January is notorious for feeling like a long month coming off of vacation days and holidays close to each other in December leading into January 1. But this January is longer than usual for college hockey teams like UMD with five weekends in the month and the team playing a pair of games in each of them.
And it is not just the run-of-the-mill middling teams for the most part. A series at North Dakota (currently #7 in PairWise), a game against UMTC (Tied #11) or MSU-Mankato (#1) in the North Star College Cup, and a series at Denver (#14) are the highlights of the month. In the shuffle is a home series against Western Michigan and the opening game of the North Star College Cup against Bemidji State.
The weekend sweep of an exhibition series at Thunder Bay's Lakehead University was a good start to a grueling schedule in January. All players will need to be on call for duty at any time as the wear and tear on the student athletes from playing and recent outbreaks of influenza and other viruses could sideline any player.
It will be a telling run for the playoff and possibly an NCHC title run when January ends.
Half of Season in the Rearview Mirror. The holiday break also brought the mid point of the regular season schedule for the Bulldogs.
In a quick summary, goaltending by Kasimir Kaskisuo, offense from Dom Toninato, defense from Andy Welinski, and rookie play from Karson Kuhlman have garnered our high attention at the halfway point for the season.
StatPack. The matchup by the stats for UMD and North Dakota:
|Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, NCAA, NCHC, ND|
Picks (continuing to use PWR rankings for top 25)
#3 Minnesota Duluth @ #7 North Dakota: The Bulldogs play another #1 team! The toughest schedule in the country continues for UMD. It is always hard to win in Grand Forks, but the Bulldogs do play good on the road. Split.
#14 Denver @ #6 Nebraska Omaha: This series will come down to goaltending. Both teams are highly rated and evenly matched. Split.
#4 Miami @ St Cloud State: It hasn't been the season that Huskies fan thought it would be, but they do have some quality wins. The large home ice win be an advantage against the Redhawks. St Cloud will get a win for the split.
Notre Dame vs. Western Michigan (home/home series): The Fighting Irish (receiving votes) have not played to their expectations this year, but with some success they could be a factor in Hockey East and the NCAAs. The Broncos are in the bottom half of the NCHC standings and are hoping to find some more consistency. This home and home series should be a split.