Road Recognition

     Video: UMD forward Matt Greer talks about playing on the road

    Road victories are one reason for Minnesota Duluth’s appearance in Division I polls this season.
     UMD has won at No. 3-rated Denver, No. 6 North Dakota and No. 15 Massachusetts-Lowell. The Bulldogs (10-8-6) hope to draw on that experience during two straight Western Collegiate Hockey Association road series starting Friday at No. 13 Wisconsin (11-10-5) in Madison.
     Winning twice at Lowell last weekend, 1-0 and 4-1, pushed UMD into a tie for its highest spot in the PairWise Rankings in 2008 at No. 12.
    
"It was a reminder that we have a good team and that we have a chance to do something good with this season," said UMD junior winger Matt Greer. "Outside of a couple of bad weekends, we’ve done well. Our record isn’t necessarily reflective of the team we have."
     The Bulldogs are 6-2-5 at home this season and 4-6-1 on the road. Two road losses, at No. 5 Colorado College 5-3 and 3-0 on Nov. 9-10, were two of UMD’s better games, coach Scott Sandelin said.
    
The series at Lowell had some of the same characteristics.
    
"When we play aggressively and establish a forecheck, we’re a pretty good team," Sandelin said. "We still have to generate more offensively and we started to do that [at Lowell] by getting pucks to the net.
     "We’ve been relatively consistent on the road and gained some confidence last week. The rest of our games [all 10 in the WCHA] will be games that will make us better."
    
A first-period goal by freshman Justin Fontaine and the goaltending of Alex Stalock determined the opening win at Lowell. Greer and center Drew Akins assisted linemate Andrew Carroll for two third-period goals on consecutive shifts Saturday to give the Bulldogs a three-goal victory. The winning margin was the largest since a 4-1 home win over Michigan Tech on Nov. 17.
    
The Bulldogs are 3-1-2 the past six games and have allowed just nine goals in that stretch. The loss was 2-1 at home against Minnesota on Jan. 19.
    
"We never had the lead in the series against Minnesota, but against Lowell, we had the lead the entire time, which makes such a big difference," Carroll said. "We played pretty good defense, especially on our penalty kill, and got some goals because of some hard work."
    
UMD has the No. 1 penalty-killing efficiency in Division I (91.3 percent), is No. 4 among WCHA teams in goals allowed (2.33) and has the third-fewest penalty minutes per game in the league.
    
" Lowell had a different style than most WCHA teams and wasn’t nearly as physical as what we’re used to," Greer said. "A series like that makes you aware how physically tough every game in our league is."
    
After taking next week off from play, UMD stays on the road Feb. 15-16 at No. 18 Michigan Tech.

Not Many Changes

     Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin says he’s not expecting much of a change in his lineup as the Bulldogs head to Madison, Wis., for a series with Wisconsin starting Friday. UMD was to practice at the DECC on Thursday morning and then bus to Madison about noon.
     Senior winger Mike Curry, sidelined this month with a shoulder injury, is ready to play and could be in uniform this weekend, possibly for freshman Justin Fontaine, who bruised a foot blocking a shot in the first period last Saturday at Massachusetts-Lowell. Fontaine did skate at practice Wednesday and likely will make the trip. Curry or Fontaine will likely be the right winger with center MacGregor Sharp and left winger Jordan Fulton.
     As UMD’s play has improved a bit, Sandelin noted that among those earning high grades on the ice is senior captain Matt McKnight. Sandelin says McKnight, who has played wing and center, is playing the best of his UMD career. McKnight is listed at center this week with wingers Michael Gergen and Nick Kemp.
     Other lines have Drew Akins centering Andrew Carroll and Matt Greer, and Rob Bordson centering Cody Danberg and Kyle Schmidt.
     Defensemen are Jason Garrison and Josh Meyers, Travis Gawryletz and Evan Oberg, and Jay Cascalenda and Trent Palm.
     Freshman Kenny Reiter was the backup goalie to Alex Stalock on last week’s trip and senior Nate Zigelmann should have that position this week. They likely will each make a roadtrip on the remaining two away series of the regular season — at Michigan Tech and Minnesota.

Niskanen vs. Raymond, Part 2

  • Matt Niskanen Interview
  •      Dallas and Matt Niskanen faced Vancouver and Mason Raymond on Tuesday night in Vancouver, the second meeting of the season for the rookies.
         Dallas won 4-3 after losing the first game 3-2 on Dec. 20. Neither Niskanen nor Raymond had a point in Tuesday’s game. Between periods, though, Niskanen had a TV moment and talked about last Saturday’s NHL YoungStars game in Atlanta.
         Vancouver plays in Dallas on Feb. 5.

    Logjam 2

         Welcome to the logjam.
         If you’re claustrophobic, too bad. You’ll be closely linked to at least six teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association the next six weeks.
         If you’re a fan of Colorado College, North Dakota or Denver, please move on.
         If you’re a fan of Minnesota Duluth, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State-Mankato or St. Cloud State, you already know about the congestion.
         Three points separate places three-through-nine in the 10-team league. The top five teams get to stay home for the first round of the WCHA playoffs March 14-16.
         "A little slip, or a little surge can affect your team significantly," says Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves.
         "I look at every game the rest of the year to be tight-checking, low scoring, with good goaltending. A lot like we’ve seen so far," said UMD coach Scott Sandelin.
         The teams leading the logjam – No. 12-ranked UMD and No. 13 Wisconsin – are tied for fourth place. Their only meeting of the regular season is Friday and Saturday at the Kohl Center in Madison.
         Except for UMD, every team in the logjam has an overall record within one game of .500. The Bulldogs (10-8-6) are two games over .500 for the first time since Nov. 30 following a nonleague road sweep of No. 15 Massachusetts-Lowell.
         It’s been remarkably tough for the Logjam Six to get on the plus side in the WCHA. All are under .500 in the league.
         There have been 90 WCHA games to date, 63 have been decided by one or two goals, or finished as ties. The per team scoring average per WCHA game is 2.63, an all-time low.
         "The most important thing is to take care of yourself, keep building and keep getting better," says Sandelin.
         UMD (3-1-2 the last six games) and Wisconsin (3-0-2 the last five) seem to be in that mode.

         Wisconsin (11-10-5) started its best streak of the season Jan. 12 in Denver, after a refereeing error the night before. Randy Schmidt’s review of a Wisconsin goal in the final second of regulation play, which would’ve tied the game, was called no-goal. A review the next day showed the goal was good, but the Wisconsin loss stood.

         The Badgers beat No. 3 Denver 7-2 in the rematch and have since won and tied at Anchorage and against Minnesota in Madison.
         "We got the short end of the stick and we said at the time that we might look back on it as a watershed moment. It was a spark," said Eaves.
         Also sparking the Badgers has been the return of three players from the World Junior Championships, which ended Jan. 5 in the Czech Republic. Left winger Blake Geoffrion and defenseman Jamie McBain were with the United States team, while center Kyle Turris was the leading scorer for Canada, which won a fourth straight title. Turris, a freshman from New Westminster, British Columbia, leads Wisconsin’s scoring with 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points in 22 games.

    Stalock on streak

         When UMD sophomore goalie Alex Stalock earned the WCHA’s defensive player of the week award for a second straight week Tuesday, and third time this season, it wasn’t a big surprise to his teammates.
         "We couldn’t ask for any more out of him than he’s given. He’s our best player," said junior winger Matt Greer.
         Stalock, 20, set a school scoreless record of 137 minutes, 37 seconds over a three-game period, which was broken in the third period Saturday in Lowell, Mass. The previous mark was 133:49 by Taras Lendzyk in 1995.
          Stalock blamed himself for the end of the streak saying he came out to play the puck and ran into UMD defenseman Jason Garrison, allowing Lowell’s Patrick Cey to score into an open net. Stalock said he was unaware of the scoreless record until informed by UMD strength coach Justin May.
         "Because of the great history of the program, to pick up any kind of record is something special," Stalock said. "I’ve been seeing the puck better and better, and we’ve had some good team efforts."
         Stalock’s season marks of a 2.18 goals-against average and .919 save percentage are close to Josh Johnson’s team single-season marks of 2.14 and .922 set last year.

    St. Norbert Heads North

         St. Norbert of DePere, Wis., ranked No. 2 in Division III, makes a call to the Twin Ports this weekend. The Green Knights (17-1-2), unbeaten leaders in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association, face Wisconsin-Superior (10-5-5) at 7 p.m. Friday at Wessman Arena, and St. Scholastica (8-10-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Mars Lakeview Arena.
         Also, last-place Lake Forest (2-17-1) is at St. Scholastica on Friday and at UWS on Saturday.
         Earlier this season, St. Norbert tied St. Scholastica 2-2 Nov. 30 and beat UWS 6-2 Dec. 1, both in Green Bay.

         St. Norbert dropped from No. 1 this week after a 2-2 tie with Wisconsin-Stevens Point, yet has a 17-game unbeaten streak (15-0-2). The only loss was at home to Gustavus Adolphus 4-2.

    Goucher Set to Run

          Following recent knee surgery, Kara Goucher is set to return to the track according to the IAAF Web site which is reporting her entry in the women’s mile in Friday’s Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden in New York:
        World Championship 10,000-meter bronze medalist Kara Goucher has been added to the lineup for the 101st Millrose Games, the third stop in USA Track & Field’s Visa Championship Series.
         Goucher, whose 2007 World Championship bronze was the first World medal won by an American woman at 10,000 meters, will face, among others, Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova in the mile. Shobukhova is the 2006 World Indoor Championship silver medalist at 3000 meters and a former world recordholder at that distance.

    WCHA Logjam

         Just about everyone looking at the WCHA standings — places three through nine — are giving the tightly-bunched group a LOGJAM designation.
         Third-place Denver is seven points head of the logjam and last-place Alaska Anchorage is six points behind the logjam.
         The rest of the group is separated by just three points with six weeks left in the regular season.
         The weekly update on How Close is It? There have been 90 WCHA games to date, 63 have been decided by one or two goals, or finished as ties. The per team scoring average per WCHA game is 2.63, continuing as an all-time low.
         In the previous three seasons the per team scoring average — 2006-07 (2.75), 2005-06 (3.00) and 2004-05 (3.05). The highest-scoring season in WCHA history, 1979-80 (4.9).

    Streak in Madison

         Wisconsin (11-10-5) brings a season-best five-game unbeaten streak (3-0-2) into Friday’s home game with Minnesota Duluth (10-8-6) at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. UMD is 3-2-1 the last six games.
         In updated PairWise Rankings, UMD is No. 12 and Wisconsin is tied at No. 13. Both teams are tied for fourth in the WCHA.
         In rallying from a 2-0 deficit at home Saturday for a 2-2 tie with Minnesota, the Badgers got some help from freshman right winger Patrick Johnson of Madison. He’s the son of former Wisconsin star Mark Johnson (the Wisconsin women’s coach) and is the grandson of former Wisconsin men’s coach, the late Bob Johnson. Patrick Johnson scored the first Wisconsin goal Saturday and assisted on the tying goal by sophomore Aaron Bendickson of Thief River Falls, Minn.

    Back Home

         Despite Sunday’s early-morning flight from
    Boston, the Minnesota Duluth mens hockey team had enough energy to enjoy the
    rest of the day in Duluth, including watching the John Beargrease Sled Dog
    Marathon.

         UMD captain Matt McKnight took in the opening
    day of the race while still savoring a notable non-conference weekend at Massachusetts-Lowell.

         Here’s what the Bulldogs accomplished in 1-0
    and 4-1 wins:

         r
    The team’s first road sweep since
    beating Michigan Tech 5-4 and 6-3 on Oct. 15-16, 2004 in Houghton, Mich.

         r The fewest goals allowed in a series sweep
    since UMD joined Division I in
    1961-62. The only statistics that match
    up are from a home series against Alaska Anchorage on Feb. 13-14, 1998, in a
    3-1 win and 0-0 tie with Brant Nicklin in goal.

       r
    A jump in the PairWise Rankings from No. 16 to No. 12, putting the
    Bulldogs in the NCAA playoff picture.

         "We knew this series was important for us in
    a lot of ways, even though it wouldn’t affect us in the [Western Collegiate
    Hockey Association] standings,’ McKnight said. ‘We needed to improve our road
    record, our record on Friday nights and our standing in the PairWise Rankings.
    We needed to use the series as a springboard to the rest of the season.’

         The Bulldogs (10-8-6) managed to hold onto
    fourth place in the WCHA, although they now share that spot with Wisconsin (11-10-5). At
    home against Minnesota over the weekend, the Badgers won 3-1 and tied 2-2. UMD
    plays at Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday.

         Sophomore goalie Alex Stalock stopped 49 of
    50 shots to spark UMD’s victories over Lowell and set a
    school-record
    scoreless streak of 138 minutes and 18 seconds over a three-game span including
    a 2-1 home loss to Minnesota a week earlier. His streak was stopped early in Saturdays
    third period after breaking Taras Lendzyk’s mark of 1:33:49 set in 1995.
    Stalock has season marks of .919 save percentage and 2.18 goals-against average.

         "We had lost our last game [before going to Lowell]
    and we’ve lost two in a row just once this season,’ Stalock said. ’So we
    talked about stopping this at one in a row, and with 12 games left in the
    regular season we said, ‘Why don’t we start a winning streak of our own.’ What
    I liked, especially Saturday, is we started putting shots on net. That’s what
    we need to do because we have some guys who can really shoot the puck.’

         UMD, 3-1-2 the past six games, ranks No. 12 in Division
    I in goals allowed per game at 2.33. Wisconsin
    is No. 23 at 2.62.

         The Bulldogs also snuffed all 14 Lowell power plays in the series and rank No.
    1 in Division I with a
    penalty-killing efficiency of 91.3 percent
    (105-115).

         ‘We got early goals both nights and were able
    to play with a lead both nights, which hasn’t happened a lot this season,’
    said McKnight, who scored midway through Saturdays first period. ‘That means
    we were able to dictate play at times, and play physical and take Lowell off its game. We
    were physical and finished our checks, and when we needed big saves, Alex made
    the saves.’

         With the wins, UMD completed non-league play this
    season with a 4-1-1 record.

         r Minnesota
    had a 2-0 lead Saturday at Wisconsin
    before settling for a 2-2 tie. Wisconsin sophomore
    center Aaron Bendickson got the tying goal with 7:24 to play.

         ‘I can’t explain how many times we’ve had it in our
    hands this year and lost it in the third period,’ Minnesota winger Ben Gordon
    of International Falls told the Capital Times of Madison. ’Earlier on in the
    year, it was because of a lack of effort and a lack of confidence and a lack of
    intensity, but tonight it wasn’t that.’

    Defensive Double

         For what it’s worth, Minnesota Duluth’s 1-0 and 4-1 road victories at Massachusetts-Lowell marked the fewest goals allowed in a series sweep in UMD’s Division I history, starting in 1961-62. The only stats which match up are from a home series against Alaska Anchorage on Feb. 13-14, 1998, in a 3-1 win and 0-0 tie with Brant Nicklin in goal.
          In the 2004 Division I Midwest Regional, UMD beat Michigan State 5-0 and Minnesota 3-1 in Grand Rapids, Mich., with Isaac Reichmuth in goal.
          UMD (10-8-6) moved to a tie with Providence at No. 11 in the PairWise Rankings, up from No. 16 heading to Lowell. The Bulldogs are tied for fourth in the WCHA with Wisconsin. The Badgers (11-10-5) beat and tied Minnesota at home over the weekend and stand tied at No. 13 in the PairWise Rankings with Northeastern. UMD and Wisconsin meet for the only time during the regular season at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., this Friday and Saturday. Lowell (11-8-4) dropped from No. 12 to No. 15 in the PairWise.
          By snuffing all 14 Lowell power plays in the series, UMD now has the No. 1-ranked penalty-kill efficiency in Division I at 91.3 percent (105-115).

    Bulldogs Sweep 4-1

    Kyle Schmidt and Matt McKnight scored goals 20 seconds apart in the first period and sophomore goalie Alex Stalock set a school record for consecutive scoreless minutes Saturday night as No. 13-ranked Minnesota Duluth defeated No. 12 Massachusetts-Lowell 4-1 in Lowell, Mass.

    The Bulldogs (10-8-6) never trailed in completing their first road sweep since beating Michigan Tech 5-4 and 6-3 on Oct. 15-16, 2004 in Houghton, Mich.

    Lowell (11-8-4), fourth in Hockey East, equaled its losses at home this season during the weekend, including a 1-0 defeat Friday. The River Hawks are 8-4-1 at Tsongas Arena in 2007-08.

    Stalock has a school-record of 138 minutes and 18 seconds over a three-game span including a 2-1 home loss to Minnesota a week earlier. His streak was stopped by Lowell’s Patrick Cey at 3:49 of the third period.

    But left winger Andrew Carroll, who had scored at 3:12 of the third period, added his second goal at 5:34.

    Despite being outshot 24-20, UMD was in control throughout the game because of two quick first-period goals.

    Freshman winger Schmidt of Hermantown shot off a Trent Palm pass at the right circle with 8:13 left in the opening period and senior captain McKnight followed, taking a Michael Gergen pass and knocking the puck inside the right pipe past Lowell goalie Nevin Hamilton.

    Lowell led 7-6 in shots after one period and 20-14 after two.

    There was no scoring in the second period as Stalock gained a school record. At that point his scoreless streak was 134:29, breaking Taras Lendzyk’s mark of 1:33:49 set in 1995.

    In breaking the mark in the second period, the Bulldogs had to kill off 1:48 of a two-man Lowell power play. UMD’s No. 2-ranked penalty killers shut down all 14 Lowell chances in the series.

    UMD coach Scott Sandelin said on his pregame radio shot Saturday that keys to a second win would be to establish a forecheck early and stay with it.

    The Bulldogs finished non-league play 4-1-1.

    Coming into the game, Lowell rated ninth in Division I defensively allowing 2.23 goals a game, while UMD was 16th at 2.39.

    UMD returns to Western Collegiate Hockey Association play at Wisconsin this Friday and Saturday.

    Minnesota Duluth..2-0-2 — 4

    Massachusetts-Lowell…0-0-1 — 1

    First period — 1. UMD, Kyle Schmidt 2 (Trent Palm, Rob Bordson), 11:47; 2. UMD, Matt McKnight 6 (Michael Gergen, Nick Kemp), 12:07. Penalties — Nick Kemp, UMD (hooking), :16; Kory, Falite (hooking), 3:55; Palm, UMD (roughing), 18:33.

    Se cond period — No scoring. Penalties –Travis Gawryletz, UMD (holding), 8:20; Evan Oberg, UMD (hitting after whistle), 8:20; Gergen, UMD (hitting after whistle), 8:20; Falite, Lowell (hitting after whistle), 8:20; Ben Holmstrom, Lowell (hitting after whistle), 8:20; Josh Meyers, UMD (slashing), 8:32; Falite, Lowell (slashing), 12:18; Drew Akins, UMD (holding), 17:40.

    Third period — 3. UMD, Andrew Carroll 5 (Matt Greer, Akins), 3:12; 4. Lowell, Patrick Cey 4 (Falite, Holmstrom), 3:49; 5. UMD, Carroll 6 (Greer, Akins), 5:34. Penalties — Meyers, UMD (tripping), 5:55; Falite, Lowell (holding), 14:07; Akins, UMD (roughing), 19:19.

    Shots on goal — UMD 6-8-6 — 20, Lowell 7-13-4 — 24. Goalies — Alex Stalock (10-8-6), UMD (24 shots-23 saves); Nevin Hamilton (7-4-2), Lowell (20 shots-16 saves). Power plays — UMD 0-of-3, Lowell 0-of-7. Referee — Tom Quinn. Assistants — Chris Federico, Mike Taddeo. A — 3,259.