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Bulldogs survive own-goal in wild win over Western Michigan

UMD took a 2-0 lead in the opening 4:33, but needed a late goal from sophomore defenseman Darian Gotz to secure the win.

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Minnesota Duluth celebrates a goal by freshman forward Cole Spicer in the first period against Western Michigan on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, at Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Ashley Huss / Western Michigan University Athletics

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Goals cascaded down inside Lawson Ice Arena on Friday as hard and fast as the snow fell outside from a winter storm Lake Michigan has been fueling in town since Thursday morning.

It was especially true early as Minnesota Duluth and No. 14 Western Michigan tallied three goals each in the opening 9:03 of the game before the Bulldogs eventually prevailed over the Broncos 5-4 in NCHC play Friday.

UMD junior defenseman Darian Gotz of Hermantown won it for the Bulldogs with a minute to play, taking a pass from sophomore center Dominic James on his way out of the penalty box. That set up a breakaway and the game-winner for Gotz.

“We knew that the game was gonna start off fast, but that definitely was an exclamation point to fast,” said Gotz, who scored his first goal of the season and third of his UMD career. “I was just happy with the way we stayed with the game throughout the entire thing.”

Game 2 of the series is scheduled for 5 p.m. CT Saturday in Kalamazoo, which remains under a winter storm warning due to lake effect snow until Sunday morning.

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Freshmen scored the first three goals for the Bulldogs, as forwards Kyle Bettens and Cole Spicer gave UMD a 2-0 lead 4:33 into the game via their first collegiate goals. Ben Steeves, registering his team-leading seventh goal of the year, tied the game 3-3 with a snipe from the right faceoff circle on the power play at 9:03 of the first.

The Broncos got on the board via a goal by fifth-year senior Jamie Rome on the shift following Spicer’s goal. Shortly after, craziness — no, insanity — ensued.

UMD sophomore defenseman Owen Gallatin tied the game for Western Michigan with an unofficial own goal during a delayed Broncos penalty. Gallatin took a puck from behind the UMD net and put it into his own net after bouncing it off UMD senior goalie Matthew Thiessen. Broncos junior defenseman Cam Knuble — who the penalty was on — was credited with the goal as the last Bronco to touch the puck.

A shorthanded breakaway during the Knuble holding penalty by junior center Luke Grainger gave the Broncos a short-lived 3-2 lead, as Steeves scored late in the power play to tie the game back up.

“Crazy 10-12 minutes of the first period,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “It was nice to see Bettens and Spicer get their first goals. I thought we came out and had a good start, grabbed the lead, but I kept reminding them it's a long game. The way that game was going in the first period, I thought it could have been 8-7, 9-8.”

Senior wing Quinn Olson reestablished a quick lead for UMD in the opening minutes of the second period, however, Broncos senior wing Jason Polin tied the game again on the power play 5:01 into the frame.

The Broncos came into the weekend averaging an NCHC-leading 4.1 goals per game this year, while the Bulldogs were tied with Miami, averaging a league-low of 2.1 per game. The Bulldogs had just four regulation goals — and one 3-on-3 goal — last weekend in a loss and OT win at home against Omaha, but the team was confident it was on the verge of generating more goals after UMD put 83 of its 148 shot attempts on goal in the series.

“Confidence is the biggest thing and that's what we're running off of right now,” Steeves said. “(Saturday) night we're going to be looking to do the same thing, maybe not as much of a nail-biter. We're definitely going to be coming out hot tomorrow.”

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Matt’s Three Stars

3. UMD freshman wing Ben Steeves — With seven goals in his first 11 games as a Bulldog, Steeves settled the game down after UMD surrendered three crazy goals to the Broncos that erased an early 2-0 lead.

2. UMD sophomore defenseman Darian Gotz — It wasn’t wise to take a penalty late in the game, however, his penalty killers bailed him out. Then he rewarded the PK and redeemed himself by scoring the game-winner.

1. UMD sophomore center Dominic James — Coming back from an upper-body injury, James had two huge blocks at the end of the game when the Broncos pulled their goalie for the extra attacker. The first one left him down on the ice injured, but he remained in the game and sold himself out again to block another. James also assisted on Gotz’s game-winner.

Box score

Minnesota Duluth 3-1-1—5
Western Michigan 3-1-0—4
First period
1. UMD, Kyle Bettens (Jack Smith), 2:45
2. UMD, Cole Spicer (Derek Daschke, Ben Steeves), 4:33
3. WMU, Jamie Rome (Tim Washe, Aidan Fulp), 4:45
4. WMU, Cam Knuble, 7:16
5. WMU, Luke Grainger, 7:59 (sh)
6. UMD, Steeves (Daschke, Owen Gallatin), 9:03 (pp)
Second period
7. UMD, Quinn Olson (Isaac Howard), 1:47
8. WMU, Jason Polin (Ryan McAllister, Carter Berger), 5:01 (pp)
Third period
9. UMD, Darian Gotz (Dominic James), 18:55
Saves — Matthew Thiessen, UMD, 27; Cameron Rowe, WMU, 28.
Power play — UMD 1-2; WMU 1-3. Penalties — UMD 3-6; WMU 2-4.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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