DULUTH, Minn. - To best understand how University of Minnesota Duluth players and staff felt throughout Friday's Western Collegiate Hockey Association opener, one has to simply examine a pair of on-ice scenarios that played out in the final period. The first was a misconduct penalty early in the frame; the second was a subtle look to the AMSOIL Arena rafters after a sequence of late-game comeback attempts were thwarted.
In the end, the Bulldogs' frustrations equaled nothing more than a 2-0 setback at the hands of the University of Wisconsin, along with some incentive to bring their "A" game in the series finale tomorrow night.
The loss marks only the third time UMD has suffered back-to-back defeats since the 2009-10 season, and it was also just the third shutout loss for the Bulldogs in Duluth since the 2007-08 campaign.
So what went wrong?
"We came out right away and then kind of went on the brake pedal," rookie center Tony Cameranesi said. "We weren't ready to play the whole game. Wisconsin is a good team, and you can't just come out there and expect to win. It's a team game, and they outplayed us in that category."
After a high-flying opening five minutes, the Bulldogs lost their jump until the middle portion of the third period, allowing Wisconsin to build a 2-0 lead by the late stages of the middle frame.
Once in the third, UMD's fortunes looked to be changing when it was awarded a 5-minute power play after senior Dan DeLisle was sent headfirst into the boards at the 12-minute mark. But despite a serious charge, the Bulldogs couldn't manage to crack Badger goalie Joel Rumpel.
"We were going in certain parts of the game," Cameranesi said. "That's just the way hockey goes; sometimes you have a bounce, and sometimes you don't. We had a lot of chances that we could have buried, and they had some mistakes that we just couldn't capitalize on."
Freshman goalie Matt McNeely was one of the lone bright spots for the Bulldogs, as he turned away 24 shots in his home debut, giving him two solid outings for UMD in his first collegiate season.
"I feel pretty confident," McNeely said. "It's really nerve-racking coming into a building like this and playing. It's good to get that first home game out of the way, and hopefully I'll get another shot soon. Whenever my name's called, I'll be ready to go."
The Bulldogs and Badgers will cap their series tomorrow night at 7:07 p.m.