Since I’ve been on the college hockey beat, I have missed two series in Duluth.
In 2005-06, the Herald opted to use the Duluth News Tribune’s story (same company) and have me stay home and help out with UND football instead. Then, in 2007-08, I was very sick and couldn’t leave my apartment.
The only two times that UND has swept a series in Duluth in the last decade? Yep, 2005-06 and 2007-08.
So, I’m sure many of you are hoping that this winter storm strands me in Bemidji, Grand Rapids, or somewhere along the way to Duluth.
The team arrived early Thursday afternoon — before the storm started dumping snow — in preparation for a huge NCHC series that has implications on both the conference level and the national level.
As you will see with Jim Dahl’s latest Pairwise forecast, UND could end up anywhere from No. 7 to No. 21 in the Pairwise after this weekend.
A lot has changed since these teams played in Ralph Engelstad Arena in November. For starters, the Bulldogs will probably see Zane Gothberg in goal this weekend. Gothberg did not start the first time around.
Here’s my story this week about Gothberg, who said he feels pretty good.
Another difference is that the Bulldogs will contend with a healthy Mark MacMillan and Michael Parks. They were both banged up after the Omaha series in November. But lately, they’ve been a huge key to UND’s 12-2-1 run in the last 15.
The Bulldogs also have been significantly better in the second half of the season. After starting the year 6-8-1, the Bulldogs are 7-3-3 in the last 13. Last weekend, they were swept by St. Cloud State, but threw 81 shots on goal in two games.
While last weekend’s opponent, Miami, was top-heavy with its scoring. The Bulldogs present a lot more balance.
The team’s top two goal scorers, Kyle Osterberg and Alex Iafallo, are on different lines. The team’s overall leading scorer, Caleb Herbert, is on a third line. Their top three lines have combined for 21, 25 and 22 goals this season. So, it’s hard to say which is their top line and which is their third line.
Duluth charged up the Pairwise Rankings by losing just once in an 11-game span, but UND passed the Bulldogs after last weekend. So, these teams are jockeying for position.
The Duluth News Tribune has a short preview for the series here.
On to some predictions for the weekend…
Omaha at Western Michigan: Since getting swept by UND, the Broncos are 8-4-2. During that span, Lukas Hafner as actually been the better goalie, going 5-3-2 with a 2.51 GAA and a .914 SP. Frank Slubowski is 3-1 with a 3.32 and a .899 in that stretch. Goaltending remains an issue for Omaha. Split.
St. Cloud State at Miami: Rico Blasi made it sound like the return of Blake Coleman is a week away. And after last weekend, fans are questioning whether the RedHawks have mailed it in. St. Cloud State sweep.
Colorado College at Denver: Denver may be missing Joey LaLeggia this weekend, but I still like the Pioneers here. The Pioneers haven’t had a sweep since mid-November, but I think that stretch ends this weekend. Denver sweep.
North Dakota at Duluth: This is a matchup of the NCHC’s two best teams since the break. UND is 7-2-1. Duluth is 6-3-3. Both teams are showing some depth up front, and I don’t think either team has a huge advantage this weekend. Split.