Brady Lamb took the bull -- make that the Maverick -- by the horns Friday night. The University of Minnesota Duluth senior defenseman scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner midway through the third period, and sparked the third-ranked Bulldogs to a 4-2 home victory over Minnesota State University in the opening game of their best-of-three Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff series.
"We know anything can happen come playoff time, so we have to bring our best every night," said Lamb, who extended his scoring streak to a career-high five games. "We had some ups and downs tonight, but all-and-all I thought we played pretty well."
UMD (23-8-6 overall), which is now unbeaten in 14 of its last 15 games with the Mavericks and 8-0-1 against them in Duluth since Jan. 11, 2007, took a 1-0 lead on right winger J.T. Brown's team-leading 22nd goal of the season. Brown beat Maverick goaltender Austin Lee with a turnaround wrister in the high slot after grabbing a loose puck which came off freshman left winger Caleb Hebert's stick.
Lamb put UMD up 2-0 just 66 seconds into the second period when he flung a shot through traffic and into the Maverick net. Minnesota State (12-23-2 overall) cut the deficit in half with Max Gaede's goal five minutes later, then got the equalizer (from Joe Schiller) with 45 seconds to go in that same period. Lamb struck again -- his ninth goal of the season and third in two games -- at the 11:58 mark of the third on another "seeing-eye" shot and his defensive partner, junior Wade Bergman, iced the win on a 160-foot empty-net goal with five seconds to go in regulation.
Senior goaltender Kenny Reiter stopped 26 of 28 shots to improve his 2011-12 record to 21-7-6 while Lee was credited with 34 saves. Both teams combined for just four penalties, including one on Schiller which resulted in a penalty shot attempt by UMD junior left winger Keegan Flaherty in the second period.
The Bulldog can secure a berth in next weekend's WCHA Final Five tournament -- its seventh in the last 10 years -- with a victory tomorrow night over the Mavericks at AMSOIL Arena.
"We just have to carry that intensity we had to night into tomorrow," said Lamb. "I think the drive to end this series as early as possible will be the key."