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Bulldogs' third-period rally at Omaha spoiled by late turnover

Both teams picked up shorthanded goals, but a late UMD turnover in its own zone gave Omaha the 3-2 win.

Minnesota Duluth sophomore wing Ben Steeves keeps an eye on the puck while skating in front of the Omaha crease on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, at Baxter Arena in Omaha.
Minnesota Duluth sophomore wing Ben Steeves keeps an eye on the puck while skating in front of the Omaha crease on Friday at Baxter Arena in Omaha.
Anna Watson / UMD Athletics

OMAHA — Minnesota Duluth battled back from a 2-0 third-period deficit, but an own-zone turnover late in the game spoiled the comeback, leading to a 3-2 victory for Omaha in NCHC play Friday at Baxter Arena.

Bulldogs freshman center Dominic James said coach Scott Sandelin challenged the team during the second intermission — “let’s see what we got” — but a “bad bounce” late resulted in defeat.

“Let's see if we got a little grit, let's see if we got some some guys who want to come back here and not just give up on this on this game,” said James, describing Sandelin’s second-intermission speech. “We were down 2-to-nothing. We can obviously come back, and I think we saw that we had some guys that wanted to win, wanted to come back. Just tough the way it ended there.”

Faceoff
Minnesota Duluth senior wing Luke Loheit takes a faceoff against Omaha senior center Nolan Sullivan on Friday at Baxter Arena in Omaha.
Anna Watson / UMD Athletics

The Bulldogs, who are back in Omaha to take on the Mavericks at 7:07 p.m. on Saturday, got goals from a pair of sophomores. Owen Gallatin, a defenseman, put UMD on the board 4:01 into the third by zipping a shot through from above the faceoff dot. A shorthanded goal by James tied the game at 2-2 with 10:47 left.

A turnover by UMD freshman defenseman Aidan Dubinsky in UMD’s own zone while he was alone with Mavericks fifth-year senior center Jake Pivonka led to a shot that caught Bulldogs junior goaltender Zach Stejskal by surprise, beating the Cohasset native with under seven minutes to play.

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“My feet weren’t set, and he got a quick shot off. It kind of surprised me there,” said Stejskal, who was praised by both Sandelin and James for his play Friday. He finished with 27 saves on 30 shots. “It leaves a sour taste in your mouth for sure.”

Omaha took a 2-0 lead into the third period via a pair of special teams goals. The first came from sophomore center Ty Muller on the power play 11:37 into the first period. The second came via a shorthanded breakaway in the second by junior wing Matt Miller, who buried a feed from senior wing Jack Randl.

After killing off three Omaha power plays that took up 5:33 of the first period — there was 90 seconds of 4-on-4 early — the Bulldogs got three power plays in the second period, but generated just two shots on goal. Both came on their first advantage, with the Mavs picking up the shorty with 31 seconds remaining in the third power play.

The Mavericks' penalty kill came into the weekend last in the NCHC at 75.8 percent. Omaha also averaged the fewest penalties in the league at 3.75 per game going into the series. UMD came into the weekend at 25 percent on the power play with a league-low 68 tries.

The team that has won the special teams battle has won the three previous meetings this season between UMD and Omaha. The Mavs’ power play went 2-for-4 (UMD was 0-for-3) in a 3-2 win on Nov. 11 while the Bulldogs won 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 12 after going 1-for-3 (Omaha was 0-for-4 that night).

The Mavericks finished with a plus-1 advantage on special teams Friday in the third consecutive 3-2 game between the two NCHC schools.

“They're dangerous on the power play, and we didn't do us any favors by taking four penalties (in the first period),” Sandelin said. “They got three power plays in the first and they grab a lead. I thought 5-on-5, we were doing a lot of good things. We needed to produce a little more offense, but when you're killing and playing 4-on-4 in the opening six minutes, you don't really get into a flow.”

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Matt’s Three Stars

3. UMD junior goaltender Zach Stejskal — The Cohasset native was solid all night long, but as he said, giving up the game-winner leaves a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.

2. UMD sophomore center Dominic James — His shorthanded goal tied the game, and maybe changes the special teams momentum in this series.

1. UNO fifth-year senior Jake Pivonka — His pressure late forced a turnover, and then he fired a quick shot off to beat Stejskal.

Box score

Minnesota Duluth 0-0-2—2
Omaha 1-1-1—3
First period
1. UNO, Ty Mueller (Joaquim Lemay, Nolan Sullivan), 11:37 (pp)
Second period
2. UNO, Matt Miller (Jack Randl), 13:06 (sh)
Third period
3. UMD, Owen Gallatin (Aiden Dubinsky, Luke Mylymok), 4:01
4. UMD, Dominic James (Luke Loheit), 9:13 (sh)
5. UNO, Jake Pivonka, 13:03
Saves — Zach Stejskal, UMD, 27; Jake Kucharski, UNO, 23.
Power plays — UMD 0-3; UNO 1-4. Penalties — UMD 6-12; UNO 5-10.

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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