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Bulldogs fall to Denver in NCHC semifinal

Riley Tufte attempts to get his stick on a rebound in front of Denver netminder Tanner Jaillet Friday night. Brett Groehler / UMD Athletics

A eerily similar script has developed in the well-documented recent history between the University of Minnesota Duluth and the University of Denver — one that hasn’t trended in UMD’s favor.

Friday night’s National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff semifinal round matchup between the two programs turned out to be, unfortunately for the Bulldogs, more of the same.

In a game largely dominated by special teams, No, 8 UMD couldn’t get the break it needed with the man-advantaged, never quite got the momentum going offensively and fell to No. 4 Denver, 3-1, in front of a crowd of 11,983 at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.It marked the fifth time the Pioneers have knocked off the Bulldogs this winter, with all contests coming down to the wire and hinging on a play or two throughout the course of the game.

“I thought our execution wasn’t good enough,” said head coach Scott Sandelin, whose team was looking to become the first NCHC Frozen Faceoff repeat champion in the event’s five-year history. “I was pretty pleased with how we played defensively, but offensively we weren’t good enough. We didn’t give them a ton of chances and we didn’t give them a lot of shots, but we had opportunities to get pucks to the net and we didn’t come up with the right play.”

After a spotting Denver a 1-0 first period lead, the Bulldogs broke through 97 seconds into seopnd when freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich threaded a shot through traffic on the power play .The scoring play started when freshman blueliner Mikey Anderson picked up a puck along the far wall and sent a cross-ice pass to Perunovich at the point. Perunovich settled the puck, delayed to create a screen and sent a wrister around a Denver defender into the top corner to knot the score at 1-1.

The Pioneers potted the eventual game-winner off the stick of Colin Staub at the 4:22 mark of the second period. Adam Plant added an empty-netter (on the power play) with just 49 seconds left in the game to seal it for DU.

UMD outshot Denver 25-19 on the night and held an 11-6 advantage in power play shots. Sophomore goaltender Hunter Shepard made 16 saves for the Bulldogs while for just the second time his last nine outings.

The loss sends the Bulldogs (21-15-3 overall) to the Frozen Faceoff third place game, where they’ll meet the University of North Dakota Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.

NOTES: Tonight’s defeat was UMD’s first in NCHC postseasoj play since the 2016 Frozen Faceoff championship. UMD had won six consecutive games in the NCHC playoffs coming into this weekend … UMD went 1-for-4 on the power play while the Pioneers scored on two of their four tries with the man-advantage (including the empty-net goal) … Bulldog sophomore left winger led both teams in shots with four … Denver is the first team to go 5-0-0 against the Bulldogs in one season since 1994-95 when the University of Minnesota went 6-0-0 … UMD is now 13-8-1 all-time at Xcel Energy Center … Joey Anderson has racked up seven points (three goals and four assists) in the last five games while Pernovich’s stat line for the past seven games reads four goals and six assists for 10 points.

Source: UMD Athletics