By Matt Wellens
MADISON, Wis. — Third-ranked Minnesota Duluth made its first trip back to the Kohl Center this weekend after a six-season hiatus and got swept by No. 17 Wisconsin 6-2 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday.
Sophomore wing Noah Cates scored the Bulldogs’ lone goal of the night while the Badgers got goals from Alex Tucotte, Ty Pelton-Byce and Sean Dhooghe.
Below are Saturday’s thumbs up, thumbs down and three stars from college hockey reporter Matt Wellens:
Thumbs down to Bulldogs lack of scoring
I’m going to share an exchange Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin and I had after tonight’s game, that has been edited slightly for clarity. You can see the raw exchange in the video below produced by News Tribune photographer Clint Austin.
Sandelin: The game came down to scoring on chances. I mean, we had plenty of chances to score. We had the right people in the right spots, power play chances. The difference is they had their opportunities and they scored on them. That’s the difference. We had plenty of chances to score more than one goal, so that’s what it came down to.
Wellens: Is that at least encouraging for you in this game that guys were able to create so many great chances out there? Maybe you just ran into a good goaltender? Or do they need to start finishing these chances?
Sandelin: What do you think? We’ve scored seven goals in four games. What do you think they need to do Matt?
Wellens: They need to start scoring.
Sandelin: You’re damn right they do, right? You need to bear down. Right? But they’ve got guys that got that ability to finish, right? And we didn’t. That’s what it came down to tonight. We had plenty of chances. We had plenty of chances to score more than one goal.
I think that sums up tonight’s thumbs down pretty darn well.
Thumbs up to UMD not panicking
Yes, the two-time defending NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs are 1-3 to start their quest for a historic three-peat following a home split with UMass-Lowell and road sweep at the hands of Wisconsin.
They have just seven goals in four games, as the head coach pointed out to me above, and those seven goals have come from just five players — Nick Swaney, Noah Cates, Scott Perunovich, Justin Richards and Jackson Cates.
So is now the time to panic? Or to paraphrase Harrison University scholar Frank “The Tank” Ricard, should the Bulldogs keep their composure?
“We’re not panicking at all right now. It’s just something we got to work on in practice — finishing pucks, finishing drills, putting the puck in the net, make sure we’re bearing down on pucks,” Richards said.
“When we’re in these slumps, it helps us grow as a team. It definitely sucks right now, but we have to forget about it and have a good week of practice, get ready for the Gophers.”
Composure was critical for the Bulldogs a year ago during their run to a second consecutive national championship. That team found itself facing adversity in December and January, winning just two of eight at one point, averaging 1.5 goals per game in the five losses and tie.
The Bulldogs aren’t panicking now, either, just two weeks and four games into a 34-game regular season that spans five-plus months. They’re keeping their composure.
“Someone once told me, ‘When you’re not getting chances, you can start to worry,’” Swaney said. “The chances are there. We’ll eventually find the back of the net. It didn’t click for us tonight, but we’ll get back to work Monday and just work on it.”
Matt’s Three Stars
3. Badgers junior center Ty Pelton-Byce: He scored the deciding goal 12:09 into the second period, giving the Badgers a 2-0 advantage.
2. Badgers junior wing Sean Dhooghe: A two-point night with an assist on the game-winner and the empty net goal to clinch the win.
1. Badgers sophomore goaltender Daniel Lebedeff: The Helsinki native stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced, including five on Bulldogs power plays.