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Emotions get the best of Bulldogs late, allowing Omaha to pile on for 6-1 win, series sweep

Freshman wing Isaac Howard scored the Bulldogs' lone goal, his first goal since the season opener.

Joey Pierce
Minnesota Duluth freshman defenseman Joey Pierce attempts to block a shot by Omaha freshman wing Ray Fust on Saturday at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
Bonnie Ryan / Omaha Athletics

OMAHA, Neb. — After surviving a late push by Minnesota Duluth to tie the game, Omaha piled on four goals in the final three minutes to beat the Bulldogs 6-1 and finish off the NCHC series sweep at Baxter Arena.

UMD was down by a single goal with three minutes left, but the Mavericks ended the rally attempt with an insurance goal by freshman wing Jacob Slipec on a breakaway with 2:32 left. The Mavs then added an empty net goal, a goal on a delayed UMD penalty and a power play goal before the final buzzer sounded.

Slipec was responsible for two of the final four goals, creating a bitter eight-hour overnight bus ride back to Duluth after the game. UMD will hop right back on that bus Thursday for a five-hour trip to Grand Forks for a series with North Dakota next weekend.

“Not good,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said of the final minutes of Saturday’s game. “I thought it was a 2-1 hockey game. I don’t know what happened. It makes it look worse, for sure. It makes it feel worse, which it should, because you have to compete right to the end. I don’t have an answer for that one.”

For Sandelin, the breakdown by the Bulldogs on Saturday began with a scrum around the Omaha net with eight-plus minutes remaining. UMD had already killed its lone power play of the night via its second too many players on the ice penalty, and then a veteran made what Sandelin said was a bad decision.

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Fifth-year senior Jesse Jacques took an extra stab at Omaha freshman goalie Simon Latkoczy to set off the scrum, resulting in a double-minor on Jacques for roughing and slashing, roughing penalties on UMD fifth-year senior wing Tanner Laderoute and UNO senior center Nolan Sullivan, and a 5-on-3 power play for Omaha while it led 2-1.

Luke Loheit
Minnesota Duluth senior wing Luke Loheit skates toward the puck on Saturday against Omaha at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
Bonnie Ryan / Omaha Athletics

The Bulldogs killed off the penalties to stay within a goal, and while the killing cost UMD time, senior wing Quinn Olson said it bought the team some momentum going into the final seven minutes — until everything came apart.

“That’s a huge kill,” Olson said. “It’s a hard play to the net, unfortunately we came out two men short, but it’s a great kill. We got to take that and motivate ourselves, keep getting pucks deep and playing our ground game.”

The Bulldogs spotted the Mavericks a two-goal advantage in the opening five and a half minutes Saturday with freshman win Ray Fust scoring 2:17 into the game and fifth-year senior center Jake Pivonka scoring on a shot from the top of the slot that UMD junior goaltender Zach Stejskal was visibly frustrated he let in.

It was Pivonka who beat Stejskal for the game-winning goal in Friday’s 3-2 win for Omaha after an own-zone turnover by UMD. The Cohasset native admitted Friday night that shot caught him off-guard, and that his feet were not set.

Stejskal, making his fourth consecutive start, finished with 27 saves for the Bulldogs on Saturday.

Freshman wing Isaac Howard, the 2023 first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, cut Omaha’s lead to a goal before the first intermission by racing into the offensive zone, attacking the net and putting a puck in the far, top corner.

It was just the second goal of the season for Howard, whose first goal of the year came in Game 1 against Arizona State on Oct. 1 at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Olson said the bench was excited to see Howard get the goal — for the team and himself.

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It wound up being the Bulldogs’ lone goal despite 33 shots on the UNO net.

“We got to play to the buzzer,” Howard said, agreeing with Olson that the team let their emotions get the best of them at the end of the game. “I think everyone knows that in our group. That was a 2-1 game. … It could easily been tied up and things spiraled out at the end. We just can't let that happen again.”

Matt’s Three Stars

3. UNO fifth-year senior defenseman Jonny Tychonick — UNO won a draw clean in the UMD end right to the former North Dakota Fighting Hawk, who fired the puck right into an empty UMD net.

2. UNO freshman wing Ray Fust — The Swiss winger finished with two goals and an assist, scoring 2:17 into the game and with nine seconds left.

1. UNO freshman win Jacob Slipec — Starting with the breakaway goal to make it 3-1 with 2:32 left, Slipec scored two goals a minute apart at the end to bury the Bulldogs.

Box score

Minnesota Duluth 1-0-0—1
Omaha 2-0-4—6
First period
1. UNO, Ray Fust (Jake Pivonka, Tyler Weiss), 2:17
2. UNO, Pivonka (Weiss, Victor Mancini), 5:24
3. UMD, Isaac Howard (Luke Johnson, Cole Spicer), 11:36
Second period
No scoring.
Third period
4. UNO, Jacob Slipec (Fust), 17:28
5. UNO, Jonny Tychonick (Nolan Sullivan), 17:39 (en)
6. UNO, Slipec (Davis Pennington, Tyler Rollwagen), 18:28 (ea)
7. UNO, Fust (Nolan Krenzen, Kirby Proctor), 19:51 (pp)
Saves — Zach Stejskal, UMD, 27; Simon Latkoczy, UNO, 31; Jacob Zab, UNO, 1.
Power plays — UMD 0-1; UNO 1-4. Penalties — UMD 6-12; UNO 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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