Despite late goal by Olson, Bulldogs lose ground to Broncos in NCHC
Fifth-place Minnesota Duluth entered the weekend hoping to catch fourth-place Western Michigan in the NCHC standings. That won't happen now following a 3-2 OT loss Friday.
DULUTH — Down six points in the league standings, fifth-place Minnesota Duluth entered this weekend’s series against fourth-place Western Michigan hopeful it could create a tie in the NCHC standings for that last home quarterfinal series.
Those aspirations were dashed Friday as the No. 10-ranked Broncos used a pair of special teams goals and an overtime game-winner to beat the Bulldogs 3-2 in NCHC play at Amsoil Arena.
Sophomore center Max Sasson slipped in the goal 2:17 into 3-on-3 play, giving WMU two of the three league points Friday, extending the Broncos’ lead over the Bulldogs to seven points. UMD and Western will meet again at 6 p.m. Saturday in the regular season finale between two teams who could very well see each other again in a best-of-three quarterfinal series next month.
“We had all the momentum and a big goal by (Quinn Olson), but too many turnovers for me,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We got to manage the puck a lot better. I think that hurt us big time. We've got to find a way to not turn the puck over so much. Our puck management was not very good, especially coming out of our zone.”
Olson, the Bulldogs' senior wing, forced overtime Friday with just his third goal of the season, scoring with 60 seconds remaining in regulation and junior goaltender Zach Stejskal pulled for an extra attacker.
The Broncos had their sights set on an empty-net goal and the victory earlier, but junior defenseman Wyatt Kaiser made a diving save, losing his stick even as it directed the puck off course.
“It feels good to get the monkey off the back,” Olson said of his first goal since playing at Western Michigan on Nov. 18. That's a good team effort. It's a good goal by us, but just not enough in those games.”
Western Michigan took a 2-1 lead into the third period by capitalizing on one of its three power plays in the second. Junior center Luke Grainger sniped the Broncos to their second lead of the evening midway through the second and 16 seconds into UMD’s second penalty of the period.
The Broncos’ first lead Friday came via a UMD turnover and successful shorthanded breakaway by senior wing Jason Polin — the NCHC’s and NCAA’s leading goal scorer — 3:55 into the game for his 24th goal of the year.
Bulldogs freshman wing Ben Steeves — who leads all NCHC freshmen in goals and is tied atop the NCAA — tied it at 1-1 just past the 12-minute mark by bouncing a shot high off the glass, off the back of WMU junior goalie Cameron Rowe and into the net for his 17th goal of the season.
UMD had just two power plays Friday, both of which came in the first period. They gave up a shorthanded goal on the first and killed their own power play with a penalty 55 seconds into the second.
Western finished the night 1-for-4 with the shorthanded goal to go along with the power play goal.
“The second period was definitely our lull of the game. I think first and third was was pretty good. Five-on-five, I think we were the better team,” said Steeves, who also assisted on Olson’s goal. He also had one of UMD’s three penalties in the second.
“We just got to score on our power play and not let them score on our power play,” Steeves said. “And stay out of the box. I had a penalty myself. We got to manage our sticks and our emotions, too. That’s all you can do.”
Matt’s Three Stars
3. UMD freshman wing Ben Steeves — Scored the Bulldogs first goal and assisted Olson on the game-tying goal to give UMD a point.
2. WMU senior wing Jason Polin — A menace all night for the Bulldogs, he scored the shorthanded goal and assisted on the OT winner.
1. WMU sophomore center Max Sasson — His game-winner was the ninth goal of the year for the Broncos’ top-line center.
Western Michigan 1-1-0-1—3
Minnesota Duluth 1-0-1-0—2
1. WMU, Jason Polin, 3:55 (sh)
2. UMD, Ben Steeves (Luke Loheit), 12:19
3. WMU, Luke Grainger (Aidan Fulp, Zak Galambos), 10:37 (pp)
4. UMD, Quinn Olson (Steeves, Owen Gallatin), 19:00 (ea)
5. WMU, Max Sasson (Zak Galambos, Polin), 2:17
Saves — Cameron Rowe, WMU, 32; Zach Stejskal, UMD, 28.
Power play — WMU 1-4; UMD 0-2. Penalties — WMU 3-6; UMD 5-10.