Bulldogs back in action: men’s hockey falls to Alberta 5-3 in exhibition

Sophomore center Jesse Jacques (18) takes a face off against Steven Owre (13) of Alberta during Saturday night’s exhibition contest. The Bulldogs would go on to lose 5-3. (Photo courtesy of Drew Smith/ UMD Athletics )

Sophomore center Jesse Jacques (18) takes a face off against Steven Owre (13) of Alberta during Saturday night’s exhibition contest. The Bulldogs would go on to lose 5-3. (Photo courtesy of Drew Smith/UMD Athletics)

DULUTH, MN -- The defending national champion UMD men’s hockey team returned to the ice Saturday night at Amsoil Arena, falling in exhibition play to the visiting University of Alberta Golden Bears 5-3. The loss gave the Bulldog’s their fourth exhibition loss in as many years.

All hope is not lost for #BulldogCountry though, as the result could be taken as a sign of good things to come rather than a cause for panic. Each of the previous three times UMD dropped an exhibition contest, they ended up playing at the end of the year for a national championship, including winning the title in 2017-18 after falling to the same Alberta Golden Bears team.

Despite the end result on the scoreboard, there were a few bright spots for dogs. UMD’s vaunted junior class showed they were ready to pick up where they left off last season, with Justin Richards, Dylan Samberg, and Nick Swaney all finding the back of the net for the Bulldogs. 

Newcomers to the program, Quinn Olson and Luke Loheit, both freshman forwards, showed promise in their Bulldog debuts. Olson was physical on the forecheck and showed off his speed, getting multiple chances for his linemates, while Loheit showcased his lethal wrist shot, finishing tied with Dylan Samberg for second on the team in shots on goal with four. Loheit nearly got his first goal in a Bulldog sweater midway through the first period when he streaked into the Alberta zone unleashing a hard wrist shot that clanged loudly off the goal post before going wide of the net.

Head coach Scott Sandelin deployed all three of his goaltenders in the contest, each for one period with newly minted co-captain Hunter Shepard getting the start between the pipes. Shepard stopped 9 of the 10 shots he faced in the first period. Redshirt sophomore Ben Patt would take to the cage in the second period, stopping 5-of-8 shots in his first game action since the 2017-18 season. Freshman Ryan Fanti would get the nod in the third, making his debut in a Bulldog sweater by stopping 9 of the 10 shots he faced.

Alberta got the scoring started 13 minutes into the first period, finally beating Shepard on a goal from defenseman Ben Carroll. UMD generated chances in response, but it appeared as though they would head into the first intermission down 1-0 or worse. With 48 seconds left in the period junior defenseman Dylan Samberg took a high sticking penalty that put Alberta on the man advantage. Though a man down, it was UMD who got the first scoring chance, with junior forward Justin Richards stripping a Golden Bear of the puck to create a 2 on 1 with he and Cole Koepke. Koepke was able to get the puck back to Richards as they entered the offensive zone and Richards did the rest, zipping a wrist shot past Alberta goaltender Brendan Burke to tie the game at 1-1 with 21.8 seconds to go in the period.

Coming out of the break, UMD was unable to capitalize on their late momentum from the period prior, once again conceding the lead to Alberta. This time it was forward Curtis Miske scoring for the Golden Bears to make it 2-1 just 3 minutes into the second period. After the goal, it appeared as though UMD was getting their feet back underneath them, pressuring Alberta on the forecheck and generating a few different chances at the net.

An Alberta interference penalty with 16 minutes left in the period gave the Bulldogs the opportunity they needed to tie the game back up. After getting set up in the offensive zone, the puck eventually found its way to junior defenseman Dylan Samberg at the blueline. After a quick give and go exchange with defensive partner Scott Perunovich, Samberg was able blast a quick slap shot past the Alberta netminder to re-tie the game at 2-2 with a little over 13 minutes to go in the second period. 

Unfortunately from there the second period would begin to fall apart for the Bulldogs. They conceded two goals in the final three minutes of the period, 62 seconds apart, to head into the second intermission down 4-2.

Nick Swaney quickly gave UMD some life out of the locker room. The junior forward was able to maneuver his way in on the Alberta net for a scoring chance, and after having his first shot stopped by the goaltender, he was able to lift the puck into the net on the follow up to bring the Bulldogs back within one at 4-3. 

That would be all the Bulldogs would get though, as they took three more penalties in the third period, finally conceding a power-play goal to Golden Bears forward Nolan Volcan to make it 5-3, a score that would stand to the end of the game.

Looking forward, the No. 1 ranked Bulldogs open the regular season next weekend from Amsoil Arena, welcoming non-conference foe UMass-Lowell for a pair of contests. Puck drop for both games is set for 7:07 p.m. Fans are encouraged to get to the arena early on Friday as the team will raise the 2019 national championship banner to its place in the rafters before the game. As always, the games can be heard locally or online on KDAL 610 AM.