OXFORD, Ohio — Now Minnesota Duluth’s penalty-killing unit is just showing off.
A night after sparking a 4-0 victory with a first-period short-handed goal, the penalty killers created a successful penalty shot while down two men in a 3-0 NCHC victory over Miami on Saturday, Jan. 19, at Goggin Ice Center.
The UMD penalty kills improved to 92.9 percent on the season after going a perfect 4-for-4 Saturday and 9-for-9 on the weekend. Meanwhile, its leader, junior goaltender Hunter Shepard, made 17 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and fourth consecutive shutout of Miami.
“We spend a lot of time on special teams throughout the week because it’s been a huge part of our success the last two years,” said Shepard, whose school record for career shutouts now sits at 12. “We just do what we got to do. We do the little things, guys are blocking shots, clearing pucks. It’s not overly complicated. We spend a lot of time on it and make sure we’re prepared. That’s how we’ve done so well lately.”
Bulldogs sophomore center Justin Richards — who set up Friday’s short-handed goal — drew the penalty shot and converted it, going forehand to backhand, for his eighth goal of the season to put fifth-ranked UMD (14-6-2 overall, 7-4-1 NCHC) ahead 2-0 in the second period.
With just seconds remaining on a 29-second, two-man Miami advantage, a shot went off Richards’ skate and across the blue line. Richards, the first Ohio native to ever play at UMD, split a pair of RedHawks to win a race for the puck. He was then grabbed and shoved just before reaching the net.
“I heard the whistle blow and I saw the ref put his hands up for a penalty shot and actually, I was really nervous at first,” Richards said. “I knew what I was going to do and luckily it worked.”
UMD scored the opening goal Friday shorthanded on its third penalty kill of the first period. On Saturday, it was the Bulldogs’ third power play of the first that put them on the scoreboard.
Sophomore defenseman Scott Perunovich picked up his third goal of the season and first in 10 games at the 17-minute mark, flipping a shot from the blue line under the skate of sophomore wing Kobe Roth, past the screen of freshman wing Noah Cates and into the back of the net.
Sophomore wing Nick Swaney, who scored shorthanded on Friday, gave UMD a 3-0 lead in the opening four-plus minutes of the third after Noah Cates forced a pair of RedHawks to bumble the puck in the home zone. It was Swaney’s eighth goal of the season.
Swaney’s goal was part of a dominant third period for UMD, which moved into second place in the NCHC with the sweep, eight points back of league-leading St. Cloud State.
Shepard only had to make three saves in the third period while the Bulldogs put 15 on RedHawks senior goalie Jordan Uhelski, who finished with 36 saves.
The only point of the third that made Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin nervous was the final shot Miami generated from the slot late. That’s because it would have ended Shepard’s shutout streak of Miami, which now stands at 237 straight minutes.
The last RedHawks goal against Shepard came 2:52 into the third period of a 3-2 UMD loss on Nov. 18, 2017 in Oxford.
“I really, really liked our third ... probably our best of the weekend,” Sandelin said. “Going into the third period we’ve been a pretty good team over the last number of years. I just presented it to them as 0-0. It’s a challenge and an opportunity to win a period and win a hockey game and have a great weekend. I thought our guys went out there and executed the third period as well as we could. We had the puck. We played smart, we played simple.”
Bulldogs sophomore defenseman Louie Roehl didn’t finish Saturday’s game after taking a hard shoulder-to-shoulder hit in the first period. He returned to the game before leaving again. The hit on Roehl in the corner, which didn’t initially draw a penalty, was reviewed for a major. None was issued. Sandelin said Roehl is day-to-day.
The Bulldogs were forced to finish the game with five defensemen because Sandelin made the rare move of suiting up an extra forward — sophomore wing Koby Bender — as the 19th skater. Freshman Hunter Lellig, who was the 19th skater and seventh defenseman on Friday, was a healthy scratch Saturday.
Already without co-captain Nick Melnick due to injury this weekend, Miami coach Enrico Blasi benched his other captain, Grant Hutton, for Saturday’s series finale. Hutton took a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct in the third period on Friday.
Minn. Duluth 1-1-1—3
First period — 1. UMD, Scott Perunovich 3 (Nick Swaney, Kobe Roth), 17:00 (pp). Penalties — Rourke, MU (hooking), 3:07; Andrew Sinard, MU (hooking), 6:23; Brian Hawkinson, MU (interference), 16:27.
Second period — 2. UMD, Justin Richards 8, 7:38 (PS). Penalties — Mikey Anderson, UMD (cross checking), 0:33; Dylan Samberg, UMD (checking from behind), 5:35; Matt Anderson, UMD (hooking), 7:06; Derek Daschke, MU (hooking), 7:38; Peter Krieger, UMD (hooking), 14:26; Scott Corbett, MU (cross checking), 15:49.
Third period — 3. UMD, Nick Swaney 8 (Noah Cates), 4:13. Penalties — Monte Graham, MU (hooking), 14:41.
Shots on goal — UMD 13-11-15—39; MU 5-9-3—17. Goalies — Hunter Shepard, UMD (17 shots-17 saves); Jordan Uhelski, MU (39-36). Power plays — UMD 1-of-5; MU 0-of-4. Referees — Dan Dreger, Nathan Wieler. Linesmen — T.J. Likens, Nick Huff. Att. — 2,018.