Weekend Preview: UND at Minnesota-Duluth

North Dakota has lost just three times in the past 15 games (11-3-1), and, according to Jim Dahl’s work, could find themselves in the top ten of the Pairwise rankings with a sweep this weekend. UND would also likely rise a bit in the Pairwise with a split.

Minnesota-Duluth has shown some cracks in the armor recently. The Bulldogs have gone just 3-3-1 in the past seven after rattling off a 17-game unbeaten streak (14-0-3). Losses to Michigan Tech and Alaska-Anchorage in consecutive weekends have some in Duluth wondering if UMD can repeat as NCAA champions.

At the end of last season (2010-11), many expected these two squads to go to battle for the national title. Duluth held up their end of the bargain, dispatching Notre Dame in their semifinal. UND fell short, however, falling to Michigan 2-0 in heartbreaking fashion.

North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth are two of eight schools scheduled to begin play in the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference beginning in 2013-14.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (12th season at UMD, 210-206-56, .504)
Pairwise Ranking: 5th
National Rankings: #3/#3
This Season: 18-6-4 overall, 12-5-3 WCHA (2nd)
Last Season: 26-10-6 overall (NCAA National Champions), 15-8-5 WCHA (4th)

Team Offense: 3.75 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.46 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.7% (26 of 139)
Penalty Kill: 78.1% (100 of 128)

Key Players: Senior F Jack Connolly (15-27-42), Sophomore F J.T. Brown (16-21-37), Senior F Travis Oleksuk (16-21-37), Senior D Brady Lamb (5-14-19), Senior D Scott Kishel (3-14-17), Senior G Kenny Reiter (17-5-4, 2.30 GAA, .914 SV%, 3 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (8th season at UND, 202-103-29, .648)
Pairwise Ranking: t-15th
National Rankings: #16/#15
This Season: 15-10-2 overall, 11-9-0 WCHA (t-5th)
Last Season: 32-9-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 21-6-1 WCHA (1st)

Team Offense: 3.04 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.78 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.4% (27 of 126)
Penalty Kill: 83.8% (93 of 111)

Key Players: Junior F Danny Kristo (14-17-31) Junior F Corban Knight (8-18-26), Sophomore F Brock Nelson (19-12-31), Freshman D Nick Mattson (5-10-15), Senior D Ben Blood (2-11-13), Junior G Aaron Dell (11-8-2, 2.81 GAA, .892 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 30, 2010 (Duluth, MN). North Dakota scored three 2nd period goals in a span of 74 seconds to spoil the opening of Amsoil Arena for the homestanding Bulldogs. The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game featured #3 UND against #2 Duluth, and the visiting squad from Grand Forks blanked UMD 5-0. Arena officials had to sound the goal horn after the game to let fans know how it would sound.

Most Important Meeting: March 22, 1984 (Lake Placid, NY) Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota met in the national semifinal game, with the Bulldogs defeating the Fighting Sioux 2-1 in overtime to advance to the championship. UND went on to defeat Michigan State 6-5 (OT) for third place, while Duluth fell to Bowling Green 5-4 in four overtimes, the longest championship game ever played.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 134-74-8 (.639), including a 54-38-5 (.582) record in games played in Duluth.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 6-4-0 (.600) in the last ten games between the teams. UND has outscored Duluth 30-19 in the past ten contests.

Game News and Notes

UND teammates Danny Kristo and Ben Blood are among 77 players on the fan ballot for college hockey’s Hobey Baker Award. Head coaches Dave Hakstol and Scott Sandelin each have notched more than 200 career victories. UMD’s recent skid came after a string of eight straight road games. Both North Dakota goalies (Aaron Dell and Brad Eidsness) have sub-1.90 goals-against averages in games against Duluth.

The Prediction

North Dakota is finding ways to get points on the road every weekend, but Duluth is looking to flip the scoreboard from last season’s 5-0 embarrassment. It’s possible that UND will notch three points this weekend by tying one up late, but I’ll go with a split. UMD 3-2, UND 4-2.

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