HANOVER, N.H. — Short one defenseman, but with fresh legs, Minnesota Duluth was able to come off a two-week layoff and stomp Yale on Friday 5-0 in the opening game of the Ledyard Bank Classic.
Playing without a full defensive pairing 24 hours later proved to be a much greater challenge for the Bulldogs, who gutted out a 2-2 overtime tie with host Dartmouth on Saturday night at Thompson Arena.
The consolation is UMD (9-9-3) heads back to Duluth tournament champions after winning a three-round shootout via two saves by sophomore goaltender Hunter Shepard and goals by junior center Peter Krieger and freshman wing Kobe Roth.
Shepard, of Cohasset, made a collegiate-high 41 saves in regulation Saturday after shutting out Yale on Friday, earning him tournament MVP honors.
"I was just trying to get a whistle when I could," Shepard said of how his play changed Saturday to help his four tired defensemen. "With only four true defensemen out there, those guys went above and beyond what anybody probably expected them to do. They gave a hell of an effort. You got to give them a lot of credit. I couldn't imagine skating like that."
UMD played the four defensemen it had left — sophomores Nick Wolff and Jarod Hilderman and freshmen Matt Anderson and Louie Roehl — to the max while fielding a lineup of just 17 skaters because senior defenseman Nick McCormack was suspended after receiving a game disqualification for contact to the head on Friday.
Three freshmen defensemen — Mikey Anderson, Scott Perunovich and Dylan Samberg — are also gone at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., playing for Team USA along with sophomore forwards Joey Anderson and Riley Tufte.
Wolff said Saturday was the most he played in a game since his days at Eagan High School, when he recalled playing 45 of 51 minutes in a state tournament game.
"That was about 25 pounds and three years ago of me," Wolff said. "We did a really good job (Saturday) of keeping our legs moving and our minds going. It was a fun game to get into."
Senior center Sammy Spurrell, one of the 13 forwards UMD had left, was listed as a defenseman for the second consecutive night Saturday. After only being used as a penalty killer on Friday, Spurrell saw significant time Saturday at defense on the penalty kill and five-on-five.
Spurrell saw minimal defensive shifts in the first period, but they increased in frequency and length as the game wore on.
"That's a first, at least at this level. I've never really gone into a game with four D. I've ended up games with four," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. "I thought Sammy Spurrell did a good job filling in here and there.
"I talked to Karson (Kuhlman) about taking some shifts (at defense), but Sammy was all for it and I like that. He's a team guy who will do whatever it takes. The thing about Sammy is he plays the same way at forward. He plays within himself, he keeps the game simple. He makes the right play and you saw that tonight."
Dartmouth, which had the night's two lone power plays, scored 24 seconds into the game while UMD scored in the closing minute of the first period to create a 1-1 tie going into the second.
It was the second consecutive night UMD scored in the final minute of the first with junior wing Parker Mackay giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead over Yale with 2.3 seconds left on the clock. On Saturday, junior wing Billy Exell scored his first goal of the season with 23.8 seconds left on the scoreboard.
Senior center Peter Krieger gave the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead early in the second period by using a diving backhanded shot to finish off a rebound created by freshman wing Nick Swaney. UMD's lead was short lived as the Big Green tied the game at 2-2 just under three minutes later after pinning the shorthanded Bulldogs in their own zone.
The game-tying goal by Dartmouth (4-8-2) came following a succession of icings by a tired Bulldogs squad that was trapped on the ice just before the midway point of the game, desperate for a change.
Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said his team altered their game plan slightly Saturday in hopes of taking advantage of a team with just four defensemen.
"We wanted to get pucks behind their defensemen and make them go back and get it or go around the bend on them, go wide on them and make them turn," said Gaudet, whose team has two wins (including one over Denver) and a tie in its last three games after getting the same result in its first 11 games. "That's our goal in any game, but more so in this particular game. It wasn't like we wanted to injure anybody like that, but we wanted to wear them out. Scott knew that. He's a veteran coach. The way they managed the game was pretty good."
After taking two weeks off prior to the Ledyard Classic, UMD will take another break this week before traveling to Colorado College on Jan. 12-13 to resume NCHC play. The Bulldogs will have all five World Juniors players back by then.
Minn. Duluth 1-1-0-0—2 Dartmouth 1-1-0-0—2 (UMD wins shootout 2-1)
First period — 1. DC, Charley Michalowski 2 (Daniel Wapecha, Kevan Kilistoff), 0:24; 2. UMD, Billy Exell 1 (Kobe Roth, Jarod Hilderman), 19:32. Penalties — Jarod Hilderman, UMD (hooking), 9:26..
Second period — 3. UMD, Peter Krieger 5 (Nick Swaney, Matt Anderson), 6:49; 4. Shane Sellar 3 (Will Graber Quin Foreman), 9:46. Penalties — Louie Roehl, UMD (interference), 13:12.
Third period — No scoring. Penalties — None.
Overtime — No scoring. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — UMD 14-13-9-5—41; DC 17-14-11-1—43. Goalies — Hunter Shepard, UMD (43 shots-41 saves); Devin Buffalo, DC (41-39). Power plays — UMD 0-of-0; DC 0-of-2. Referees — Robert St. Lawrence, C.J. Hanafin. Linesmen — Jim Briggs, Jason Shattie. Att. — NA.