Postgame: Bulldogs Pick Up First NCHC Sweep Of Season By Dominating CC

Minnesota Duluth dominated Colorado College on Saturday at World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo., winning 5-1 and out shooting the Tigers 36-9 in the second and third periods.

This proved to be a huge weekend for the Bulldogs, who return home to Duluth with their first NCHC sweep of the season and six huge points in the league standings. UMD is still tied with Nebraska-Omaha in the standings, but now the two teams sit fifth instead of seventh.

Below are my thumbs up from tonight’s game, plus my three stars of the night.

Thumbs up to UMD clamping down defensively

The Bulldogs opened this series with a wild 6-5 victory over the Tigers on Friday at World Arena, having to rally from three separate one-goal deficits.

UMD trailed just once on Saturday before ripping off five unanswered goals.

Unlike Friday, the Bulldogs were able to stymie Colorado College’s explosive top line of Trey Bradley, Mason Bergh and Nick Halloran on Saturday by giving them little-to-no space to work. They gave the trio nothing in transition, and the result was a single assist for Halloran (30 points this season, three Friday) and a single assist for Bergh (27/2). Bradley (19/2) posted a goose egg.

As you can read in my game report, Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said his team did a better job minding its gaps. UMD closed on opponents better. The forwards offered more back pressure and support as well.

The team may have also have been better prepared Saturday, based on Sandelin’s response to a follow up question about how team chemistry effects defensive play.

“Truthfully, last night was getting accustomed to the big rink and I think, truthfully,, we haven’t spent a ton of time defensively,” Sandelin said. “We will and we will continue to get better, but this was a good start. Last week was a little bit of defense, but a lot of it was trying to get our lines back in order, trying to get our power play back in order and doing those types of things. We have to keep working on all that stuff.”

I can’t blame UMD for focusing on everything else other than team defense. Injuries and the World Juniors have left this team without a complete lineup since October. And minus the 7-5 loss to Omaha, defense didn’t really seem to be a problem for the Bulldogs. Heck, they held Denver to three goals in a weekend and won the Dartmouth Ledyard Bank Classic tournament with just four defensemen.

But with North Dakota, Minnesota State-Mankato, St. Cloud State and Denver all coming up over the next three weeks, UMD is going to need some strong team defense to survive. I doubt Sandelin wants to get into shootouts with any of those teams.

Thumbs up to UMD’s offensive diversity this weekend

I loved the two ways that the Bulldogs were able to pour in goals this weekend.

On Friday, it was the big guns carrying the load with top-liners Peter Krieger and Riley Tufte scoring. On Saturday, it was four players who all started the night on the outside of the team’s top seven in scoring.

Sophomore defenseman Nick Wolff scored just his fourth goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1 in the first period. Junior wing Parker Mackay picked up his fifth of the year in the third and junior wing Billy Exell scored his second goal of the season 40 seconds later.

The big offensive surprise this weekend was freshman wing Kobe Roth. He got his first NCAA goal Friday, then scored the game winner Saturday for his second. He then got his third goal in the final two minutes of the game via a smooth backhander to cap a breakaway.

Sandelin’s thoughts on the scoring diversity Saturday?

“It was awesome,” the coach said.

Matt’s Three Stars

3. CC freshman goaltender Alec Calvaruso: Making his first collegiate start, the rookie stopped 22 of UMD’s 24 shots before leaving after the second period with a lower body injury. After his departure, CC fell apart in every facet of the game.

2. UMD junior wing Parker Mackay: A goal and an assist for the assistant captain, even though he didn’t actually score his goal. He threw a puck on net and CC assistant captain Andrew Farny (who also wears 39) put the puck in. It was a great assist on the own goal by Mackay to put UMD up 3-1.

1. UMD freshman forward Kobe Roth: Two goals for Roth on Saturday including the game-winner. Sandelin called Roth’s second goal of the night — that smooth backhander in the third — “the Mikko Koivu.”