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College men's hockey: Bulldogs fall 1-0 to Denver after bad second period

DENVER—Denver sophomore center Henrik Borgstrom, the NCHC's leading goal scorer the last two seasons, has put up plenty of points against conference foes.

He'd yet to score on Minnesota Duluth, however, until Friday, Feb. 2.

The 2016 first-round draft pick of the Florida Panthers and native of Helsinki, Finland, finally scored a goal against the Bulldogs in the third period to lead the NCHC-leading Pioneers to a 1-0 victory at Magness Arena.

The ninth-ranked Bulldogs (14-12-3 overall, 8-9 NCHC) and fourth-ranked Pioneers (15-6-6, 9-4-4), who met in last year's national championship game in Chicago, meet again at 8:05 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3.

Borgstrom scored 2:35 into the third period to break a scoreless tie. He took a pass all alone in the left faceoff circle, dropped to about a foot above the end line and fired the puck into the net off the head of UMD goaltender Hunter Shepard.

It was Borgstrom's 17th goal of the season and 39th of his short NCAA career, but first against UMD in four career games.

"His creativity, he sees space in open ice—and when he's going to score—that most people don't," Pioneers coach Jim Montgomery said. "That's why he's a special offensive player."

The Bulldogs and Pioneers entered the third period scoreless with just 25 shots on goal between them, and 18 of those belonged to the Pioneers.

UMD was held to just a single shot on goal in the second period—it came with 8:56 to play in the second—and attempted just six shots. Denver, meanwhile, attempted 22 shots and had the Bulldogs chasing the puck for almost the majority of the second period.

The only relief UMD got defensively in the second came when it went on the penalty kill. Then it was Denver's turn to chase the puck up and down the rink. The Pioneers were held without a shot on goal during their two second period advantages.

"It was terrible, it was a bad period," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said of the second. "There is no other way to say it. If we come out and play two periods the way we play the third period, we have a better chance to win a hockey game.

"That's not good enough. You can't disappear for a period in this league, not against a team like that."

The Bulldogs, who had six shots on goal in the first period, have struggled as of late to consistently generate shots on goal, averaging 17.6 per game in the three contests leading into the weekend. UMD was held to a season-low 15 shots on goal last Tuesday at Minnesota State-Mankato.

The Bulldogs have put up 20 or more shots in their last two games thanks to late surges. They posted 12 shots on goal in the third period last Saturday at home in a 2-1 loss to St. Cloud State in an unsuccessful attempt to tie the game. They put 17 shots on Denver senior goalie Tanner Jaillet in the third on Friday, with much of the offensive flurry coming after UMD fell behind.

UMD senior captain Karson Kuhlman of Esko said those surges have to start coming sooner rather than later.

"That's an issue, an issue we have to face here, waiting to get down on the scoreboard to start playing how we know we can," Kuhlman said. "That's a bad habit we're in right now and it's something we'll look to correct for sure."

• Senior center Sammy Spurrell and sophomore defenseman Jarod Hilderman were both back in the lineup Friday, replacing sophomore center Jade Miller and freshman defenseman Matt Anderson. Spurrell had been a healthy scratch in seven-straight games having last played on Dec. 30 at Dartmouth. Hilderman has been a healthy scratch in the last four contests, lasting playing Jan. 19 against North Dakota.

• Denver, which swept the Bulldogs in Duluth in early December, has won four-straight against UMD dating back to the 2017 national championship game and nine of the last 11 meetings (9-1-1) dating back to the first round of the 2014-15 NCHC playoffs.

• The Bulldogs remain in a three-way tie for third in the NCHC after Western Michigan lost at Miami on Friday. North Dakota is idle this weekend.

Cathedral scorer commits to UMD

The Bulldogs received a verbal commitment on Friday afternoon from St. Cloud Cathedral sophomore forward Jack Smith, who is second on the team in scoring with 43 points through 21 games this season.

"I'm very humbled and excited to announce my commitment to play college hockey for the University of Minnesota Duluth," Smith tweeted. "Thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way!"

The 15 year old from St. Cloud has 16 goals and 27 assists in his first varsity season at Class A Cathedral. Smith tallied a hat trick on Jan. 20 in the Crusaders' 8-3 Hockey Day Minnesota victory outdoors over Class AA St. Cloud.

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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