This weekend, we will find out if Duluth’s unbeaten record (6-0-2) is a product of weaker competition, a strong returning class, or a sign that the Bulldogs are making a run at the top of the WCHA.
The Bulldogs have racked up their impressive early season record against Lake Superior, Northern Michigan, Providence, Alaska-Anchorage, and Bemidji State. During that time, UMD is outscoring their opponents 34-17. By contrast, North Dakota has scored 27 goals and allowed 27 so far this season.
North Dakota is battling injuries (forward Carter Rowney), sickness (blueliners Andrew MacWilliam and Derek Forbort), and a suspension (forward Brad Malone). Joe Gleason and Dillon Simpson will fill on on defense, while Brett Bruneteau and Mike Cichy will see time up front. Defenseman Ryan Hill will be the only healthy scratch on Friday night.
Special teams will be in focus this weekend, as Duluth comes into this weekend clipping along at almost 30% on the power play.
Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile
Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (11th season at UMD, 172-190-48, .478)
This Season: 6-0-2 overall, 4-0-0 WCHA (1st)
National Rankings: #2/#2
Last Season: 22-17-1 overall, 16-11-1 WCHA (t-4th)
Team Offense: 4.25 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.12 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 29.3% (12 of 41)
Penalty Kill: 83.8% (31 of 37)
Key Players: Junior F Jack Connolly (3-9-12), Senior F Justin Fontaine (4-8-12), Junior F Mike Connolly (6-7-13), Sophomore D Dylan Olsen (1-5-6), Senior G Kenny Reiter (3-0-2, 2.71 GAA, .890 SV%)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 159-87-25, .633)
This Season: 4-3-1, 3-1-0 WCHA (t-2nd)
National Rankings: #9/#9
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)
Team Offense: 3.38 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.38 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 23.7% (9 of 38)
Penalty Kill: 80.0% (32 of 40)
Key Players: Junior F Jason Gregoire (3-4-7), Sophomore F Corban Knight (4-6-10), Senior F Evan Trupp (1-4-5), Senior F Matt Frattin (7-2-9), Senior D Chay Genoway (1-2-3), Freshman D Derek Forbort (0-5-5), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (3-2-0, 2.91 GAA, .874 SV%)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: March 18, 2010 (St. Paul, MN). North Dakota blanked the Bulldogs 2-0 to advance to Friday’s semifinals in the WCHA Final Five. Duluth had a goal waived off (high stick), and the Fighting Sioux scored shorthanded minutes later to take a 1-0 lead in the third period. North Dakota went on to win the Final Five, becoming just the second team to win three games at the weekend event (Duluth was the first).
Last Meeting in Grand Forks: February 20, 2010. Mario Lamoureux scored two goals for the homestanding Green and White after serving a one-game suspension for (sort of) fighting St. Cloud’s Aaron Marvin the previous weekend. North Dakota won 5-1 to complete the weekend sweep after downing UMD 5-2 in Friday’s opener.
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, 129-70-8 (.643), including a 74-30-2 (.708) record in games played in Grand Forks
Last Ten: North Dakota is 5-2-3 (.650) in the last ten games between the teams. Only two of the past ten contests have been held in Grand Forks (six games in Duluth and two games in St. Paul).
Game News and Notes
UND is 11-1-1 in its last 13 home meetings against the Bulldogs. Duluth will host North Dakota to open the brand new AMSOIL Arena on Thursday, December 30th. The Hall of Fame Game will count as a non-conference game even though UND and UMD are both members of the WCHA. Jason Gregoire leads all active North Dakota players with eight points (six goals, two assists) in eight career games against the Bulldogs. The two Connollys (Mike and Jack) and Justin Fontaine form Duluth’s top line and are the top three scorers in the WCHA.
I really feel like this weekend has split written all over it, but if North Dakota can’t score consistently 5 on 5, Duluth could have the better of it. With all of the lineup changes on the Sioux bench, I’m leaning toward the Bulldogs tonight and a close UND victory tomorrow. Minnesota-Duluth 4-1, North Dakota 3-2.