#10 Miami at #19 Minnesota-Duluth
Coming off last weekend’s disappointing home split with unranked St. Lawrence, Miami heads to Duluth, Minn. to face NCHC opponent, Minnesota-Duluth in a two-game conference series. Despite outshooting the Saints 95-27 on the weekend, they dropped Friday’s contest 5-4 and had to go overtime to earn a hard-fought 2-1 victory on Saturday night to salvage the split.
For Miami (4-2, 0-0 NCHC), the series constitutes their first foray into 2014-2015 league play and they will certainly be looking to better last season’s dismal 6-17-1-1 league record. Additionally, Miami will be eager to avenge last season’s 0-2 record against UMD who swept the RedHawks in two one-goal games in Oxford 5-4 and 1-0. Those two losses were indicative of Miami’s year as they went just 4-10 in one goal games. Just a little improvement in those games and last season might have looked quite different for the Red and White.
The Bulldogs (3-3, 1-1 NCHC) split their opening conference series of the season last weekend (by 1-3 and 6-1 scores) at home handing previously unbeaten Denver its first loss of the year on Saturday night.
Tonight will be just the fourth meeting all-time between the two schools with UMD holding a 2-1 edge in the tightly contested series – each of the previous three games has been decided by one goal. Of course, Miami has earned the biggest victory to date in 2009’s NCAA West Regional Final in Minneapolis, Minn. Miami fans remember that one fondly as the RedHawks punched their first-ever ticket to the Frozen Four.
UMD headman Scott Sandelin is in his 15th season behind the Bulldogs bench. During that time, he has compiled an unremarkable 250-248-67 record, but has the one-thing Miami fans covet most, a national title. Since 2008, Sandelin’s Bulldogs have gone 128-88-30 winning the 2011 national title over Michigan in a memorable overtime affair. I have always thought of Sandelin as a tough-nosed coach who I wouldn’t mind leading my team should the need arise.
It’s no secret the Bulldogs are led by their stellar class of sophomores led by forwards Dominic Toninato (6-2-8) and Alex Iafallo (1-6-7) and 6’4” defenseman Carson Soucy (2-3-5). Along with Soucy, the Bulldogs run out 6’6” Brendan Kotyk (0-1-1) and 6’2” Andy Welinski (1-2-3) to form a large presence on the blueline. Last season, Miami struggled against the bigger teams of the NCHC. Given the Bulldogs size throughout the lineup, it’s likely the Crash Cousins — Conor Lemirande (6’6”) and Andrew Schmit (6’5”) along with center Kevin Morris (6’4”) — could be reunited on Miami’s fourth line to counterpunch.
The Bulldogs size up front will take a bit of a hit as they will be without senior captain Adam Krause (6’3”). While not much of a scoring threat, his leadership will be missed as he is expected to miss the next month with a broken wrist. Krause had just 20 points in parts of three seasons coming into this year but was off to a decent 1-2-3 start in the Bulldogs first six games. Again, given the Bulldogs size, it would not surprise me to see some combination of Colin Sullivan and Taylor Richart in the Miami lineup along with Trevor Hamilton and Ben Paulides this weekend in Duluth.
In net, the Bulldogs are led by freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo of Finland and junior Matt McNeely. Kaskisuo has played in four of UMD’s first six games and has compiled stellar 2.53/.911 numbers while McNeely has registered a 2.45/.896 line, respectively. Both goaltenders are big and athletic and will present a significant challenge to Miami this weekend.
Overall, I’m not yet loving what I’m seeing out of the RedHawks. They are working to find consistency in their own zone and are still turning the puck over with regularity. And, while they are second in the nation in shots on goal (40.5/game), those shots aren’t finding the back of the net with enough regularity. Miami is tied for 23rd in the country in scoring averaging an even 3 goals per game. Conversely, UMD leads the NCHC and is 8th in the nation in scoring averaging 3.83 goals per match.
However, UMD has been awful at home compiling just a 6-12-3 home record since the start of last season and is a pedestrian 34-29-7 all-time at Amsoil Arena.
If the Bulldogs weren’t so bad at home, I’d pick a UMD sweep. Considering that, I’ll opt for a weekend split.