Bulldogs Outlast RedHawks in Back-and-Forth Playoff Opener

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March 10, 2017

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DULUTH, Minn. – On three occasions, the Miami hockey team put No. 3 Minnesota Duluth down a goal, but UMD rallied back to take game one of its National Collegiate Hockey Conference best-of-three playoff series in overtime, 5-4.

Dominic Toninato’s goal 7:24 into overtime capped the comeback and dealt the RedHawks (9-19-7) their first overtime loss of the season.

Teams were feeling each other out in a cautious opening moments of the game until Josh Melnick intercepted a chip out and walked into the middle, though his shot was steered aside by Hunter Miska. The Red and White fired the first three shots on goal, but the Bulldogs (22-6-7) were the first to get on the board as a giveaway in the middle left Parker Mackay all alone to fire a shot by Ryan Larkin with 5:21 gone by.

Undeterred, Miami stormed back as Chaz Switzer fed a tape-to-tape breakout pass on the money to Gordie Green to spring a 2-on-1 rush. Green slid it over to Zach LaValle, who outwaited a UMD defenseman and Miska by walking it across the crease and sliding the puck in to tie it up 29 seconds after MU fell behind. The RedHawks weren’t done there as a point shot by Scott Dornbrock was tipped toward the crease by Anthony Louis, where Carson Meyer pounced on the loose puck to put Miami on top 2-1 just 35 seconds afterwards. That three-goal onslaught came in a span of 64 seconds.

The Bulldogs had a slight (7-6) shot advantage and spent some extended shifts in the offensively zone, but the RedHawks were able to block nine shots to keep them at bay. Meyer nearly added another goal before the horn with a fluttering shot from below the right dot that caught the crossbar and stayed out during a late Miami flurry. Nonetheless, MU skated into the dressing room with a one-goal lead.

An early drive to the net caused a UMD player to trip and slide into the Miami crease, taking down Ryan Larkin and forcing him to leave the game. Chase Munroe came into the crease with 17:37 left in the frame for his first appearance since his Dec. 10 win against Colorado College. The Bulldogs continued to hem the RedHawks in their own end and eventually Riley Tufte came free down the right side and buried a high shot from below the right dot on a cross-ice feed to even the score at 2-2 with 3:44 gone by.

A UMD penalty gave MU its first power play shortly after the tally, but it was unable to get anything through to the net. The Bulldogs then took another penalty with 13:18 to go in the frame, but they got the best chance when Toninato skated in for a breakaway and hit the crossbar. Shortly after the UMD miss, MU took its first penalty with 30 seconds left on its power play. Facing its first test of the night, the Miami penalty kill was up to the task and did not allow a shot in a scoreless Minnesota Duluth power play.

After not facing much rubber coming in cold, Munroe made some strong saves tracking the puck through traffic midway through the frame. The latter sequence led to a post whistle scrum that sent a player on both sides to the box.

Miami regained the lead with the ice opened up during 4-on-4 play as a faceoff win by Kiefer Sherwood allowed possession in the offensive zone. After Jared Brandt fed Grant Hutton, the sophomore blue liner skated in from the right point and circled the net before centering across the grain to Green, who wristed home his eight goal of the season to make it a 3-2 game with 4:06 to go until the horn. UMD then countered before the teams got back to 5-on-5 when Alex Iafallo drove wide and past the MU defense straight to the net to even it up 43 seconds later. The 3-3 score is where the game remained after 40 minutes.

Minor penalties on the RedHawks kept them on their heels for the early portion of the third period, but they managed to withstand the first power play that occurred at the 3:13 mark before being tested again with 6:43 run off the clock. Miami once again held strong to keep the score tied midway through the frame.

After withstanding the UMD power plays, MU threated in transition when Karch Bachman was fed for a breakaway, but his shot was off target. The puck eventually worked to the half wall where Ryan Siroky spun around and fired a shot that caromed off the inside of Miska’s pad and drifted into the goal to put Miami on top 4-3 with 8:46 left. However, the Bulldogs came right back and Tufte netted his second 1:05 later to even it up at 4-4 with 7:41 to play.

The Bulldogs got another power play with 2:34 left, but the RedHawks were able to get some key stops and keep them from taking the lead as the contest wore on into sudden death overtime despite UMD’s 18-7 shot advantage in the final 20 minutes.

UMD came out pinning MU in its own end for the opening shifts of the overtime and eventually forced an icing and Miami timeout. The Bulldogs had a glorious chance when a deflected puck found Mackay’s stick alone in front, but Munroe got a pad on the shot to keep the game going. Miami’s first good chance came about five minutes in when Bachman drove wide and cut to the goal, but Miska got a pad on the shot. On a later shift, Bachman had a puck find him off a turnover, but his shot hit the post.

A scramble at the other end nearly put UMD in front, but the whistle was blown before the puck crossed the goal line. The Bulldogs won the ensuing offensive zone draw and after circling the back of the net, Iafallo found Toninato coming in at the left side for a one-timer that ended it at the 7:24 mark of overtime.

The Bulldogs ended up with a 41-22 shot advantage after outshooting the Red & White 27-10 in the third period and overtime. Neither team scored on the power play with MU going 0-for-3 and UMD finishing 0-for-4. Green (1g, 1a) and Hutton (2a) both posted multi-point games. Larkin made seven saves on eight shots in the first 22:23 before Munroe relieved him and stopped 29 of 33 UMD attempts. Miska finished with 18 saves on 22 shots.

Miami will try to keep its season alive and force a decisive game three on Saturday when it plays game two of the series at 8:37 p.m.