Mackay’s goals send Bulldogs to regional final
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The Irma, Alberta, to Hermantown connection was strong on Saturday for defending national champion Minnesota Duluth.
Freshman wing Cole Koepke of Hermantown twice set up his senior captain, Parker Mackay of Irma, to give the top-seeded Bulldogs a come-from-behind, 2-1 overtime victory over fourth-seeded Bowling Green in the first of two NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals at PPL Center.
The Bulldogs will play in their fifth consecutive regional final at 5:30 p.m. today against Quinnipiac, who beat Arizona State2-1 in the second semifinal.
Mackay tied the game with 3:01 to play in regulation after Koepke fired a puck into his captain’s shoulder. The game-winner came 11:45 into overtime, only this time Koepke’s shot caught the right pad of Falcons junior goaltender Ryan Bednard instead of almost taking off the head of his captain.
The puck bounced past sophomore center Justin Richards and right to the stick of Mackay.
For coach Scott Sandelin, it was great to see his captain again rise to the occasion in the biggest game of the year to date.
“We needed a goal, or we needed something, to give us some life. Parker gave us that life with the tying goal,” Sandelin said. “It was great to see him score again in overtime. That’s what leaders do.
“Hats off to Bowling Green. They had a great year, they have a great team. They made it very difficult on the ice.”
Saturday’s regional semifinal was a familiar scene for the Bulldogs, not just because it was their fifth straight appearance in the regional round, their 12th consecutive NCAA tournament game decided by a goal and fourth straight 2-1 NCAA tournament victory.
UMD’s 10th straight first-round NCAA victory — eighth under Sandelin — had the look and feel of both of last weekend’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff games at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The lack of time and space on the ice for either side resembled what UMD went through last Friday in a 3-0 victory over Denver in the semifinals.
Then, of course, there was last Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win over St. Cloud State in the postseason league championship. Like Saturday in Allentown, UMD was down by a goal late in the third, only to tie the game on a goal by a senior — Billy Exell that night — and eventually win in overtime.
Koepke said that weekend helped prepare the Bulldogs, especially newcomers like him, for the challenges of the NCAA tournament.
“Denver was a great team defensively, just like Bowling Green was tonight. They didn’t give us a lot of time,” Koepke said. “Playing two hard games last weekend, we knew what to expect when it intensified coming into this game. Those games last weekend were huge for us.”
UMD fell behind Bowling Green — playing its first NCAA tournament game in 29 years — late in the second period when the Falcons took advantage of a sloppy UMD shift that saw the Bulldogs fumble the puck between their skates.
Falcons junior wing Lukas Craggs walked the puck into the UMD zone, backhanded a pass past one Bulldog and through another to sophomore center Max Johnson, who then made a diving backhand pass around another Bulldog to set up sophomore wing Brandon Kruse for Bowling Green’s first NCAA tournament goal since March 17, 1990.
The Falcons would give that goal back late in the third to force overtime after Koepke fired a puck off his captain. The puck bounced to Mackay’s feet and was put on net. Bednard was able to stop Mackay’s shot, but his attempt to get the puck to safety failed as the goalie swatted it off the skate of senior defenseman Chris Pohlkamp and into his own net.
“They do a really good job defensively,” Mackay said about the game-tying goal. “I was just trying to hang around the net … trying to keep pucks alive. (Koepke) was throwing pucks at the net and it hit me. I got a shot on net and a pretty fortunate bounce, but this time of year we’ll take that.”
Until that hiccup, Bednard was nothing but cool, calm and collected in net. UMD’s second-chance opportunities were almost nonexistent as Bednard covered the puck over and over again, despite his team’s struggles in the faceoff circle.
The Bulldogs started strong on faceoffs winning 14 of 25 (56 percent) in the first period. UMD finished 45 of 84 (53.6 percent), led by senior center Peter Krieger. He won 17 of 23 (73.9 percent) of his draws.
Falcons coach Chris Bergeron said faceoffs have been an Achilles heel for his inexperienced centermen all season, but his team can handle them. It’s scrums and second chances that worry the coach.
“When (Bednard) is covering pucks, to me, that is when he is at his best,” Bergeron said.
“We can handle faceoffs. Scrums in front of our net are very, very difficult. He did an excellent job of limiting how many pucks ended up right in front of him.”
Bednard finished with 40 saves for the Falcons while junior goaltender Hunter Shepard stopped 30 shots for the Bulldogs.
Junior center Jade Miller returned from injury to the Bulldogs lineup Saturday, however, freshman center Jackson Cates missed his third consecutive game with an illness.
Bowling Green 1-0-0—1
Minnesota Duluth 0-1-1—2
First period — No scoring. Penalties — Frederic Letourneau, BG (boarding), 5:16; Mikey Anderson, UMD (holding), 10:41; Brandon Kruse, BG (slashing), 10:51.
Second period — 1. BG, Brandon Kruse 10 (Max Johnson, Lukas Craggs), 16:23. Penalties — Craggs, BG (tripping), 4:51.
Third period — 2. UMD, Parker Mackay 13 (Cole Koepke), 16:59. Penalties — Louie Roehl, UMD (slashing), 4:25; Craggs, BG (tripping), 12:50.
Overtime — 3. UMD, Mackay 14 (Koepke, Justin Richards), 11:45. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — BG 10-8-8-5—31; UMD 11-10-14-7—42. Goalies — Ryan Bednard, BG (42 shots-40 saves); Hunter Shepard, UMD (31-30). Power plays — BG 0-of-2; UMD 0-of-4. Referees — Cameron Lynch, Robert St. Lawrence. Linesmen — Jim Briggs, Ryan Knapps. Att. — N/A.