UMD defense in midseason form; offense coming off one-goal weekend
DULUTH, Minn. — Offensively, last weekend's series is one Minnesota Duluth would like to forget after producing just a single goal in a pair of home losses to Denver.
But defensively, the Bulldogs had one of their best weekends of the season against the Pioneers, holding one of the nation's most potent offenses to just three goals in two games at Amsoil Arena.
UMD's team scoring defense sits fourth in the NCHC and 16th nationally, giving up 2.53 goals per game. Earlier this season the Bulldogs held Maine to one goal on 53 shots in two games.
But the Black Bears' scoring offense — tied for 20th nationally at 3.00 goals per game — doesn't compare to Denver, which came to Duluth last week with the second-best scoring offense in the NCAA, averaging 4.17 goals per game. Now it's third at 3.79.
Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said sophomore goaltender Hunter Shepard was the difference in Friday's 1-0 loss when Denver, which is averaging 34.86 shots per game, mustered 26 shots on goal. Saturday's 2-1 loss is when Sandelin said his team's defense really shined, holding Denver to just 15 shots on goal.
"We didn't give them as much time and space," Sandelin said of Saturday's effort. "We tweaked some things in the D-zone and I think it helped defensively, it helped our breakouts, it helped us spend a lot less time in the zone which gave us energy in the offensive zone."
The Bulldogs shut down two of the Pioneers' biggest sources of points in the series — the power play and top line.
Denver's power play came to Duluth converting at a nation-leading 30.5 percent rate. It was held without a goal in a series for the first time all season.
The same thing happened to the nation's leading scorers, Pioneers forwards Henrik Borgstrom and Troy Terry. They were held without a point in a series for the first time all year.
Borgstrom, with 13 goals and nine assists, was averaging more than a goal per game and two points per night. He had registered a point in each of the first 11 games he played this season. Terry, with seven goals and 16 assists, had previously been held without a point in just one game.
"Unfortunately we didn't score enough to win the game," Sandelin said Saturday. "That's the next area we have to continue to work on."
Bulldogs in need of points
The Bulldogs aren't just searching for points on the scoreboard this weekend when they travel to Nebraska-Omaha for a pair of 7:07 p.m. games Friday, Dec. 8, and Saturday, Dec. 9. The Bulldogs (7-8-2 overall, 2-6 NCHC) also are searching for points in the NCHC standings.
The two losses last weekend marked the second time this season UMD was swept in conference play and denied a league point. The first was in a pair of losses at league-leading St. Cloud State on Nov. 3-4.
The Bulldogs are seventh in the league with six points having split at home against Western Michigan and on the road at Miami. UMD is three points ahead of the last-place Mavericks (6-7-1, 1-5), nine points out of the final home-ice spot for the first round of the NCHC tournament and 12 points back of the first-place Huskies.
A third of the way through the conference schedule with one more series to go this week before the holiday break, Sandelin and company aren't too worried about where they sit in the standings. But the urgency to get some points is growing.
"It is what it is," UMD junior center Peter Krieger said. "Ideally we'd like to be in a different spot, but we got a great opportunity to get six points ahead of us."
5 'Dogs on world prelim roster
While 26 Bulldogs take a break from hockey for the holidays after this weekend, five others will play on after being named to Team USA's 28-man preliminary roster for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship Dec. 26, 2017-Jan. 5, 2018 in Buffalo, N.Y.
Sophomore wing Joey Anderson, a member of the 2017 U.S. National Junior Team that won gold last year in Canada, is joined by brother and Bulldogs freshman defenseman Mikey Anderson. Sophomore wing Riley Tufte is also on the preliminary roster along with freshmen defensemen Dylan Samberg of Hermantown and Scott Perunovich of Hibbing.
They'll all take part in a pre-tournament camp Dec. 15-19 in Columbus, Ohio, followed by pre-tournament games Dec. 20 against Belarus in Jamestown, N.Y., and Dec. 22 against Sweden in Erie, Pa. The final 23-man roster is expected to be announced Dec. 23.
The preliminary roster is made up of 15 forwards, 10 defensemen and three goaltenders. Coach Bob Motzko, the St. Cloud State head coach who is in his second year with Team USA, brought 13 forwards, seven defensemen and three goaltenders to the World Juniors last year.
The Anderson brothers, Tufte and Samberg were part of the World Junior Summer Showcase in late July and early August that featured a series of exhibitions between the U.S., Canada, Sweden and Finland.
Perunovich played his way into contention for a spot on the final U.S. National Junior Team roster the last two months. His 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) rank second among all NCHC freshmen and tied for third among NCAA freshmen defensemen.