In their first official action of the 2013-14 season, the Huskies came with three minutes of a tie on Friday before an unfortunate mistake by sophomore Pheonix Copley allowed the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs to escape with a 2-1 victory at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, Minn. On Saturday, the Huskies rebounded with a much stronger effort despite missing juniors David Johnstone and Blake Pietila, earning a 1-1 tie before beating the Bulldogs in an exhibition shootout.
In the series opener, the Huskies skated stride-for-stride with the quick-moving Bulldogs through the first 20 minutes of action. As the game wore on, so did the Huskies’ discipline, as they began taking numerous penalties. Tony Cameranesi gave the Bulldogs a lead just 4:55 into the second frame.
The Huskies settled down in the third, and freshman Chris Leibinger scored his first career goal shorthanded, evening the game at 9:41. Juniors Tanner Kero and Riley Sweeney both assisted on the goal. The game remained tied until the 17:14 mark when Bulldogs’ forward Justin Crandall took advantage of Copley’s error and broke the tie.
“I liked our start,” said Pearson. “I think once they got that goal in the second, they really fed off it. We sort of played right into their hands.”
Tempers flared as the final buzzer sounded. Johnstone was involved a scrum with a Bulldogs’ defender and lost his helmet before suffering an injury as a result.
With Johnstone lost to an upper body injury and Pietila out via coach’s decision, on paper, the Huskies were undermanned for the Saturday’s game. The Huskies did not buy into that argument, however, holding the Bulldogs to a 1-0 lead after one period. As their confidence grew, the Huskies pushed the game to the Bulldogs, outplaying them in the second period and much of the third before finally evening the game.
During a scramble in the slot, freshman Mike Neville pushed the puck past Bulldogs’ goaltender Matt McNeely with 6:07 remaining in regulation. Classmate Max Vallis and junior Blake Hietala, who was seeing his first action of the season, picked up assists on the goal.
“I thought we had good conditioning,” said Pearson. “We were able to roll four lines. I just couldn’t be prouder of the young men.”
In an exhibition shootout, which gave the Bulldogs a chance to try out the system that will be used in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference to break ties, the Huskies got goals from freshman Tyler Heinonen and Kero. Sophomore Jamie Phillips stopped both Bulldogs’ attempts.
This week’s Stick Salute goes to a pair of freshmen in Chris Leibinger and Mike Neville. Both Huskies made huge impacts for the Huskies in their first official collegiate action as they each scored their first career goals. Leibinger continued to show that despite his small stature, he is an effective college defenseman while Neville seems to draw the puck to him like a magnet whenever he is on the ice.