The Bulldogs got a goal from their fourth line just 3:11 into the game, as Keegan Flaherty tipped in a goal-mouth feed from Scott Kishel after Kishel stole a puck in the neutral zone and led the charge three on one/two.
(The Friars kind of had someone back. It was sort of a three-on-one mixed with a three-on-two mixed with a two-on-one. But I digress. And blab. And confuse people.)
Yeah, I know Providence evened the score later in the period, but there are a few important takeaways from Friday's game.
For starters, UMD never trailed in the game. Travis Oleksuk gave them the lead for good in the second period. Mike Seidel added a goal two minutes later (baseball style!), then Oleksuk and Caleb Herbert (power play) scored in the third period for UMD.
The special teams game was a win. Herbert's goal on the power play was the only special teams goal of the night, but even without that, it was a win for the Bulldogs. They severely limited Providence's chances on the man advantage, and even created a couple opportunities for J.T. Brown short-handed. Oleksuk's second goal of the night came one second after a power play ended, so it was basically a power play goal, even though it didn't count as one.
When Providence carried a chunk of the first period, UMD regrouped and didn't let it happen again in the game. You can question the opponent if you want, but this was a badly-needed performance and win for the champs.
The finish was the most impressive. After taking a one-goal lead into the second intermission, UMD out-scored Providence 2-0 in the third period, out-shot the Friars 13-5, and held the Friars to just ten shot attempts in the period, all of them from outside the slot (five on each side of the offensive zone, none particularly threatening).
Kenny Reiter was shaky on a couple shots, but pretty solid. The first goal was a weird play, where it looked like the initial shot was blocked, and no one could find it for what felt like five minutes before it was shot into the net. On the second, there was a defensive breakdown, leaving a Providence player wide open at the side of the net for an easy goal.
Not sure what UMD will do in goal Saturday. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if either guy started. I know there are a lot of fans who think these games mean more than the league games do, and the PairWise certainly presents a solid argument for that being the case. But I don't think coaches see it the same way at this point. I still think they look at the league games as being the most important things on a schedule, because points are on the line. This might be a good opportunity to keep Aaron Crandall fresh, because even if you start rolling with Reiter as the No. 1 goalie, it's good to have the second guy ready to play in case something bad happens.
Freshman Adam Krause, who took a seat with defensman Luke McManus for the series opener, should be in the lineup Saturday on the fourth line, with Keegan Flaherty moving to the left wing and Krause serving as Jake Hendrickson's right wing. The fourth line had a good night Friday, chipping in a goal and some good shifts with puck possession, even when they weren't matched up against Providence's fourth line.
The Friars looked a bit like a team in transition in this game. Nate Leaman's teams at Union became progressively more and more difficult to play against, capped by last year's team that was outstanding. A good in-your-face, grinding, battle-for-every-puck-and-every-inch team that made life hell for its opponents. Coaching a different guy's recruits, you saw flashes of that style from the Friars, but it wasn't anything remotely close to 60 minutes of it.
UMD needs more of the same Saturday to finish off the sweep. It would be a very nice way to close out the first road trip of the season, and it would ensure some smiles on the trip home, despite the 4:00am Eastern wake-up call Sunday.
Some odd happenings around the WCHA Friday. In Bemidji, the Beavers beat Michigan Tech 6-5 in their home opener. BSU scored five straight after trailing 3-1 in the first. It started when the Beavers pulled Dan Bakala after he allowed three goals on four shots (yup, his save percentage on the night was .250).
Meanwhile, goaltending was also optional in St. Cloud, where St. Cloud State beat New Hampshire 7-5. The Huskies trailed early, but scored three second-period goals to take a 5-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish. It's St. Cloud State's second win of the season after a three-game losing streak.
Speaking of "optional goaltending," Wisconsin beat North Dakota 5-3 in a game where all the scoring happened in the first two periods. Neither starting goalie was sharp, but North Dakota was the only one to make a change, pulling Brad Eidsness after he allowed four goals on 18 shots.
Also Friday, Denver rallied past Minnesota State 4-2, and Minnesota improved to 5-0 with a 6-0 drubbing of Vermont.
The most bizarre happening was in Marquette, Mich., where Northern Michigan beat Michigan 5-3. During the second period, NMU's Andrew Cherniwchan got tangled up with Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick, and a fracas ensued.
(The only YouTube showing up at the moment is one of the crowd at Berry Events Center reacting to Hunwick getting ejected. It's great if you like cheering crowds and music, but it accomplishes nothing else. If I ever see a video of the incident online, I'll update.)
Hunwick ended up taking a major penalty for contact to the head, and a game misconduct. Adam Janecyk had to finish the game in goal for Michigan, allowing four NMU goals on 15 shots (Hunwick had a shutout going).
The senior goalie was apologetic via Twitter after the game.
Saturday's coverage starts at 5:30 from Providence, on 94X and the Bulldog Sports Radio Network (KQ 105.5, KQ 106.7). You can hear the game online at www.94xrocks.com.