Bulldogs' season comes to an 'unacceptable' early end via NCHC quarterfinal loss at St. Cloud State
UMD will miss the NCHC semifinals for the first time since 2014-15 and the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013-14 following a loss to the Huskies in Game 3 of an NCHC quarterfinal series.
ST. CLOUD — Minnesota Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin called it unacceptable.
Senior wing Quinn Olson said it hurts.
Luke Loheit, another senior wing who has played in the NCAA tournament and a Frozen Four like Olson, said it gives the Bulldogs a chip on their shoulder moving forward.
The ‘it’ was an early end to UMD’s 2022-23 season following a 3-1 loss to St. Cloud State on Sunday in Game 3 of a best-of-three NCHC quarterfinal series at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
After dropping Game 1 on Friday 3-1, UMD forced a decisive Game 3 with a 5-1 victory on Saturday. The Bulldogs needed a win Sunday to keep their season going, and a second consecutive NCHC Frozen Faceoff title to reach an eighth-straight NCAA tournament.
Instead, its the Huskies moving on to Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, where they’ll face North Dakota on Friday in the league semifinals. Denver and Colorado College meet in the other semifinal.
“It sucks,” Sandelin said of the UMD’s first NCHC quarterfinal exit since 2014-15. “It’s been a long time since we've lost in the first round, but we gave them a hell of a battle. It was a great series.”
The Bulldogs took a quick lead in the second period Sunday when sophomore center Dominic James set up senior wing Luke Loheit for a snipe from the slot 38 seconds into the period to put UMD ahead 1-0.
In addition to James, Loheit also gave credit to junior defenseman Wyatt Kaiser on the play for stealing the puck in the neutral zone and finding an open James at the blue line.
“Great play by Kaiser and Dom,” said Loheit, who is eligible to return to UMD for a fifth season, and is planning on coming back. “I just got it in the right spot and tried to hit the net. It went in and started to get things going, but obviously we wish we could have gotten a couple more.”
The Huskies (22-12-3) erased that lead six minutes later with a pair of goals 14 seconds apart. Both came from freshmen, as defenseman Cooper Wylie scored on a wraparound and fourth-line winger Adam Ingram scored off a faceoff win by sophomore center Mason Salquist.
Fifth-year senior center Grant Cruikshank gave SCSU a 3-1 lead at the 12 minute mark of the second by putting away a puck that had stopped in the crease after squeaking through the five-hole of UMD junior goaltender Zach Stejskal.
“They're a good team. They're coached well, and they got good players,” Loheit said. “We knew they were gonna push. We just didn't weather it well enough. It's a learning lesson for us in a big game like this.”
In Saturday’s Game 2 victory that extended the series to Sunday’s Game 3, the Bulldogs scored three goals in the opening 6:33 of the second period — including two that were just 16 seconds apart — to turn a 1-1 game into a 4-1 UMD advantage heading into the third.
The Bulldogs were unable to build on their quick goal Sunday, getting outshot 21-11 by SCSU in the second period.
“I feel like we did a decent job of responding to (the Huskies' push), but obviously it wasn't good enough,” said Olson, who is also eligible to return for a fifth season, but is undecided at this point.
UMD entered the 2022-23 season with the longest active NCAA tournament streak — one that began back in 2014-15 — but that is snapped at seven. The Bulldogs finished the year 16-20-1 for their first losing season since going 14-19-5 in 2012-13.
Minnesota Duluth is poised to bring back potentially all but two fifth-year seniors — Tanner Laderoute and Jesse Jacques — from this year’s squad for 2023-24. The key to bouncing back and starting another NCAA tournament streak will be for the returnees to not accept what happened in 2022-23, Sandelin said.
“I thought our guys grew,” Sandelin said of the last five games against St. Cloud State. “I thought our guys battled really hard all week. I thought we played some pretty good hockey right now. We ran into a team that was a little better tonight.”
SCSU 3, UMD 1
Minnesota Duluth 0-1-0—1
St. Cloud State 0-3-0—3
1. UMD, Luke Loheit (Dominic James, Wyatt Kaiser), 0:38
2. SCSU, Wylie Cooper (Veeti Miettinen, Mason Salquist), 6:10
3. SCSU, Adam Ingram (Salquist), 6:24
4. SCSU, Grant Cruikshank (Grant Ahcan, Kyler Kupka), 12:03
Saves — Zach Stejskal, UMD, 29; Jaxson Castor, SCSU, 26.
Power plays — UMD 0-1; SCSU 0-1. Penalties — UMD 1-2; SCSU 1-2.