Minnesota Duluth is right in the thick of the race for home ice in the first round of the NCHC playoffs thanks to a six-point weekend at home against North Dakota that was punctuated by a 5-2 victory on Saturday before a sellout crowd at Amsoil Arena.
The Bulldogs are still in fifth, but one point back of the fourth-place Hawks and three behind third-place Western Michigan.
UMD trounced North Dakota once again by going 3-for-6 on the power play — 24 hours after going 3-for-5 on the PP — and was a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill — 24 hours after holding UND to 1-for-7 on the PP.
Below are my two thumbs up for the Bulldogs on Saturday (they may or may not sound familiar), plus my three stars of the night.
Thumbs up to the Bulldogs penalty kill
Tonight Scott Sandelin was all about praising his penalty kill.
He was particularly happy with its effort in the first period after North Dakota went ahead 2-0 thanks to a goal by Austin Poganski, which came during a delayed hooking call on junior center Peter Krieger.
The kill of Krieger’s penalty proved pivotal because 1:15 after Krieger was released, senior center Jared Thomas put a puck in the North Dakota net off his shin to make it a 2-1 game.
“That was a huge kill when it was 2-0,” Sandelin said. “That gave us some momentum and we went down and scored. Then the power play kept doing what it’s been doing. I thought that was a critical point in the game because against them, they were rolling and had the momentum. It could have been 3-0 and our guys did a great job.”
North Dakota would get another power play in the first after Thomas’ goal, another midway through the second and a final one late in the second period that carried over to the third. The Hawks wound up with just four shots on goal on their four advantages.
The Hawks finished the weekend 1-for-11 on the power play, scoring the lone goal on their third chance of the first period Friday. That’s something you don’t see much from a traditional high-powered offensive team like North Dakota.
Thumbs up to the Bulldogs power play
After going 3-for-5 against the Hawks on Friday, UMD went 3-for-6 on the power play Saturday to “officially” finish the weekend a stupendous 6-for-11 on the power play. Realistically and unofficially, that should read 7-for-11 on the power play because on Friday, Krieger scored seconds after a chance expired, with one foot of the Hawk offender still in the penalty box.
The Bulldogs are absolutely deadly on advantages right now, as demonstrated by the two goals freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich scored 16 seconds apart in the second period to give UMD a 3-2 lead.
North Dakota got caught in a parade to the penalty box, with Colton Poolman, Johnny Simonson and Nick Jones all taking penalties in a span of 2 minutes and 16 seconds. The result was a 5-on-3 snipe from Perunovich from the right side of the zone to tie the game and another snipe from the lower left to put UMD ahead.
“I looked at Larson and Hertz and they’re looking at me like, ‘Don’t take him off the ice,'” Sandelin said of the Perunovich goals, referencing assistant coaches Brett Larson and Jason Herter. “They said leave them out there.”
Junior wing Parker Mackay added the dagger Saturday midway through the third on — you guessed it — a UMD power play. That goal moved UMD to 13-for-24 (54.2 percent) on the power play over the last six games. UMD has 28 total goals during the span.
My advice to Minnesota State-Mankato on Tuesday and St. Cloud State next weekend is to stay out of the penalty box. You’d have thought North Dakota had learned that lesson Friday.
Matt’s Three Stars of the Night
3. UMD junior wing Parker Mackay: Just one goal tonight, but it was the dagger. And he took a pop getting that shot off as well. Incredible poise by Mackay to stick with that puck.
2. UMD sophomore wing Joey Anderson: Anderson assisted on four of the Bulldogs five goals Saturday to finish the weekend with six points.
1. UMD freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich: His two power play goals Saturday were the game-tying and game-winning goals. The rookie D-man once again impresses.