By Matt Wellens
DENVER — Minnesota Duluth rallied from a three-goal deficit in the third period Saturday night — scoring with 1.8 seconds left — to force overtime against Denver.
A minute into the extra period, freshman wing Cole Koepke of Hermantown skated into the offensive zone to snipe the game-winner top shelf, giving the top-ranked Bulldogs a 4-3 victory over the seventh-ranked Pioneers in NCHC play at Magness Arena.
Koepke’s first collegiate game-winner came 52 seconds into overtime. Sophomore center Justin Richards was able to draw one Denver defenseman his way on the rush and Koepke was able to get his shot off before a diving Denver stick could get in the way.
The former Hawk beat Pioneers sophomore goaltender Devin Cooley stick side, near corner.
“That was a great feeling,” Koepke said. “Our team worked so hard to fight our way back into that game and to get that (tying) goal with just over a second and a half left. Everyone contributed the whole game and worked as hard as they could.
“To be the one to get the game-winner is a great feeling.”
Bulldogs sophomore defenseman Scott Perunovich tied the game with 1.8 seconds left on the Magness Arena clock and the Bulldogs net empty. The play started with a faceoff win by senior center Peter Krieger with 10.3 seconds left after a Denver icing. He dished the puck to sophomore wing Nick Swaney, who fanned on his shot attempt before dropping the puck back to Perunovich, whose desperation shot trickled past Cooley.
“There were a lot of guys at the net, a lot of traffic. I don’t think the goalie could see it. Somehow it went in,” said Perunovich, a Hibbing native. “I just saw a little gap over his right pad on the left side of the net and that’s where I tried to shoot it. The winger came at me pretty quick. I knew I had to get (the puck) on net quick.”
The Bulldogs (9-2-1 overall, 3-1 NCHC) were scoreless in their first five periods of the weekend at Denver (6-3-1, 3-3). Swaney ended that drought 6:56 into the third period when he one-timed a pass from Krieger into the back of the net.
Senior wing Billy Exell made it 3-2 with just over 10 minutes to play, scoring off a faceoff win by junior center Jade Miller. It was Exell’s first goal of the season.
Cooley, who made 38 saves in Friday’s 2-0 shutout win, finished with 41 saves on 45 shots Saturday while UMD junior goaltender Hunter Shepard made 29 saves.
“Our guys talked a lot about, ‘If we can get that first one, we can get going,’ ” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “That was really true. We got the first goal and it gave our team more life. I liked the fact that our guys kept battling right to the end.”
Minnesota Duluth arrived in the Mile High City on Thursday riding an eight-game winning streak and up until Swaney’s goal in the third, the Bulldogs appeared to be heading home with an eight-game losing streak to Denver.
Instead the skid, which dates to the 2017 NCAA championship game, ends at seven.
The Pioneers, who were outshot 38-14 on Friday, pounced on the Bulldogs early Saturday as a pair of freshmen centers scored two goals in the opening six and a half minutes.
By the end of the first period, the Pioneers had matched their shots on goal total from the night before.
Cole Guttman put away a rebound to give Denver a 1-0 advantage just 3:03 into the game. Brett Stapley — who was ejected 21 seconds into Friday’s game for a check from behind — made it 2-0 at the 6:20 mark after picking up a loose puck in traffic just above the Bulldogs’ crease.
Senior defenseman Les Lancaster put the Pioneers ahead by three 7:20 into the second period after getting a shot he released from the blue line to take a weird hop up and over Shepard.
“It just wasn’t a good start,” Sandelin said. “We dug a hole and we were fortunate to get out of it. I give our guys a lot of credit.”
After combining for 12 penalties and 38 penalty minutes Friday, UMD and Denver combined for four penalties for eight minutes Saturday. Denver had two first-period power plays and UMD didn’t get its first advantage until the closing seconds of the second period. That was UMD’s lone power play.
The Bulldogs, down 3-2 at the time, had to kill off a third Denver power play late in the third after sophomore defenseman Louie Roehl was called for boarding.
The Bulldogs are off for Thanksgiving this week. They’ll play two more NCHC series before Christmas break, starting with North Dakota on Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at Amsoil Arena, and then Western Michigan on Dec. 7-8 in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Denver will visit Amsoil Arena on Feb. 15-16 to wrap up the regular-season series.
Minn. Duluth 0-0-3-1—4
First period — 1. DU, Cole Guttman 5 (Griffin Mendel), 3:03; 2. DU, Brett Stapley 3 (Tyler Ward, Liam Finlay), 6:20. Penalties — Cole Koepke, UMD (tripping), 10:17; Matt Anderson, UMD (interference), 14:45.
Second period — 3. DU, Les Lancaster 3 (Stapley, Ward), 7:20. Penalties — Liam Finlay, DU (hooking), 19:43.
Third period — 4. UMD, Nick Swaney 4 (Peter Krieger, Scott Perunovich), 6:56; 5. UMD, Billy Exell 1 (Jade Miller), 9:27; 6. UMD, Perunovich 2 (Nick Swaney, Justin Richards), 19:59 (ea). Penalties — Louie Roehl, UMD (boarding), 14:55.
Overtime — 7, UMD, Cole Koepke 2 (Parker Mackay, Nick Wolff), 0:52.
Shots on goal — UMD 9-15-20-1—45; DU 14-8-7-0—29. Goalies — Hunter Shepard, UMD (29 shots-26 saves); Devin Cooley, DU (45-41). Power plays — UMD 0-of-1; DU 0-of-3. Referees — Dan Dreger, Tom Sterns. Linesmen — John Grandt, Chase McGee. Att. — 5,808.
Matt Wellens (@mattwellens) can be reached at email@example.com or (218) 723-5317.