UMD outscored and badly outshot an opponent in the third period to break open a tie game and win.
Well, it happened again Friday at Steve Cady Arena. UMD scored two third period goals to break a 1-1 tie and outshot Miami 16-8 in the third en route to a 3-1 win.
On the year, UMD has outscored opponents 43-25 in the third period, and a plus-97 shot differential is its highest of any period (plus-91 in the first, plus-36 in the second).
Freshman goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo made 30 saves, including 22 over the first two periods. He was peppered at times as the Bulldogs gave up some extended zone time here and there, but they also blocked 14 shots and cleared some loose pucks from the danger zone.
Third periods have become a bit of a way of life for UMD up to this point, but this game saw UMD set itself up for third period success by killing off a pair of Miami power plays in the second and doing a better job defensively.
Then Tony Cameranesi took over. He had a great scoring chance down the right wing early in the third, then on a power play, he found a puck Miami goalie Jay Williams couldn't cover up and jammed it home for a 2-1 lead.
UMD had to kill off two more Miami power plays in the first half of the third. The back-to-back chances included a brief five on three for the RedHawks. MU got three shots on the first chance, but none on the second as UMD did a great job keeping the home team to the outside.
A great effort by Cal Decowski in the left corner led to a huge second third-period tally. Decowski got the puck to Willie Corrin, who walked into the left circle and ripped a shot by Williams to make it 3-1. Miami never really threatened after that, and UMD picked up its 19th win of the season.
Miami entered the game third nationally in faceoff percentage. UMD is in the bottom ten.
But UMD, continuing its recent trend upward, won 29 of 56 draws against Miami, and made the RedHawks centers and forwards work for a good number of the 27 they won.
UMD has won five of six, and a big reason for it is the improved play in the faceoff circle. Look at the fact that the Bulldogs have dealt with some good faceoff teams in this run of games, yet have won more than they've lost. It's a huge turn of events that is largely overlooked out there.
Another big factor Friday was UMD's battle level, which I thought was outstanding, especially in the third period. Decowski beat out two MU players for the puck that set up Corrin's goal, and UMD was clearing pucks defensively while driving the net offensively. It was a tremendous effort that led to a tremendous win. Adam Krause and Andy Welinski had big-time effort plays during penalty kills. Oh, and did I mention the 14 blocked shots?
UMD also was solid defensively, keeping Miami's transition game at bay outside of Blake Coleman's first period goal, which came 50 seconds after Justin Crandall gave UMD the lead with a power-play goal.
Speaking of that ...
Finally, how about that special teams effort? UMD scored twice on four chances against the best penalty kill (percentage-wise) in the NCHC, while holding a potent power play off the board in four chances of its own. In referencing last weekend, UMD coach Scott Sandelin said before the game that "when you win the special teams battle, you expect to win hockey games." His team did just that on Friday.
Now, it's time to win on Saturday. UMD has split three of four NCHC series since break, and the Bulldogs are 1-3 on Saturdays in those four series. That just doesn't get the job done. To win this league, we need to see some sweeps. Even with a tremendous opponent this weekend, the Bulldogs have a chance to finish off a six-point get, and it would be great to see them pull it off.
Elsewhere in the NCHC, St. Cloud State blew a 2-0 lead before rallying late to beat Omaha 4-3. Ethan Prow scored two power-play goals in the first period, then UNO rallied, taking the lead on Austin Ortega's power-play goal in the third. But SCSU answered, getting goals 16 seconds apart from Blake Winiecki and David Morley for the win. With the victory, SCSU is back to .500 overall and has shot up to 14th in the Pairwise, putting the NCHC in position to potentially get six of its eight teams in the NCAA Tournament.
In Kalamazoo, North Dakota held off Western Michigan 3-1. UND took sole possession of the NCHC lead with the win, as both Miami and UNO lost. Nick Schmaltz set up two goals and Zane McIntyre made 33 saves.
Danton Heinen and Daniel Doremus each scored twice for Denver on Friday as the Pioneers won 6-4 at Colorado College to clinch the Gold Pan. Zac Larraza had a goal and two apples, and Denver kept pace with UMD in the race for the final home-ice spot in the NCHC playoffs.
In those stadings, North Dakota now owns the top spot by three points over Miami and Omaha. UMD is one point behind the RedHawks and Mavericks and four back of UND. Denver remains two back of UMD, and St. Cloud State trails DU by four. With Friday's loss, Colorado College has clinched last place and will play the league champion in the first round of the playoffs.