High drama in Denver: Top-ranked Bulldogs tie game in final second, edge Pioneers in OT

DENVER — Minnesota Duluth rallied from a three-goal deficit in the third period Saturday night, Nov. 17 — scoring with 1.8 seconds left — to force overtime against Denver.

That’s when freshman wing Cole Koepke skated alone into the offensive zone to snipe a shot top shelf, giving the top-ranked Bulldogs a 4-3 victory over the seventh-ranked Pioneers in NCHC play at Magness Arena.

The Bulldogs (9-2-1 overall, 3-1 NCHC) were scoreless in their first five periods of the weekend at Denver (6-3-1, 3-3).

Sophomore wing Nick Swaney ended that drought 6:56 into the third period when he one-timed a pass from senior center Peter Krieger into the back of the net.

Senior wing Billy Exell made it 3-2 with just over 10 minutes to play, scoring off a faceoff win by junior center Jade Miller. It was Exell’s first goal of the season.

Bulldogs sophomore defenseman Scott Perunovich tied the game with 1.8 seconds left on the Magness Arena clock, getting his desperation shot to trickle past the once unbeatable Devin Cooley, the Pioneers sophomore goalie who stopped 38 shots Friday in a 2-0 shutout.

Koepke’s first collegiate game-winner came 52 seconds into overtime.

Cooley finished with 41 saves on 45 shots while UMD junior goaltender Hunter Shepard made 29 saves.

Minnesota Duluth arrived in the Mile High City on Thursday riding an eight-game winning streak and up until Swaney’s goal in the third, the Bulldogs appeared to be heading home to Duluth with an eight-game losing streak to Denver.

Instead the skid, which dates to the 2017 NCAA championship game, ends at seven.

The Pioneers, who were outshot 38-14 on Friday, pounced on the Bulldogs early Saturday as a pair of freshmen centermen scored two goals in the opening six and a half minutes.

By the end of the first period, the Pioneers had matched their shots on goal total from the night before.

Cole Guttman put away a rebound to give Denver a 1-0 advantage just 3:03 into the game. Brett Stapley — who was ejected 21 seconds into Friday’s game for a check from behind — made it 2-0 at the 6:20 mark after picking up a loose puck in traffic just above the Bulldogs’ crease.

Senior defenseman Les Lancaster put the Pioneers ahead by three 7:20 into the second period after getting a shot he released from the blue line to take a weird hop up and over UMD Shepard.

After combining for 12 penalties and 38 penalty minutes on Friday, UMD and Denver combined for four penalties for eight minutes on Saturday. Denver had two first-period power plays and UMD didn’t get its first advantage until the closing seconds of the second period. That was UMD’s lone power play.

The Bulldogs, down 3-2 at the time, had to kill off a third Denver power play late in the third after sophomore defenseman Louie Roehl was called for boarding.

The Bulldogs are off for Thanksgiving this week. They’ll play two more NCHC series before Christmas break, starting with North Dakota Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at Amsoil Arena, and then Western Michigan Dec. 7-8 in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Denver will visit Amsoil Arena on Feb. 15-16 to wrap up the regular-season series.

Minn. Duluth\u00090-0-3-1—4

Denver\u00092-1-0-0—3

First period — 1. DU, Cole Guttman 5 (Griffin Mendel), 3:03; 2. DU, Brett Stapley 3 (Tyler Ward, Liam Finlay), 6:20. Penalties — Cole Koepke, UMD (tripping), 10:17; Matt Anderson, UMD (interference), 14:45.

Second period — 3. DU, Les Lancaster 3 (Stapley, Ward), 7:20. Penalties — Liam Finlay, DU (hooking), 19:43.

Third period — 4. UMD, Nick Swaney 4 (Peter Krieger, Scott Perunovich), 6:56; 5. UMD, Billy Exell 1 (Jade Miller), 9:27; 6. UMD, Perunovich 2 (Nick Swaney, Justin Richards), 19:59 (ea). Penalties — Louie Roehl, UMD (boarding), 14:55.

Overtime — 7, UMD, Cole Koepke 2 (Parker Mackay, Nick Wolff), 0:52.

Shots on goal — UMD 9-15-20-1—45; DU 14-8-7-0—29. Goalies — Hunter Shepard, UMD (29 shots-26 saves); Devin Cooley, DU (45-41). Power plays — UMD 0-of-1; DU 0-of-3. Referees — Dan Dreger, Tom Sterns. Linesmen — John Grandt, Chase McGee. Att. — NA.