Weekend Preview: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

51-20-12. That’s the record that Minnesota-Duluth compiled from 2010-2012. In 2010-11, the Bulldogs won the national title, and they followed that up with a berth in the Northeast Regional final at the end of the 2012 campaign (falling to Boston College).

But the last two years have been a different story. UMD won only thirty games combined over the past two seasons. Despite a national championship to his credit, head coach Scott Sandelin is only eight games over .500 (259-251-67, .507) during his tenure at Duluth. Now in his 15th season behind the bench, Sandelin has notched 20 or more victories six times, claimed one WCHA playoff championship, led Duluth to the national tournament four times, and brought his teams to two Frozen Fours.

By contrast, UND head coach Dave Hakstol, now in his eleventh season coaching at his alma mater, already has over 270 wins to his credit (273-137-42, .650). In each of his ten previous campaigns, Hakstol has won at least 20 games and brought UND to the NCAA tournament. He boasts two MacNaughton Cups (WCHA regular season title), four Broadmoor trophies (WCHA playoff title), and six Frozen Four appearances.

At the end of the 2010-11 season, 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.

In the current race for the top spot in the NCHC, Minnesota-Duluth is tied with Miami for first place while North Dakota is in fourth place (two points back). With each victory worth three points, the top four places (those three schools, plus Nebraska-Omaha) will ebb and flow all the way until March.

This season, North Dakota is 7-1-1 (.833) in non-conference play, with only a January home series versus Niagara (3-13-2, .222) remaining outside of their league schedule. Duluth has struggled a bit out of the NCHC, going just 5-3 over their first four non-conference weekends. The Bulldogs lost to Minnesota at the IceBreaker South Bend, Indiana) in October but rebounded to sweep a home-and-home series against the Gophers in November. UMD could face Goldy a fourth time at the North Star College Cup (St. Paul, Minnesota) later this month. Duluth also has a non-conference series with Northern Michigan in early February.

North Dakota’s remaining league schedule features two home games each against Colorado College, Denver, and St. Cloud State and road series at Nebraska-Omaha, Western Michigan, and Miami. Duluth will close the regular season by hosting Western Michigan, St. Cloud State and Nebraska-Omaha and traveling to face Denver, Miami, and Western Michigan.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a stellar record against other leagues so far this season, a far cry from last year’s troubles. Currently, five conference schools appear in the top 14 in the Pairwise rankings: #3 Minnesota-Duluth, #4 Miami, #6 Nebraska-Omaha, #7 North Dakota, and #14 Denver. With only a handful of non-conference games remaining, the NCHC could easily place four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament after sending just three (and barely that) a year ago.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 46-24-4 (.649, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 3-2-0 (.600)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 13-2-0 (.867)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 13-6-2 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 5-7-1 (.423)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 12-7-1 (.625)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 35-39-5 (.475) in non-league play, the second-worst winning percentage in college hockey (Atlantic Hockey, 12-47-4, .222). Not including a 9-1-2 mark against Atlantic Hockey, the Big Ten sports a dismal 26-38-3 (.410) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (15th season at UMD, 259-251-67, .507)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd
National Rankings: #7/#7
This Season: 12-6-0 overall, 7-3-0-0 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 16-16-4 overall, 11-11-2-2 NCHC (t-4th)

Team Offense: 3.33 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.22 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.0% (18 of 90)
Penalty Kill: 81.6% (62 of 76)

Key Players: Sophomore F Dominic Toninato (13-5-18), Junior F Austin Farley (7-8-15), Junior F Tony Cameranesi (4-9-13), Sophomore F Alex Iafallo (3-10-13), Junior D Andy Welinski (6-7-13), Sophomore D Carson Soucy (2-4-6), Freshman G Kasimir Kaskisuo (11-4-0, 2.12 GAA, .920 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 273-137-42, .650)

Pairwise Ranking: 7th
National Rankings: #1/#1
This Season: 13-4-2 overall, 6-3-1-0 NCHC (4th)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.26 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.16 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.4% (18 of 84)
Penalty Kill: 86.9% (73 of 84)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (8-14-22), Senior F Michael Parks (6-14-20), Senior F Mark MacMillan (8-7-15), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (3-12-15), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (3-11-14), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-6-9), Junior G Zane McIntyre (13-4-2, 1.95 GAA, .929 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: February 22, 2014 (Duluth, MN). North Dakota blitzed the Bulldogs 6-2 to complete the road sweep (UND won 3-0 in Friday’s opener). Freshman defenseman Paul LaDue scored two power play goals while Rocco Grimaldi, Mitch MacMillan, Dillon Simpson, and Jordan Schmaltz all registered two-point nights. The Green and White went 3-for-4 with the man advantage and held Duluth scoreless on five power play opportunities.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 16, 2013. One night after dropping a 4-2 contest to homestanding North Dakota, the Duluth Bulldogs doubled up UND 6-3 behind two goals from Adam Krause. Zane Gothberg took the loss in net for North Dakota after relieving Clarke Saunders, who allowed three goals on 13 shots in the first period.

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, 139-76-9 (.641), including a 77-32-3 (.701) record in games played in Grand Forks.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 6-3-1 (.650) in the last ten games between the teams, outscoring Duluth 43-21 over that stretch. Two of the three losses were by a single goal.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol is 22-8-3 (.712) against Minnesota-Duluth in his head coaching career. UND sophomores Paul LaDue and Luke Johnson each scored five points in their four games against Duluth last season. UMD has the top scoring offense in the league (3.33 goals/game), with sophomore center Dominic Toninato leading the way with 13 goals (best in the NCHC). Both head coaches this weekend are alumni of the University of North Dakota: Dave Hakstol (’92) and Scott Sandelin (’86) both played for UND.

Media Coverage

Friday’s game can be seen on Midco Sports Network, while Saturday’s rematch will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network.

The Prediction

These two teams haven’t played a meaningful game since December 13th. To put that in perspective, most of us hadn’t started our holiday shopping at that point. It is important for both squads to find and reestablish their brand of hockey for the second half of the season and the playoffs. With that being said, the edge goes to the home team. I’ve got North Dakota winning Friday’s opener, with the finale going down to the wire. UND 4-3, 3-3 tie.

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