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Shepard shutout seals sweep: UMD blanks Maine on eve of nonconference season

ORONO, Maine — The two things that plagued Minnesota Duluth early in the season — penalty killing and goaltending — shined on the eve of NCHC play.

Bulldogs sophomore goaltender Hunter Shepard recorded his first collegiate shutout Saturday night and backstopped the penalty kill to a perfect weekend, making 26 saves in a 2-0 nonconference victory over Maine for the weekend sweep at Alfond Arena.

The Bulldogs (4-2) begin conference play, traveling to second-ranked St. Cloud State next weekend before returning home to host Western Michigan on Nov. 10-11.

"We played good defense this weekend, the last couple times out we have," Shepard said. "The PK is getting better and the guys are starting to see what we can do."

Shepard, the Cohasset native making his third consecutive start, was the backbone of a UMD penalty kill that had to fight off three Maine (2-4) power plays in the third period, including a pair back-to-back midway through the period and another late.

Maine had a 17-second 5-on-3 advantage during its back-to-back power plays and a two-minute 6-on-4 advantage late with freshman goalie Jeremy Swayman on the bench for an extra attacker. Shepard made five saves on the back-to-back power plays and did not see a shot reach him during the 6-on-4.

UMD came into the weekend 67.7 percent on the penalty kill, but has now gone three straight games without giving up a power-play goal, holding Maine to 0-for-6 on power plays this weekend.

"Special teams is something that can be really good or frustrating to start the season and it was kind of the latter of the two for the PK the first couple games," Shepard said. "It was just a matter of time before we figured it out."

Freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich and junior center Peter Krieger set up both Bulldogs goals, which went to junior wing Parker Mackay and sophomore wing Riley Tufte.

Mackay gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead about 14 1/2 minutes into the first period with a power-play goal. He had a decent-sized hole on the right side of the net after some back-and-forth passing by Perunovich and Krieger through the Maine penalty kill opened up opportunities.

Perunovich and Krieger teamed up again to put the Bulldogs up 2-0 at the end of the second period, with Perunovich creating a turnover and Krieger feeding Tufte on a give-and-go for a one-timer. It was Tufte's team-leading fifth goal of the season.

"They're pretty unbelievable playmakers," Mackay said of Krieger and Perunovich. "They see the ice so well out there. When they are on the top of their game, I think it's pivotal for our success."

The sweep was the Bulldogs' first of the young season. It came at a cost, however, with senior wing Blake Young, sophomore wing Joey Anderson and freshman wing Nick Swaney all getting knocked out of the game. On Friday, UMD lost sophomore defenseman Jarod Hilderman to injury.

The week began with senior forward Avery Peterson suffering an injury in practice.

All are upper-body injuries.

Senior forward Jared Thomas, Krieger and freshman defenseman Mikey Anderson also were victims of violent hits with penalties only being called on the shots to Young and Mikey Anderson on Saturday.

"The whole weekend they were two hard-fought games, this one got a little chippy," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. "I wasn't real happy about that. Our guys stayed with it and kept their composure and got the job done. When you play the game the right way, you usually get rewarded. Our guys played the game the right way and got rewarded."

Minn. Duluth 1-1-0—2 Maine 0-0-0—0 First period — 1. UMD, Parker Mackay 2 (Scott Perunovich, Peter Krieger), 14:28. Penalties — Canon Pieper, Maine (tripping), 7:15; Ryan Smith, Maine (interference), 13:23; Brady Keeper, Maine (hooking), 19:15. Second period — 2. UMD, Riley Tufte 5 (Krieger), 18:47. Penalties — None. Third period — No scoring. Penalties — Keith Muehlbauer, Maine (hitting after whistle), 3:07; Billy Exell, UMD (high sticking), 3:07; Matt Anderson, UMD (kneeing), 7:18; Mikey Anderson, UMD (tripping), 9:02; Smith, Maine (contact to the head-roughing), 11:44; Exell, UMD (boarding), 17:43. Shots on goal — UMD 13-17-7—37; Maine 7-8-11—26. Goalies — Hunter Shepard, UMD (26 shots-26 saves); Jeremy Swayman, Maine (37-35). Power plays — UMD 1-of-4; Maine 0-of-3. Referees — Jeff Bunyon, Thomas Fyrer. Linesmen — Dmitrii Antipin/Jeremy Lovett. Att. — 3,506.

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

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