DULUTH, Minn. - A late third-period goal lifted Minnesota Duluth to a 2-1 non-conference victory over Michigan Tech tonight at Amsoil Arena. Goaltender Pheonix Copley made 39 saves in a strong effort between the pipes but had one get behind him with 2:46 to play that stood up as the game winner.
A crowd of 5,787 took in the regular season opener for both teams and were treated to a fast, physical game. Both netminders, Copley and UMD's Matt McNeely, stopped several grade A scoring chances in the contest.
The opening frame featured three penalties for each team but no goals. Each side had a 5-on-3 power play in the stanza.
Tony Cameranesi broke through for the hosts 4:55 into the second period. The Bulldogs out-shot the Huskies 16-5 in the period but Copley stopped 15 of those to keep the Huskies in the game.
In the third period, Tech was whistled for back-to-back penalties for the second time in the contest leading to another 5-on-3. Freshman defenseman Chris Leibinger, who had the first of the two penalties, came out of the box and jumped up on a rush. Tanner Kero fed a pass across to Leibinger who poked it into the net one-handed for his first career goal. Riley Sweeney also drew an assist on the shorthanded goal.
The score remained 1-all down the stretch even though Leibinger and David Johnstone both had opportunities to score shortly after the Huskies equalizer.
Justin Crandall scored the game winner with a shot from the goal line extended on the right side. The puck squeezed through Copley and trickled over the goal line.
Tech put the extra attacker on the ice for the final 90 seconds, but could not tie the score.
The final shot total was 41-16 in favor of UMD. McNeely stopped 15 to earn the win for the Bulldogs.
"I was a spirited team effort," said head coach Mel Pearson. "I liked our energy and effort, but we can play better. You need to finish your chances when you get them, especially on the road.
"I'm sure he'd like to have the second goal back, but I though Pheonix did a really nice job in net. We just need to work harder at eliminating the scoring chances against."
The teams will wrap up the two-game series tomorrow night at 8:07 p.m. (ET).