PREVIEW: UMD hits the road taking on Denver before the bye week

Photo courtesy of Tom Nelson

Photo courtesy of Tom Nelson

This weekend the University of Minnesota Duluth (14-11-3) men’s hockey team travels to Denver, Colorado to wrap up its final two regular season meetings with their National Collegiate Hockey Conference rival Denver University (14-6-6).

The last time these two teams met, the Pioneers swept the Bulldogs in a pair of low scoring affairs at Amsoil Arena. UMD comes into the weekend staying put at No. 9 in the nation in this week’s poll while their counterparts sit in the top five at No. 4.

It was a defensive battle in the first series back in December. In two games there were a combined four goals scored, an interesting stat as both teams average over three goals per game this season. Denver boasts the sixth best scoring offense in the nation netting 3.50 goals per game.

The Bulldogs defense has been firing on all cylinders lately averaging just 2.14 goals against since January 12, a key component against a team like Denver that has a plethora of offensive weapons.

Playing a man down is never ideal but as of late, UMD’s penalty kill units have constructed a new-found confidence. Killing off penalties at an 86.2 percent rate this season has earned the Bulldogs the honor of the eighth best penalty kill in the nation. UMD will be tested again this weekend if they find themselves a man down as DU currently holds the nation’s sixth best power play converting at 25.4 percent.

In their last three games UMD has killed 13-of-13 opponent power play opportunities with two short-handed tallies on the penalty kill.

“We have to be good defensively,” said UMD Head Coach Scott Sandelin at his weekly press conference. “Offensively we have been better lately but first for us we have to be good defensively to create offensive chances and limit their time in the zone.”

The puck drops at 8:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday as the Bulldogs look to get even with the Pioneers in a weekend NCHC showdown.