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UMD men's hockey: Biondi, Gilling jump-start Bulldogs offense to win over Miami

Hermantown's Blake Biondi got UMD on the board late in the second and Casey Gilling, the former RedHawk, kept the momentum going with a goal early in the third.

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Minnesota Duluth forward Blake Biondi (7) celebrates after scoring the first goal of the game against Miami on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribu

DULUTH — Casey Gilling played 131 games for Miami University over four seasons from 2017-2021, recording 26 goals and 51 assists before transferring in the offseason to Minnesota Duluth for the fifth year of eligibility granted to him by the NCAA for playing through the height of the pandemic in 2020-21.

On Friday, Gilling picked up his first goal, his first assist and his first win against his former team as the Bulldogs charged to a 4-1 victory over the RedHawks in NCHC play before a crowd of 5,324 at Amsoil Arena.

“Emotions are all over the place,” Gilling said of scoring in his first game against his former team. “It’s a great feeling, a little weight off the shoulders. That was something I was looking for coming into the weekend. It’s a great feeling to get that and better for the team to get the win.”

Gilling and the Bulldogs host Miami again at 7:07 p.m. Saturday in Duluth, and are scheduled to see the RedHawks two more times when they travel to Oxford, Ohio, on Feb. 25-26.

Gilling’s goal — a backhander that beat his former teammate Ludvig Persson high — came 2:26 into the third period off a feed from fifth-year senior wing Kobe Roth to put the Bulldogs on top 2-0. Gilling later helped set up fellow fifth-year senior forward Koby Bender for a wicked shot on the power play midway through the third that put the Bulldogs back on top by two.

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“I thought he was good tonight, I thought he was strong,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said of Gilling. “It was nice to see him score. It was a nice goal. A great play by Kobe to feed him, but a great finish. I thought he was strong all over the rink.”

Junior wing Quinn Olson went top-shelf on Ludvig less than two minutes later to put the Bulldogs ahead by three.

A pair of Hermantown natives broke the scoreless tie late in the second as sophomore wing Blake Biondi buried a feed from sophomore defenseman Darian Gotz. It was Biondi’s team-leading ninth goal of the season and team-high 15th point.

“Quinn was flying up the wall there, beat his guy and just ripped it,” Biondi said, crediting his linemate for getting the scoring play started. “It took a hit off me and was kind of a broken play, going right to Gotz. He made a great pass to me backdoor, I got my position on the (defender) and tapped it home.”

Sandelin said the line of Olson, Biondi and freshman center Dominic James was “really good for us tonight” and the goal that line produced at the end of the second was “big” as it had been a while — Dec. 30 — since UMD had scored a goal.

The Bulldogs entered the weekend on a scoring slump, having been held to two or fewer goals in seven of their last 11 games and a single goal in six of the last 11, including two shutouts.

Sandelin talked earlier in the week about life and energy scoring goals creates on the bench. While his players weren’t trying to be negative, it’s tough to be positive when pucks aren’t going in the net.

The goals by Biondi late in the second, Gilling early in the third gave the bench a lift, Sandelin said.

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“Hopefully this gives our guys a little boost. It’s good to get back in the win column,” said Sandelin, whose team had lost five of their last six heading into the weekend. “Saturday nights in this league are tough.

“We were fortunate to get some goals to break it open a bit, but we expect another tight game. Hopefully our guys are feeling a little bit better about how we finished the game and to get the win, so we can put two (wins) together.”

Bulldog Bites

Freshman center Red Savage scored the RedHawks’ lone goal 4:26 into the third period to pull Miami within a goal at 2-1. … Persson finished with 29 saves on 33 shots for the RedHawks while Bulldogs junior goaltender Ryan Fanti stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced. … UMD fifth-year senior defenseman Matt Anderson was ejected in the final minute of the game after drawing a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct for a late hit.

Box score

Miami 0-0-0—1

Minnesota Duluth 0-1-3—4

First period

No scoring.

Second period

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1. UMD, Blake Biondi (Darian Gotz, Quinn Olson), 16:31

Third period

2. UMD, Casey Gilling (Kobe Roth, Owen Gallatin), 2:26

3. MU, Red Savage (PJ Fletcher, Matthew Barbolini), 4:26

4. UMD, Koby Bender (Connor Kelley, Gilling), 10:22 (pp)

5. UMD, Olson (Dominic James), 12:15

Saves — Ludvig Persson, MU, 29; Ryan Fanti, UMD, 21.

Power play — MU 0-5; UMD 1-3. Penalties — MU 4-8; UMD 7-25.

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