The last time Minnesota Duluth opened the season with an exhibition against the University of Alberta at Amsoil Arena back in 2017-18, the Bulldogs lost 4-3 to the Golden Bears.
With that in mind, consider Saturday’s result to start 2019-20 — a 5-3 exhibition loss to the Golden Bears at Amsoil Arena — a good omen as the Bulldogs begin their quest to three-peat as national champions.
"They play the game the right way, that's why I wanted them to come back," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said of the Bears. "I knew it was going to be a good test for us and a chance to get some young out there."
A trio of juniors — Justin Richards, Dylan Samberg and Nick Swaney — scored for the Bulldogs, who open the regular season next weekend with a nonconference series against UMass-Lowell. The 2019 NCAA championship banner will be unveiled next to the 2011 and 2018 banners prior to the 7:07 p.m. puck drop.
Richards, who was named an assistant captain this week alongside co-captains Nick Wolff and Hunter Shepard, tied the game at 1-1 via a shorthanded goal in the final 21 seconds of the first period. Sophomore wing Cole Koepke created the chance by forcing an Alberta turnover on the penalty kill, springing him and Richards for a 2-on-1 break.
Richards said he found out late this week he'd be wearing a letter. He said the trust of his teammates and coaches gives him the courage to be a more vocal player in the locker room, when necessary.
"Being more vocal is something I've always had to work on," Richards said. "This just gives me the confidence to speak my mind in the room and get guys going, get energy going."
Samberg tied the game at 2-2 early in the second on the power play, blasting through a one-timer on a give-and-go with new defensive partner Scott Perunovich.
Swaney, the Bulldogs top returning goal scorer after netting 15 last year, scored just 33 seconds into the third period to pull UMD within one.
The Golden Bears took control with three goals in the second, including two in the final three minutes of the period, just 62 seconds apart, to take a 4-2 lead into the third. Lucas Nickles was part of all three of those goals as he finished the night with a goal and three assists.
The Bulldogs played all three goaltenders Saturday, with senior starter Hunter Shepard stopping nine of the 10 shots he faced in the first, sophomore Ben Patt stopping 5-of-8 in the second and freshman Ryan Fanti stopping 9-of-10 in the third.
For Patt, Saturday’s exhibition was his first game since the Sept. 30, 2017 exhibition loss to Alberta when he gave up three goals on 12 shots. He spent the rest of that season as the third stringer behind Shepard and Nick Deery. Patt then missed all of last year due to a shoulder injury.
"A little bit close to home playing guys from Canada," said Patt, the native of Brampton, Ontario. "It felt good to get back in there. It's been a little while, last year with the injury, but just to get the first little bit of time on the ice, it's good to get under my belt for sure."
First period — 1. AL, Ben Carroll (Lucas Nickles, Curtis Miske), 10:25; 2. UMD, Justin Richards (Cole Koepke, Nick Wolff), 19:39 (sh). Penalties — Cole Koepke, UMD (high sticking), 10:25; Dylan Samberg, UMD (high sticking), 19:12..
Second period — 3. AL, Miske (Nickles, Dalton Hamaliuk), 3:38; 4. UMD, Dylan Samberg (Scott Perunvoch, Richards), 6:21; 5. AL, Nickles (Noah Philp, Carroll), 17:01; 6. AL, Sawyer Lange (Cole Linaker, Nickles). Penalties — Taylor Cooper, AL (interference), 4:28; Luke Loheit, UMD (high sticking), 8:51; Dawson Davidson, AL (slashing), 13:56.
Third period — 7. UMD, Nick Swaney (Perunovich), 0:33; 8. AL, Nolan Vulcan (Trevor Cox, Ryan Jevne), 9:54. Penalties — Jackson Cates, UMD (slashing), 1:16; Tanner Laderoute, UMD (tripping), 6:35; Jade Miller, UMD (goalie interference), 9:14.
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Shots on goal — AL 10-8-00—00; UMD 6-9-00—00. Goalies — Brendan Burke, AL (00 shots-00 saves); Hunter Shepard, UMD (10-9); Ben Patt, UMD (8-5); Ryan Fanti, UMD (10-9). Power plays — AL 1-of-6; UMD 1-of-2. Penalties — AL 2-4; UMD 6-12. Referees — Brian Hanke, Sterling Egan. Linesmen — Nick Biondich, Elliot Bucholz. Att. — 4,883.
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