Minnesota Duluth scored a key, game-tying power-play goal early in the third period for the second night in a row Sunday, however, St. Cloud State responded with two goals of its own late to beat the Bulldogs 3-1 in NCHC play at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
With the win Sunday, SCSU took a two point lead over UMD and North Dakota for first place in the NCHC. The Bulldogs and Huskies will meet again five days late at Amsoil Arena in Duluth for the first home games of 2020-21 for the UMD men’s hockey program.
“Disappointing,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said of Sunday’s result. “We had opportunities in the first period with power plays to take the lead, and we didn’t do that. I thought they got some momentum off that. I felt like we chased the game the rest of the game. We made a very good push in the third and got caught on a line rush. They capitalized, and that was the difference.”
All three of the Huskies goals Sunday came from their two Finnish forwards.
HIGHLIGHTS: Miettinen has a hand in all 3 @SCSUHUSKIES_MH goals as Huskies strike twice in final six minutes to top @UMDMensHockey #NCHCHockey | #unleashSCSU | #BulldogCountry pic.twitter.com/SpjAWCPfFO— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) January 4, 2021
Sophomore Jami Krannila of Nokia, Finland, recorded the game-winner with just over five minutes to play in regulation, capping a 4-on-2 rush for the Huskies by tapping the puck in backdoor.
Veeti Miettinen, a freshman wing out of Espoo, Finland, had two goals for the Huskies. He broke a scoreless tie in the opening minute of the first period, driving through the middle of the UMD zone and firing a laser into the back of the net to score. He added an insurance goal on the power play with 1:07 left in the game.
“It was kind of that body blow theory,” Huskies coach Brett Larson — the Duluth native and former Bulldog player and assistant coach — said of the win. “We were able to give a few more body blows to try and score one later. Last night we weren’t able to get any. They body blowed us to death last night. It was the opposite. I was happy with the way we were able to turn that around.”
The Bulldogs, who won 4-3 in overtime on Saturday, had three power plays in the opening period Sunday, but failed to score on either advantage.
UMD wouldn’t get another power play until almost six minutes into the third period, and just as they did Saturday, the Bulldogs converted. Junior center Jackson Cates took a feed from freshman defenseman Wyatt Kaiser and one-timed a bullet into the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1.
“We had a couple of good keeps in the zone, and then Kaiser made a good play on the blue line,” Cates said. “He was able to get it over to me, and I was fortunate to bury it.”
Kaiser’s special teams heroics continued on a penalty kill that came just over a minute after Cates tied the game. UMD junior center Jesse Jacques was called for holding, but Kaiser made sure the Huskies didn’t capitalize, blocking three hard shots to keep the game tied.
“The penalty kill was outstanding,” Sandelin said. “You see a guy sacrifice like that, it’s a good sign. It’s a good uplifting thing for your team. The bench was up after that. That was an important kill and, unfortunately, they got the game winner.”
Thumbs up to the Bulldogs penalty kill
After giving up three power play goals on four penalties Saturday — and finishing the night 3-for-6 because of a major penalty — the Bulldogs penalty kill redeemed itself by holding the Huskies to just one power play on four advantages on Sunday. SCSU’s lone power play goal came in the closing minutes of the game when the Bulldogs were pushing to tie the game shorthanded.
“There are a lot of small details that go into the PK,” said Kaiser, who finished with four blocked shots Sunday. “We watched some film and tightened up on those things. We executed.”
The penalty kill not only executed, it created a burst of momentum for UMD in the third thanks to the shot-blocking efforts of a 6-foot, 175-pound freshman defenseman.
It also created a scoring chance as well in the second. UMD — already with two goals on the penalty kill this year — nearly picked up a third shorty via a solo breakaway by junior wing Cole Koepke off a faceoff. Koepke’s stick snapped as he released his shot, and the puck sailed out of play.
UMD’s penalty kill entered the weekend at 81.1% but finishes at 76.1%. That’s good for only sixth in the league going into the rematches next week with St. Cloud State.
“The guys have pride,” Sandelin said of the penalty kill. “It was much better tonight, and hopefully the guys feel better about the job they did tonight.”
Thumbs down to the power play
The power play came through for the Bulldogs in the third period for the second night in a row Sunday, but as Sandelin said, it needed to get going earlier in the game. It needed to score off one of the three advantages in the first period, the coach said.
UMD’s first power play came four minutes in when senior Easton Brodzinski — who had two power play goals for the Huskies on Saturday — was called for slashing. St. Cloud State’s penalty kill came out aggressive, pressuring the Bulldogs throughout. Sandelin said his team wasn’t ready for it.
“I thought our intensity level wasn’t good enough,” Sandelin said. “We got a big goal when (Jackson Cates) scored to tie it, but we had an opportunity there with the three power plays to build an early lead on a team we won an emotional game with last night. I think that was certainly a difference in the game to make them chase the game instead of us chasing the game.”
UMD was 2-for-4 on the power play Saturday, but finished 1-for-5 on the advantage Sunday. They generated just four shots on goal during the three first period power plays, with zero coming on that first chance.
“They were way more aggressive, it was hard for us to get set up,” Cates said. “We have to execute on those three power plays. That’s the difference between a win or not.”
Matt’s Three Stars
3. UMD freshman defenseman Wyatt Kaiser — He registered his sixth assist of the season by setting up Cates on the power play, and his three blocks on the ensuing penalty kill were critical to keeping UMD in the game.
2. SCSU sophomore center Jami Krannila — The game-winning goal, plus two assists.
1. SCSU freshman wing Veeti Miettinen — The Huskies leading scorer with seven goals and eight assists has a goal in each of the last five games. He finished with two goals and an assist Sunday.
Minnesota Duluth 0-0-1—1
St. Cloud State 0-1-2—3
Saves — Ryan Fanti, UMD, 7-13-6—26; David Hrenak, SCSU, 12-9-7—28.
Power play — UMD 1-5; SCSU 1-4. Penalties — UMD 5-10; SCSU 6-19.