice Center in Oxford, Ohio.
Here’s my thumbs up from Friday’s win, plus my three stars from the opening night of this two-game series at Miami.
Thumbs up to UMD closing out a third period
A year ago en route to an NCHC postseason title and appearance in the NCAA championship game, it was a given that the Bulldogs would finish strong and close out a win.
This year we’ve seen the Bulldogs fade in the final 20 minutes, but not Friday in Oxford. Miami scored a power play goal 3:46 into the third period, but Thomas got his second goal of the night with 5:09 left on the clock and freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich followed with another goal 1:16 later to make it 3-1.
From there, UMD weathered 3-plus minutes of Miami’s extra-skater attack, with Thomas almost getting an empty netter for a hat trick.
“We just had to make them pay on our power play, which we did and then I think the next shift after or two shifts later, we got another one,” Thomas said. “Obviously if you can pad on insurance goals like that it makes it easier to close games out. We weren’t perfect in the end there when they had the goalie pulled, we gave up some shots, but that’s how big that third goal was.
“We got to come back tomorrow and play even better,” Thomas added.
Thumbs up to UMD going after “a great weekend, not just a good weekend”
That’s what UMD coach Scott Sandelin is looking for Saturday when UMD goes for the sweep of Miami in Oxford, Ohio.
But the coach knows that will be easier said than done.
“We’re going to have to grind it out again. We have to be ready for their push. I certainly know they are going to be a better team tomorrow, but we have to be (better) too and we can be,” Sandelin said. “We’re going to have to be to win another night in here. Right from the start we have to have that intensity. Hopefully we keep the game tight or get the lead again.
“We can’t be satisfied with this. We have to be prepared to play the next 60 minutes to have a good 120-minute weekend.”
The Bulldogs are 2-3-1 this season on Saturday nights, with the last two Saturdays both ending with UMD losing an NCHC game 5-0. Of those 10 goals allowed the last two Saturdays, half have come in the third period.
So as great as it was to see UMD close out a third period Friday, what would be even bigger is if UMD can close out this series Saturday in Oxford. The team seems hungry for it, even with some adversity coming its way.
Junior wing Billy Exell was injured during the second period Friday in Oxford and freshman wing Kobe Roth was injured late this week in practice. UMD is already without sophomore wing Joey Anderson and freshman wing Nick Swaney, meaning the team could be forced to play with 11 forwards and seven defensemen Saturday at Miami.
“We’ve seen how hard it is to win on Saturday nights in this league, especially after winning on Friday. Teams come out even harder,” Thomas said. “We really have to bear down and focus on what we can do and what we can control. We need to play the right way, get pucks in when we need to and make plays when they are there. We need to try and stay out of the box a little bit more. I think as time goes, I think you’ll see our Saturday nights get better and better and that’s what we’re trying to do tomorrow.”
Matt’s Three Stars
3. UMD sophomore goaltender Hunter Shepard: Shepard made 29 saves, including a number of showstoppers Friday against a Miami team that got him moving while crashing the net hard.
2. UMD freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich: The rookie now leads UMD in scoring with 10 points. He got his eighth assist and second goal Friday.
1. UMD senior forward Jared Thomas: His two goals Friday were potential series-shifters, giving UMD 1-0 and 2-1 leads. It was a clutch road game for the Hermantown native.