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College men's hockey preview: Minnesota Duluth at Nebraska-Omaha

Minnesota Duluth at Nebraska-Omaha

What: NCHC series

When: 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Baxter Arena, Omaha, Neb.

Records: Minnesota Duluth is 8-2-2 overall, 5-1 in NCHC; Nebraska-Omaha is 6-3-1, 3-1.

Rankings: The Bulldogs are No. 2 in the poll; the Mavericks are unranked.

Series: The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 12-9-2 after being swept in Omaha a year ago by 4-2 margins each night in the only series between the two schools.

Coaches: Scott Sandelin, in his 17th season at UMD, is 295-279-77; Dean Blais, in his eighth season at Omaha, is 135-119-26 and 397-234-50 in his career.

TV: My9.

Radio: WWAX-FM 92.1

Internet: (audio); (video)

Twitter: @mattwellens

UMD update: The Bulldogs two-week reign as the No. 1 team in the country came to an end last week via a 4-3 loss and 2-0 win over unranked Western Michigan at home. The three-point weekend still kept the Bulldogs atop the NCHC, though, with 15 points. Denver is second with 10 while Omaha and Western are tied for third with nine. In addition to the league’s best record, the Bulldogs boast the NCHC’s leading scorer in senior wing Alex Iafallo. He has eight goals and eight assists for 16 points with six goals and six assists coming in NCHC play. Freshman wing Joey Anderson leads the NCHC in assists with 10 and is the league’s highest-scoring freshman with 14 points. Sophomore Neal Pionk leads all NCHC defensemen in scoring with 11 points off four goals and seven assists. Senior Carson Soucy is tied for second in scoring among defensemen with three goals and seven assists. And then there is freshman goaltender Hunter Miska, whose 2.22 goals against average and .917 save percentage both rank second in the league. The Bulldogs scoring defense is second in the NCHC at 2.17 goals allowed per game and the penalty kill at 84.4 percent is tied with Denver for the best in the league. The Bulldogs roster includes a former Maverick in junior forward Avery Peterson of Grand Rapids. Peterson transferred to UMD last winter after one and a half seasons in Omaha and isn’t eligible until Dec. 17.

Omaha update: The Mavericks are coached by Dean Blais, a native of International Falls. UMD’s Scott Sandelin once played and served as an assistant coach under Blais at North Dakota. Blais is three wins short of 400 for his career after the Mavs sweept Miami in Oxford, Ohio, a week ago 6-4 and 6-2. Senior forward Austin Ortega had two goals and two assists in the series. He’s second to Iafallo in the NCHC in scoring with nine goals and six assists for 15 points. Five goals and three assists have come in the Mavs’ four NCHC games. Ortega has 22 career game-winning goals, leaving him one short of the NCAA record shared by Colorado College’s Brett Sterling (2003-06) and Minnesota’s Kyle Rau (2012-15). Ortega has two game-winners this season, which ranks him second in the NCHC to Iafallo. Junior forward Jake Randolph out of Duluth East High School has one goal and seven assists in 10 games. Omaha is unbeaten in its last five games against UMD going 3-0-2. The Mavs take a three game winning streak against UMD into the weekend having scored six goals in the three wins.

Quote: “They play fast, they forecheck hard. They’ve got an older team. They got their goaltending back. They got Ortega, who can score goals. They lost a couple guys, but there are some guys right now who seem to really be stepping up. Jake Randolph has had a good career there.” — Sandelin on Omaha

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

(218) 723-5317