By Matt Wellens
DULUTH, Minn. — That was not the opening 20 minutes of conference play Minnesota Duluth hoped for Friday coming off a bye weekend, however, there was little for UMD to complain about over the final 20 minutes.
The seventh-ranked Bulldogs gave up a pair of goals and saw two of its own helped off the ice — though they would return — in the first period and then scored twice in the third via man advantages to tie No. 1-ranked Denver 3-3 before a crowd of 5,374 at Amsoil Arena.
The Pioneers won a sudden-death shootout in the opening round to pick up an extra conference point in the first half of the NCHC-opening series between the two league favorites, which concludes at 7:07 p.m. on Saturday in Duluth.
“We played a little more desperate, we played with a little more jam,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said of the final 20-plus minutes Friday. “When you’re down two goals, you got a choice to make, right? We didn’t play well in the first 40. Yeah, we had some chances. You got to bury some opportunities. We had some opportunities on the power play.”
Sophomore wing Cole Koepke, junior wing Kobe Roth and sophomore wing Noah Cates scored for the Bulldogs, with Roth and Cates striking in the third on man advantages to rally UMD.
Cates tied the game in the final minute with senior goaltender Hunter Shepard on the bench for an extra attacker. Cates was set up by junior defenseman Scott Perunovich, who also assisted on Roth’s power play goal earlier in the third.
“Scotty made a great seam play and I just put it toward the net. I was lucky enough it went in,” Cates said of his third goal of the season, tying older brother Jackson. “It was an all-around effort from everyone with the(zone) entry, shrinking them and Scotty with that unbelievable pass. We need more of that tomorrow and great plays like that are what we need.”
Senior wing Liam Finlay scored twice for the Pioneers, who jumped ahead in the first by taking advantage of a Bulldogs’ turnover and rebound.
Finlay scored on an empty net four minutes in after Shepard turned the puck over behind his own net. Rookie forward Brett Edwards then tallied up his first collegiate goal at the 11:45 mark by putting away a puck that came hard off the right pad of Shepard.
“That’s what we’ve been harping on all year, our starts,” Roth said. “They haven’t been good enough and they need to be better, especially against teams like that.”
Finlay got his second goal of the night in the final five minutes of the second period via a one-timer off a faceoff to put Denver ahead 3-1. His score came 40 seconds after the Pioneers killed off a Bulldogs power play, one that included a 56-second 4-on-3 advantage that saw UMD nearly tie the game on a pair of scoring chances.
UMD, which finished the night 1-for-3 on the power play with an extra-attacker goal as well, pulled within one twice before tying things up. The first time was late in the first period thanks to a defensive lapse by Denver that put the puck right on the stick of Koepke, the Hermantown native. The Pioneers misplayed a puck in their own zone and Koepke was there to snipe the puck top shelf for his first goal of 2019-20.
The Bulldogs got back within a goal midway through the third period on the power play when Roth buried a feed from fellow junior winger Nick Swaney for his second goal of the season.
Roth was one of the two Bulldogs knocked out of the game in the first period, only to return before the intermission. Roth was helped off the ice with a lower body injury after getting boarded in the opening minute of play. Junior defenseman Dylan Samberg also left briefly after taking a puck to the head while on the penalty kill, a shot that left him on the ice visibly in pain.
MINNESOTA DULUTH 3, DENVER 3, DENVER WINS SHOOTOUT
Minnesota Duluth 1-0-2-0—3
First period — 1. DU, Liam Finlay 2 (Tyson McLellan), 3:58; 2. DU, Brett Edwards 1 (Tyler Ward, Brett Stapley), 11:45; 3. UMD, Cole Koepke 1 (Kobe Roth, Matt Anderson), 14:22.
Second period — 4. DU, Finlay 3 (Hank Crone), 15:45.
Third period — 5. UMD, Roth 2 (Nick Swaney, Scott Perunovich), 11:35 (pp); 6. UMD, Noah Cates 3 (Perunovich, Dylan Samberg), 19:29.
Overtime — No scoring.
Shots on goal — DU 9-13-8-2—32; UMD 10-10-9-0—28. Goalies — Magnus Chrona, DU (28 shots-25 saves); Hunter Shepard, UMD (32-29). Power plays — DU 0-of-3; UMD 1-of-3. Penalties — DU 6-12; UMD 5-10. Referees — Scott Bokal, Nathan Wieler. Linesmen — Jeff Schultz, Dana Penkivech. Att. — 5,374.