This was a tough road trip and not the most desirable way to begin your season. We knew, going into the weekend, they were a better opponent than what we saw on video. And they were- there is a reason they have been so successful the last decade. They are strong on pucks, skilled, and well-coached. Unfortunately, on both nights we got scored on early and had to fight uphill all weekend.
On Friday night, they scored early in the 1st and late in the 2nd to take two momentum-changing leads. The home team scored the game’s first goal at 3:36 of the first period when a long shot was rifled through traffic with sophomore goaltender Ian Shane screened on the play. We had a power-play opportunity late in the opening period and another one in the final minute but couldn’t score.
Early in the second period we killed off a penalty and Ian was equal to the task. Midway through the period, we put together one of our best offensive zone shifts of the weekend and were rewarded for our effort. Junior forward Jack O’Leary came around the Duluth net and fired a quick shot past the stick of the goaltender and we were all tied up at 10:59 of the second stanza. Minnesota-Duluth went back on top, 2-1, with 1:13 remaining in the period. It didn’t take us long to knot the score at 2-2 early in the third period. Freshman forward Dalton Bancroft intercepted a Bulldog pass in the neutral zone that set up a 2-on-1. Bancroft skated down the right side and then passed to classmate Winter Wallace who converted a one-timer to make it 2-2 with his first career goal.
For most of the third period, teams skated back and forth without scoring. Minnesota-Duluth scored the game-winner on a shot from the slot with 1:41 remaining. That goal really hurt. We pulled Shane and the Bulldogs took a penalty with 25 seconds remaining to give us a 6-on-4 but we couldn’t find the back of the net. Shane had 29 saves and the Minnesota-Duluth goaltender stopped 34 shots. Both teams were 0-for-3 on the power play.
In Saturday’s game, the home team again got on the scoreboard first, scoring at 5:19 of the opening stanza on a breakaway that stifled freshman goaltender Remington Keopple. The lead was short-lived as freshman forward Sean Donaldson cut from the outer hash mark to the net and shot the puck past the goaltender 5:59. The Bulldogs once again took the lead, 2-1, at the midpoint of the second period and increased the margin to 3-1 at 12:29. They added one more goal on the power play with two seconds remaining in the second period.
When it was 2-1, we missed some empty nets, and then had a shot blocked on a power play and they went the other way on a 2-on-1 and scored.
We brought Shane into the game to start the third period. Early in the period, we narrowed the gap to 4-2. Sophomore defenseman Michael Suda fired a shot from the point off a faceoff. Senior forward Ben Berard tipped the shot that alluded the goaltender to make it 4-2. We had three power-play opportunities in the third period but couldn’t convert.
Keopple played 40 minutes and made 11 saves for us, while Shane, in 18:39, stopped nine shots. The Minn-Duluth goalie stopped 30 shots. We were 0-for-5 on the power play and they were 1-for-5.
I’m encouraged with what I saw early and know we will grow during the season. Getting up to game pace was a challenge, as Duluth is an excellent team and their experience showed this weekend. It was their 7th/8th games and our 1st/2nd games. I wish we had a better way to get ready for these games and to feel the intensity of the play but we must play within the Ivy rules.
We’re on the road again this coming weekend in the middle of a six-game trip. Friday night we are at Princeton (also subject to IVY rules) and Saturday go to Quinnipiac, a team that has played six games plus two exhibitions. We’re excited to start ECAC competition.
We’re always glad to see our alumni on the road to cheer for us. We’re looking for improvement in every game and hope that you will come out and watch us.