For the second time in as many games, the University of Minnesota Duluth carried a lead into the third period of a critical Western Collegiate Hockey Association outing, but for the second time in as many games, the Bulldogs were unable hold on for a win and the two points that accompany it.
This time is was Minnesota State University scoring twice in the final 20 minutes to erase a 2-1 UMD advantage and skate away from AMSOIL Arena with a 4-2 victory in front of 6,120 spectators.
The loss marks the third time UMD has blown a lead in the final period this season after entering the year with a 24-0-4 record in that category since the 2011 Final Five. It was also Minnesota State's first road win against the Bulldogs in the two teams' last 11 meetings since a 7-1 victory on Jan. 28, 2006.
"You could say bad luck, couple bad bounces here and there and it happened to pop in the wrong way, but we have to start closing games out better than that," senior right winger Dan DeLisle said. "We just have to be more confident in the D-zone. We're playing fine all over the rink, but maybe we have to tighten up in the third a little bit."
Freshman forward Austin Farley and senior winger Mike Seidel scored back-to-back goals to give UMD a 2-1 lead entering the final period.
Farley scored with 12 minutes, 37 seconds gone in the first on a tip from the slot. Junior defensman Tim Smith picked up a turnover at the offensive blue line and threw a quick shot on goal. Farley got a stick on it and redirected the puck past MSU goalie Stephon Williams for his 10th tally of the year.
Seidel then scored on a seeing-eye wrist shot from the high slot at the 7:30-mark of the middle frame to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 advantage. Off a blocked shot on a 3-on-2, a rolling puck slid back to Seidel at the left circle, he wheeled around the middle of the ice and threw a puck through traffic that beat Williams glove-side.
Both UMD goals were scored on plays at the net, something coach Scott Sandelin wants to see more of.
"That's where games are going to be won and lost," he said. "It's funny how it works. You get a point shot and a tip and a goal, and then Mike Seidel shoots a puck and it goes through traffic and you get a goal. We must have had 10 (shots) that missed the net, too."
But in the final 20 minutes, it was all Mavericks, as they were the ones that battled to the net and made it difficult on UMD players. Minnesota State outshot UMD 22-7 in the final period, frustrated Bulldog players with tough play in all three zones and ended up cashing in for three third-period tallies.
Just 3:32 seconds into the final period, a bouncing puck found its way onto the stick of Zach Lehrke and he beat UMD freshman goalie Matt McNeely through the legs with a quick shot from the bottom of the right circle. Then, five minutes later, Eriah Hayes drove to the net knocked a puck off McNeely's pads and right to Teddy Blueger at the dge of the crease. He roofed it to put MSU out front for good. McNeely wound up making a career-high 37 saves as the Bulldog were outshot (41-28) for just the fifth time in 27 games this winter.
"We weren't hard enough to play against in the third period," Sandelin said. "Like every team in the league, if you're down by a goal, you're going to play hard to try and win the game, and that's what they did."
UMD, which is currently in the midst of its longest losing streak since a 0-5-0 stretch near the end of the 2007-08 season, faces the daunting task of trying to climb the WCHA standings in the waning weeks of the league play.
"There's nine games left in the regular season, and we have to kind of pull it around and try to get as many point as we can to get home-ice," DeLisle said. "I think home-ice is kind of our goal to finish the season so we can go into the playoffs having that home series which would help us out a lot."