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UMD Bulldogs drop exhibition to USA U18s

Minnesota Duluth’s Justin Richards and USA’s Marshall Warren each get a stick on the puck during the first period of Saturday’s game at Amsoil Arena. Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service1 / 2
Minnesota Duluth’s Nick Swaney and USA’s Drew Helleson chase the puck during the first period of Saturday’s game at Amsoil Arena. Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service2 / 2

DULUTH - The best penalty kill in all of NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey got exposed early and often on Saturday, Jan. 5, at Amsoil Arena by a group of teenagers.

USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Under-18 squad did what college-age men have struggled to do all year, which is score on the power play against Minnesota Duluth. The U18s scored on their first two advantages to beat the Bulldogs 4-2 in an exhibition in Duluth before a crowd of 4,802.

USA winger Michael Gildon scored 13:35 into the first on a tic-tac-toe power play sequence that also included defenseman Drew Helleson and center Trevor Zegras. Winger Cole Caufield then put UMD down 2-0 just over three minutes into the second period.

“We told them what they were going to do,” UMD associate head coach Jason Herter said of the penalty kill’s early struggles. “It was the first time all year our penalty kill let us down after the preparation that we did.”

Team USA finished the night 2-for-5 on the power play as the Bulldogs were able to kill off the visitors’ final three power play chances.

UMD currently sits atop the NCAA with a 92.6 penalty kill percentage, having given up five goals on 68 kills this year, not counting Saturday’s exhibition.

When the Bulldogs return to regular-season action next weekend for an NCHC series against St. Cloud State — which lost to the U18s 6-4 last week at home — they will be riding a streak of 28-straight successful kills having not given up a power play goal in their last seven regular season games.

“It’s probably a good time that our boys get beat down to refocus going into our league games because our league is going to be harder,” Herter said. “Any game is going to be harder than the game we just played.”

Freshman wing Tanner Laderoute got UMD on the board 8:18 into the second period with a shot from the blue line through traffic. Laderoute has five goals in 17 games this season.

The Bulldogs’ other goal came from sophomore center Justin Richards with just over five minutes to go in regulation. Richards has five goals in 18 games this year after failing to score once in 44 games as a freshman.

The National Team Development Program was able to squash any attempt by UMD at a comeback early in the third by scoring off a pair of turnovers by the Bulldogs in their own zone. Both of those goals came at even strength to put UMD down 4-1.

Junior goaltender Hunter Shepard finished with 27 saves on 29 shots. He was replaced by redshirt junior Nick Deery to start the third period. Deery stopped eight shots. Cameron Rowe made 26 saves in the USA net.

“Their guys played above our guys, our guys got sucked into playing too deep,” Herter said. “We talked all week about having a responsible F3 (forward) and making sure we got numbers back. I thought we cheated all over the rink thinking it would be an easy night.”

UMD was without three players — sophomore defensemen Mikey Anderson and Dylan Samberg and freshman forward Noah Cates — on Saturday due to the World Junior Championship in Vancouver. All three were playing Saturday for the U.S. National Junior Team in the gold medal game against Finland. The U.S. lost 3-2.

Also with the U.S. National Junior Team was UMD head coach Scott Sandelin, who was serving as an assistant coach. All four will be back next week when UMD hosts the Huskies.

The U18s were without star forward Jack Hughes — the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft — as well as goaltender Spencer Knight, who were also at the World Juniors.