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UMD hockey notebook: UMD women are "on to Bemidji" this week after sweeping Gophers

Clint Austin / Katerina Mrazova (center) of Minnesota Duluth celebrates after scoring against Minnesota goalie Sidney Peters (37) as Kelly Pannek (19) looks on during last Friday's win over the Gophers at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.

Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey coach Maura Crowell just couldn’t hold back her Massachusetts roots Monday when she and her Bulldogs returned to practice for the first time since sweeping Minnesota.

Channeling the man who coaches the professional football team just down the road from her hometown of Mansfield, Mass., Crowell had this message for her team coming off two wins over the Gophers: “Great weekend, now it’s on to Bemidji.”

The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs continue WCHA play this week as they head down U.S. Highway 2 to face Bemidji State at 3:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Sanford Center, having already taken four of six points from the Beavers via a win and tie on Oct. 21-22 in Duluth.

Last weekend’s historic sweep of the Gophers — the first since October 2010 — may have felt like a Super Bowl victory for the Bulldogs at the time, but as senior forward Lara Stalder pointed out Wednesday, it was just the start of the season’s second half.

Including this week, UMD has five more regular-season WCHA series to play, and it's not a cakewalk of a schedule, either, with the likes of fourth-place North Dakota — six points back of third-place UMD in the league standings — and a trip to league-leading Wisconsin still to come.

“It was the first series back from the second half. It’s still a process,” said Stalder, who after totaling three goals and three assists against the Gophers ranks third in the WCHA in scoring with 33 points. “We’re looking for a national championship, so every weekend is huge. Since Monday, we’ve already been focusing on Bemidji.”

The Beavers are struggling this season, sitting sixth in the WCHA and 23 points back of the Bulldogs. But the Beavers did knock off the Gophers 2-0 in Minneapolis on Oct. 8 and tied the Bulldogs 3-3 in Duluth on Oct. 22 before losing in a shootout.

“Bemidji is a tough team. They can take down some top teams,” Crowell said at her Wednesday news conference. “They’ve been known to do that. It’s not the type of weekend you can just roll in, resting on your laurels from last weekend. I think we certainly are confident. We had a lot of fun. It’s fun to win, fun to beat the Gophers, and we want to continue to do that.”

Mental preparation key for UMD men

Like Crowell, coach Scott Sandelin has a simple message for his fourth-ranked, NCHC-leading Bulldogs (13-5-4 overall, 9-4-1 NCHC) heading into a weekend series at No. 8 North Dakota (13-7-3, 6-5-1).

“If you think you can turn it on and off, we’re not going to fare very well,” Sandelin said of the series against the third-place Fighting Hawks, who are nine points back of UMD.

Sandelin was referring to the metaphorical switch his team has been flipping on and off during games this season. Sometimes the switch isn’t on at the start, such as the 12 games where UMD has fallen behind 1-0 in the first period. UMD is 6-3-3 when that happens.

Or there are those moments when UMD flips the switch off in the middle of a game, such as Saturday against St. Cloud State when the Bulldogs gave up three goals in seven minutes in the second period to erase a 3-0 lead.

UMD flipped the switch back on late for a 4-3 win and did the same thing in a 5-2 win over North Dakota on Oct. 28 when the Hawks pulled within one by scoring two goals in the final three minutes of the second, but it hasn’t always worked out that way.

Leading 1-0 on Dec. 9 in Denver, UMD allowed three goals in five minutes in the second period to lose 4-3. In a 4-3 loss to Western Michigan on Nov. 11 in Duluth, UMD gave up two goals in the final 3:10 of the first period to erase a 3-1 lead.

There also was the 3-1 home loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 15 when the Bulldogs gave up a late goal in the second period, followed by two goals 55 seconds apart early in the third.

“We have to be mentally prepared to go into (Grand Forks) and fight for every inch on the rink,” Sandelin said. “If we’re not in that mindset, I’m not sure what the weekend is going to be.”

UMD has outscored the opposition 22-8 in third periods this season compared to a 21-21 margin in the first period and 25-19 margin in the second.. In the 12 games UMD has outscored teams in the third, it's gone 8-1-3.

“We’ve been too iffy to start games lately,” Sandelin said. “You got to be right on your toes and ready to go, be prepared to make plays under pressure, be prepared to get hit when you make those plays. It’s fighting for every inch on the rink.”

Future Bulldogs on NHL draft rankings

Six future UMD men’s players were among those to land on the NHL Central Scouting Mid-Term Rankings for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, led by Hermantown defenseman Dylan Samberg.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has verbally committed to UMD and came in at No. 43 among North American skaters. He’s the second-highest ranked Minnesota high school skater behind Eden Prairie center Casey Mittelstadt, who is fifth.

Other future Bulldogs who were ranked include Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL) defenseman Mikey Anderson (56), Holy Family Catholic defenseman Matt Anderson (128), Stillwater wing Noah Cates (145), Minnesota Magicians (NAHL) defenseman Hunter Lellig (159) and Waterloo forward Nick Swaney (182).

Grand Rapids wing Micah Miller, who is committed to St. Cloud State, is ranked No. 157.

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.

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