Friday, November 12, 2010

Michigan Tech Looks to Continue Hot Start in Duluth

Teams Renew "Rivalry" in Huskies Last DECC Appearance

This upcoming Bulldog Hockey weekend feels more relaxed after a split last weekend at North Dakota. How tight would UMD be gripping their sticks Friday night is the Sioux had swept or even salvaged the tie last Saturday night?

Let’s be real here. In recent years UMD has struggled with the cellar-dwelling MTU Huskies. Maybe someone should remind the Bulldogs that MTU started out 4-0-2 before getting swept in Madison in their last action October 29-30.

Home Sweep Home. UMD is 4-0-0 at the DECC this season, their last in the building before moving to AMSOIL Arena in late December. During that stretch, the Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 21-6. UMD has four more games in the DECC including this weekend’s series.

Power to the Huskies. Michigan Tech enters his weekend with the fourth best power play percentage in the nation at 30.6%. UMD is sixth best in the nation, but with 25.5%, a good distance behind the Huskies.

On the flip side, MTU has been more efficient at killing power plays with a 84.6% rate compared with UMD’s 80.9%.

The Bulldogs have made a name for themselves nationally in recent years based on their special teams. This weekend they will be challenged and need to step up their special teams games.

Scorers Abound. The Bulldogs boast 5 of the top 20 scorers in the nation. They are Mike Connolly (4th: 7-9-16), Justin Fontaine (6: 6-8-14), Jack Connolly (9: 3-10-13), JT Brown (16: 5-7-12), and Travis Oleksuk (16: 6-6-12).

Series Outlook. The Bulldogs gained confidence this past weekend and are tough at home. Even though MTU is resurgent at first look, the teams they have beat are not top tier teams. As a result, UMD will continue their home unbeaten streak and sweep the Huskies. Expect both games to be tightly played with close scores.

Around the WCHA

Nebraska – Omaha at Saint Cloud State: Intriguing match-up with the upstart UNO team playing the underachieving SCSU Huskies in Saint Cloud. SCSU is having trouble with scoring and more importantly being scored on. One side says UNO is on the roll and they will sweep, but this is on the road in the WCHA. SCSU is also a hard one to sweep at the National Hockey Center. I can’t find the stats I had, but it has been years since that happened. The forecast is for a little snow and a split in Saint Cloud this weekend.

North Dakota at Wisconsin: North Dakota has taken their lumps early this season with some losses and injuries. Still, as most UND teams do, they persevere and play good hockey. This weekend in Madison has an offensive power in North Dakota meeting the vaunted Wisconsin goaltending duo as described at USCHO. The Badgers have not faced an offense like this and it will show, but they are still playing at the Kohl Center, so expect a split.

Alaska – Anchorage at Bemidji State: A big, physical team in the Seawolves make their first trip to Bemidji this weekend. Bemidji will get their first win in the new building, maybe. There win be at least one tie and no wins for UAA. Don’t be surprised if there are two ties here this weekend.

Minnesota State – Mankato at Denver: Denver is coming off of a disappointing blowout loss against their rival CC. A hard week of practice has them focused as Coach Gwozdecky is known for. Couple with a young Mankato team playing on the road and you have a Denver sweep.

CC at Air Force (Fri.) and Yale at CC (Sat.): CC gets a break from WCHA play, but not a break from their up and down season. CC could even be swept this weekend, but it is most likely to see a split.

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