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NCAAM: Bullet Points (Oct. 24)

By Kyle McLaughlin , 10/24/23, 5:45PM CDT


Minnesota Duluth sweeps Bemidji State in two close games, St. Cloud State and Minnesota earn splits against out-of-state opponents, and Minnesota State readies itself to hit the road next weekend.

Bemidji State (1-3-0) vs. No. 14 Minnesota Duluth (3-0-2)

Hosting game one of the home-and-home series at Amsoil Arena, Minnesota Duluth utilized their home ice advantage to jump out to an early lead. It was a penalty-laden opening frame with six penalties called, with Matthew Perkins scoring on the first powerplay before Luke Bast and Aaron Pionk (his first collegiate goal) added powerplay goals of their own. Perkins assisted on both tallies, with Blake Biondi assisting on all three goals, ending the period up 3-0. In the third, sophomore Cole Spicer added a fourth Bulldog goal on the way to the team's 4-0 victory, with UMD successfully killing all seven penalties, and goaltender Zach Stejskal making 23 saves for his first collegiate shutout. 

The Beavers came ready to play in game two and expelled their powerplay juju from the night prior, with Kyle Looft tallying two powerplay goals in the first period to lead 2-0 at the break. Unfortunately for Bemidji, the Bulldogs went on to score four unanswered goals, leading 4-2 midway through the third period. With just under seven minutes remaining, Lleyton Roed struck on a one-timer to cut the deficit to one before Adam Flammang tied the game with only two minutes remaining in regulation. In overtime, UMD's Cole Spicer scored the game-winner unassisted to win 5-4, securing the weekend sweep while keeping the team's unbeaten record alive. 

Bemidji State will now begin four straight weekends of conference play, starting with the St. Thomas Tommies (2-3-1) at home next weekend. The Bulldogs will make a cross-country trek this week to Ithaca, NY, to battle Cornell University on Oct. 27 and Oct 28. 

Kyle Looft, shown here in a game earlier this season, scored two goals in Bemidji State's loss last Saturday night.

No. 1 Minnesota (3-1-0) 

One of the fiercest rivalries in college athletics lived up to the hype this weekend when the Minnesota Gophers hit the road to battle the North Dakota Fighting Hawks (2-0-0). 

The opening frame in game one saw multiple grade-A scoring opportunities, but both goaltenders held strong, saving all 23 shots on net. A Brody Lamb breakaway goal broke the standstill two minutes into the second before freshman phenom Oliver Moore doubled Minnesota's lead ten minutes later, scoring his first collegiate goal off a beautiful shot where he pulled the puck and changed the shot angle à la Auston Matthews. Justen Close continued his strong play in period three, stopping all eight shots on net (leading to a 25-save shutout), with Bryce Brodzinski adding an empty net goal to make it 3-0 before Jimmy Snuggerud corralled his own rebound for a late fourth goal. 

Like Friday's game, period one of game two went scoreless, with the same two netminders in goal combining for 24 saves in the period. Unlike the night prior, the Fighting Hawks broke the deadlock in this one when Jayden Perron deflected the puck home 5:48 into the period. That one-goal lead held until the early part of the third when defenseman Jake Livanavage scored on a backhand shot to make it 2-0. Minnesota's Jaxon Nelson cut the deficit to one with 11:56 remaining in regulation. However, there would be no more scoring as the Fighting Hawks held on for the series split. With the split, the head-to-head record sits at 145-137-6 in favor of the Gophers. 

The Gophers will jump from one border rival to another, hosting the Wisconsin Badgers (5-1-0) for a two-game series at home, with the games on Thursday, Oct. 26, and Friday, Oct. 27. 

Oliver Moore, Minnesota

No. 19 Minnesota State (2-2-0)

Previously meeting during the 2021-22 season in which the Mavericks earned a sweep in Amherst, Massachusetts, Minnesota State hoped to see a repeat of that performance against the UMass Minutemen in Mankato this weekend.

Period one did not start the way the Mavericks drew it up, heading into the first intermission down 2-0 and unable to capitalize on all three powerplay opportunities. However, Minnesota State rebounded in period two, tying it up at 2-2 early in the period. However, the tie did not last long, with the Minutemen making it 3-2 less than a minute later. The Mavericks Luc Wilson retied the game off a top-shelf bullet before UMass once again responded, with Ryan Lautenbach scoring his second goal of the period to put the team ahead 4-3 at the break. UMass thwarted any attempt at a comeback in the third period, adding two additional goals en route to their 6-3 victory. 

The rematch on Saturday was scoreless midway through the game when Minutemen forward Aydar Suniev broke the deadlock, scoring via a heavy slapshot from the point on a powerplay. From that point on, Minutemen goaltender Michael Hrabal demonstrated why he was drafted with pick No. 38 in the 2023 NHL Draft, as he brushed aside all 15 shots on net in period three for a 32-save shutout, the first shutout of his young college career. 

Next weekend, Minnesota State will play its first road games of the season when the Mavericks square off against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks (3-1-0). 

St. Cloud State's Nick Ports celebrates a Husky goal over the weekend. SCSU split with the visiting Nanooks of Alaska Fairbanks.

No. 20 St. Cloud State (2-4-0)

Playing for the first time since the 2018-19 season, St. Cloud State faced off against Alaska Fairbanks (1-2-1) at home this weekend. 

Game one saw the Huskies jump out to a fast start, with Veeti Miettinen kicking things off on the powerplay before Nick Portz doubled the lead, then Adam Ingram made it 3-0 in the closing seconds of period one. All 14 shots on net were turned aside in period two, and in the third, the Nanooks ended Dominic Basse's shutout at the midway point of the period. Unfortunately for the Nanooks, SCSU's Joe Molenaar scored only minutes later as the Huskies cruised to a 4-1 win. 

In Saturday's rematch, a scoreless first period was followed by a three-goal second period, with Veeti Miettinen again kicking off the scoring before two goals from Harrison Israels put Alaska Fairbanks ahead 2-1 heading into the third. Kyler Kupka battled in front to tie the game at 2-2 with 8:22 remaining, but the Nanooks responded only a minute later and did not look back, adding two more goals to win 5-2 and earn the series split on the road. 

St. Cloud will have an early bye week this coming weekend before beginning NCHC play the following week, hosting the Miami (OH) RedHawks (3-1-0) on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4. 

Payton Matsui scored a goal and added an asserts in Alaska-Fairbanks' 5-2 win over St. Cloud State last weekend.

St. Thomas (2-3-1)

After playing two ranked opponents to start the season, the Tommies hosted the unranked Lindenwood Lions (1-2-1) this weekend, a team that only became a Division I member last season. The Tommies came out firing in period one, placing 28 shots on net with two late shots getting by the Lions goaltender from Luc Laylin and Cooper Gay. Period two saw Lindenwood tie the game at 2-2 before Jake Braccini scored to put St. Thomas ahead 3-2 going into the third. Chaska's own Shane LaVelle scored to make it 3-3 before the Tommies immediately responded. Lindenwood once again tied the game and forced overtime, with neither team scoring and the game ending in a tie. Lindenwood goaltender Trent Burnham was, without a doubt, the star of this game as he saved 59 of 63 (!) shots on net. 

A high-scoring affair in game one was followed by a scoreless opening period in game two. In period two, Cooper Gay and Luc Laylin again added tallies for the Tommies, leading to a secure 2-0 lead after two. A shorthanded Lindenwood goal with 7:43 remaining in regulation ramped up the intensity for the rest of the game, but the Tommies extinguished the late pressure with an empty net goal for a 3-1 win. Goaltender Jake Sibell made 15 saves between the pipes, earning his first win in a Tommie jersey. 

Starting a run of six straight CCHA opponents, St. Thomas will hope to begin conference play on the right foot when the Tommies travel to Bemidji State (1-3-0) this coming weekend.  

Cooper Gay, St. Thomas

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