DULUTH, Minn. — The last time Minnesota-Duluth was playing this well, it was crowned as national champion after the 2010-11 season.
After building on one impressive sweep last weekend by adding another this weekend, there’s no reason to doubt that it could happen again after this season.
Dominic Toninato scored 28 seconds into the game, and Karson Kuhlman’s late first period power-play tally proved to be the difference as Minnesota-Duluth defeated Minnesota, 2-1, Saturday night to complete a home-and-home sweep.
“It was just one of those grind-it-out games, and we got the win,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin, as his team won their fifth straight game to improve to 8-4.
UMD’s last sweep over its long-time rival was back on Nov. 20-21, 2009, when the Bulldogs won a pair of games in Minneapolis.
Now the top-ranked Gophers are in a sudden scoring funk, and coach Don Lucia addressed the issue after the game.
“You just need some goals to give yourself some momentum, and we just couldn’t get momentum,” he said. “We just need some guys to start to score some goals for us.”
UMD goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, who made 24 saves in yet another stellar effort, made sure that didn’t happen Saturday as the Bulldogs built on their sweep of the St. Cloud State Huskies last weekend by adding one of the Gophers.
“We just kept playing our game,” Kaskisuo said.
UMD got started right away on Toninato’s team-leading ninth goal of the season. He caught Gophers goaltender Adam Wilcox out of position and poked a loose puck past him to get the crowd going early.
“It’s always nice to get the first goal,” Sandelin said. “It doesn’t mean you’re gonna win a hockey game, but it’s always nice to start that way.”
The way the Bulldogs started set the tone for the game.
UMD doubled its lead with just under three minutes remaining in the period when Kuhlman got a tip-in goal on a power play. His fourth goal of the season gave the Bulldogs an important two-goal lead after one.
[photoshelter-gallery g_id=”G00006ZLbTfYVHJM” g_name=”20141115-Minn-MinnDuluth-JGR” f_show_caption=”t” f_show_slidenum=”t” img_title=”casc” pho_credit=”iptc” f_link=”t” f_bbar=”t” fsvis=”f” width=”500″ height=”375″ bgcolor=”#AAAAAA” bgtrans=”t” btype=”old” bcolor=”#CCCCCC” crop=”f” trans=”xfade” tbs=”4000″ f_ap=”t” linkdest=”c” f_fullscreen=”f” f_constrain=”f” twoup=”f” f_topbar=”f” f_bbarbig=”” f_htmllinks=”f” f_enable_embed_btn=”f” f_show_watermark=”f” f_send_to_friend_btn=”f” f_smooth=”f” f_mtrx=”f” f_up=”f” target=”_self” wmds=”llQ6QNgpeC.p1Ucz7U.f2JUpkOlc0988XAUUWrwIwaZyN5FW9N4iyrNh12DVG04jhKeWrQ–” ]Nobody lit the lamp in the middle frame, but the Gophers lost A.J. Michaelson to a game misconduct when he was called for checking from behind with five and a half minutes remaining in the second, firing up the record crowd of 7,424 at AMSOIL Arena.
Lucia and the rest of the Gophers coaching staff were not happy about it; they let the refs hear it from them.
In the third period, the Gophers finally scored for the first time all weekend when Leon Bristedt picked up a UMD turnover and wristed it home to cut the Bulldogs’ lead in half. It stopped Kaskisuo’s shutout streak at 149:37, but he managed to hold Minnesota off the scoreboard the rest of the way and give the Bulldogs their second straight sweep of an in-state rival.
“Now we know we can skate with anybody,” Kaskisuo declared.
The Gophers were only swept once all of last season, when Wisconsin beat them twice in Madison. Adam Wilcox knows they have some work to do in order to get back on track after this one.
“We’ve just gotta get back to our fundamentals of working hard,” said Wilcox, who finished with 32 saves. “We’ve got the skill, and sometimes I think we rely on that.”
However, they clearly missed Travis Boyd and Brady Skjei this weekend, who were both out with injuries. Minnesota-Duluth took full advantage of those glaring holes this weekend and left the Gophers searching for answers.