University of Minnesota Duluth goalie Matt McNeely is about as calm as they come.
It's fitting, then, that after his first collegiate shutout in a 1-0 triumph over visiting Michigan Technological University in front of 6,123 at AMSOIL Arena on Friday night - and his first shutout in over two years at any level - McNeely gave a brief look to the clock, then made a subtle fist pump as he waited for his Bulldog teammates to swarm him in the crease.
"I've always let in just one goal or so (when I've been close to shutouts in the past), but I'm glad I finally got it," McNeely said. "It always feels good to get a shutout. It's been a while."
His 28-save performance - the most saves by the UMD goalie in a shutout performance since Kenny Reiter turned away 32 shots in the first round of the 2011 NCAA tournament in a 2-0 win against Union College - tied McNeely's career-high for saves, and helped the Bulldogs break out of a mini two-game slump.
"He stood up tall and played great," said junior Joe Basaraba, who scored the game's lone goal. "It's a big feat for him, and hopefully he'll keep moving forward and just striving forward."
McNeely wasn't the only player on his game, though, as the Bulldogs did what they had to do against the Huskies, especially with three key players out of the lineup due to a suspension.
UMD (8-10-3, 6-6-3 WCHA) blocked 20 shots, limited Michigan Tech to only a handful of second look opportunities and kept MTU off the board on three power-play tries.
"We didn't really make any mistakes in our zone," McNeely said. "I think we played a really solid game. The guys really put it all out there for me tonight, and it makes my job a lot easier when I can see the lane with the puck."
The resiliency and focus of UMD was tested throughout the night by Michigan Tech goalie Pheonix Copley, who made 41 stops, including 22 in the second period.
Often when the Bulldogs did find a window to shoot, Copley was there to deny any chance at a rebound or scrum at the edge of his crease.
"We're a hard-nosed team," Basaraba said. "We lost a lot of goal scorers (from last year), and we know we're going to be in a lot of tighter games this year. We had a few chances, but not a ton."
Luckily, Basaraba was able to find the back of the net on the Bulldogs' best chance of the night.
After a loose puck was chipped out to center, forward Max Tardy scooped it up and skated over the Michigan Tech line before sending a backhand pass to a wide-open Basaraba on the far side. Basaraba deked and was able to shove a shot through Copley's five-hole for the game's only goal.
"I saw the opening and (Tardy) made a great pass," Basaraba said. "(Copley) slid over to that far post and I didn't have much so I just kind of tried to muscle it through the five-hole."
UMD will look to complete the sweep when the same two teams do battle tomorrow night. Puck-drop at AMSOIL Arena is scheduled for 7:07 p.m.