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Sandy, after surviving deadly slapshot from teammate, makes Bulldogs debut in exhibition win over St. Thomas

Freshman goalie Zach Sandy was sent to the emergency room earlier this season after taking a slap shot to the neck in practice. He stopped all nine shots he faced in the second period of the 2-1 win.

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Minnesota Duluth goaltender Zach Sandy (31) makes a save against St. Thomas at Amsoil Arena on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — The second period of Minnesota Duluth’s 2-1 New Year’s Eve exhibition win over St. Thomas on Saturday afternoon at Amsoil Arena was the first action of the season for Bulldogs freshman goaltender Zach Sandy.

The 20-year-old from Fargo is behind senior transfer Matthew Thiessen and junior Zach Stejskal on the UMD depth chart this season, making playing time hard to come by.

Complicating things even further are the three injuries he’s battled through — all suffered in practice — during his first three months at UMD. Sandy pulled his groin, was concussed and took a potentially deadly puck to the neck in practice.

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Minnesota Duluth goaltender Zach Sandy (31) skates back to the goal after a timeout against St. Thomas at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“The scariest one, Luke Loheit took a slap shot in practice and hit me right here,” Sandy said pointing just below his Adam’s apple. “They said if it was a little more to the right, I could have died. I was just super thankful nothing terrible happened. Our training staff does a really good job. (Athletic trainer) Sarah (Miller) took me to the ER and calmed me down.”

Sandy was nothing but calm Saturday during his unofficial Bulldogs debut in the second period, stopping all nine shots he faced while the Bulldogs took a 2-1 lead. Sophomore center Dominic James buried a feed from freshman wing Ben Steeves to tie the game midway through the period and junior wing Luke Mylymok sniped the game-winner from the slot with 5:18 to go before the second intermission.

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Stejskal played the opening 20 minutes, stopping five of the six shots he faced while Thiessen saved five of five to close out the exhibition win.

The Tommies took a 1-0 lead over UMD with 58.8 seconds left in the first period. Mylymok said it was great to see “JR” — the nickname teammates have given Sandy as to not confuse him with Stejskal or head coach Scott “Sandy” Sandelin — get the opportunity to do what he does.

“It was awesome,” Mylymok said. “You love seeing guys like that go out there and put on a performance. He was rock solid.”

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Minnesota Duluth forward Luke Mylymok (21) skates with the puck against St. Thomas at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Sandy’s debut with the Bulldogs came four days shy of the one-year anniversary of his verbal commitment to UMD on Jan. 4, 2022. A three-sport athlete at Fargo Shanley High School in North Dakota, he played one season for the Minot Minotauros of the North American Hockey League before coming to UMD.

Sandy said he committed to the Bulldogs because of the program’s team-first, family mentality; the winning tradition of the program and because of the school’s track record with goaltenders. The last four No. 1 goaltenders at UMD — Kasimir Kaskisuo, Hunter Miska, Hunter Shepard and Ryan Fanti — have all signed NHL contracts.

Two of those four barely saw the ice as freshmen, with Shepard playing two games in 2016-17 and Fanti only seeing the ice in the third period of an exhibition in 2019-20. Like those two, Sandy said he came to UMD prepared not to play much this season.

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Minnesota Duluth goaltender Zach Sandy (31) watches the game from his post against St. Thomas at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“(The coaches) told me it'd be hard. I just have to work super hard, treat practices as games,” Sandy said. “I was prepared to play a little — maybe I’d play a game or two. (Stejskal and Thiessen) have been doing really well. It’s my first year, so I got to keep working hard so when I get in there, like today, I was ready for it.”

With his family in the stands Saturday, Sandy said he thought he played well in the second period. Sandelin agreed, it was a good debut for the freshman goalie, who may or may not see the ice again in 2022-23.

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“The first half for him has probably been a little bit tougher, but he's here for a reason,” Sandelin said. “We like him as a goalie and I liked what I saw tonight.”

Matt’s Three Stars

3. UMD junior wing Luke Mylymok — Mylymok’s snipe was nice, but the setup was unorthodox as his feed from behind the net to freshman wing Kyle Bettens missed the mark. The puck was deflected by the Tommies, and would up right back to Mylymok, now in the slot.

2. UMD sophomore center Dominic James — A highly skilled goal by he and freshman wing Ben Steeves, who look to be paired together now in the second half with Blake Biondi out for the season.

1. UMD freshman goaltender Zach Sandy — The Fargo native made some very skilled, tough saves Saturday, most notably on quick shots off faceoffs.

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Minnesota Duluth forward Dominic James (17) skates to the bench after scoring a goal against St. Thomas at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Box score

St. Thomas 1-0-0—1
Minnesota Duluth 0-1-1—2
First period
1. UST, Matthew Jennings (Luc Laylin, Luke Manning), 19:01
Second period
2. UMD, Dominic James (Ben Steeves, Luke Loheit), 10:12
3. UMD, Luke Mylymok, 14:42
Third period
No scoring.
Saves — Aaron Trotter, ST, 15; Ethan Roberts, ST, 8; Zach Stejskal, UMD, 5; Zach Sandy, UMD, 9; Matthew Thiessen, UMD, 5.
Power play — ST 0-3; UMD 0-6. Penalties — ST 9-21; UMD 6-12.

Photos

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St. Thomas forward Cooper Gay (20) and defenseman Luke Perunovich (27) fish a water bottle off the ice at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Minnesota Duluth forward Luke Loheit (16) controls the puck near Minnesota Duluth forward Dominic James (17) at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Minnesota Duluth forward Dominic James (17) skates with the puck against St. Thomas at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Minnesota Duluth goaltender Zach Stejskal (35) makes a save against St. Thomas at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Minnesota Duluth forward Carter Loney (33) fights for the faceoff against St. Thomas at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Minnesota Duluth forward Jack Smith (12) is upended by St. Thomas forward Cooper Gay (20) at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Minnesota Duluth defenseman Riley Bodnarchuk (19) tales control of the puck near St. Thomas forward Mack Byers (22) and Minnesota Duluth defenseman Joey Pierce (18) at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Minnesota Duluth forward Carter Loney (33) skates against St. Thomas forward Jarrett Lee (29) at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth. Lee was a Minnesota Duluth player last year prior to transferring to St. Thomas.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Minnesota Duluth forward Tanner Laderoute (13) and St. Thomas forward Matthew Jennings (9) speak with NCHC referees Sterling Egan and Tom Sterns at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Minnesota Duluth goaltender Zach Sandy (31) skates around during a break in the action against St. Thomas at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
college men play hockey
Minnesota Duluth forward Carter Loney (33) skates with the puck against St. Thomas at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

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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