BY JIMMY GILLIGAN | The Statesman A trio of third period goals led the University of Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team to a 5-4 win over Miami University in the opening round of the NCHC playoffs Friday night at Amsoil Arena.
UMD picked up its fifth consecutive win and third straight over the Redhawks despite surrendering three second-period goals.
A key to the Bulldogs’ winning streak has been its defense. Coming into the matchup UMD allowed just three goals in the previous four games.
Sophomore goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, who held Miami to just one goal in two games last weekend, allowed four goals on MU’s first ten shots of the game.
“He made key saves at key times, but we didn’t give him a lot of help either,” head coach Scott Sandelin said of Kaskisuo’s efforts Friday night.
“We had breakdowns on their first, second and third goals. You have to clean that stuff up.”
After Austyn Young gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead for the seventh consecutive game, it seemed like UMD would again pull away from Miami.
But the Redhawks responded with an equalizer eight minutes later. They would then dominate a penalty-filled second period to take a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes of play.
“You get a lead and you don’t wanna say it, but you think it’s gonna be like last weekend where you get those two wins and you kind of forget to work,” junior defenseman Carson Soucy said.
Soucy scored the final and deciding goal for the Bulldogs, who rallied from a two-goal deficit for just the second time this season (the first was a January exhibition game versus the USA Development Team).
Soucy was one of three UMD defensemen to score Friday night.
Defensive partners Neal Pionk and Andy Welinski each tied the game with power play goals—Welinski tied it at two in the second and Pionk tied the game at four in the third period.
Down by two goals during the second intermission, senior captain Andy Welinski said his team talked about staying composed in order to get back into the game.
“We don’t have any doubters in [the locker room] and nobody was in there thinking that we couldn’t do it,” Welinski said.
“We’ve had so much adversity throughout this year and I thought that gave us a little strength.”
Head coach Scott Sandelin looks for his team to play a more complete game Saturday night to avoid having to piece together another late rally.
“It’s a 60 minute game and we won the third period to win the game,” Sandelin said.
“Tomorrow, hopefully, we play a full 60 minutes.”
It’s the Bulldogs’ first NCHC playoff win in five opportunities.
A win Saturday night would punch UMD’s ticket to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis next weekend. A loss would mean the two teams would meet again Sunday in the best of three series.