Bulldogs closing in on clinching home playoff berth in men's hockey
This may or may not be Minnesota's final trip to the DECC. The Gophers face Minnesota Duluth in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association men's series Friday and Saturday, and aren't scheduled in town again until Feb. 4-5, 2011, after the DECC expa...
This may or may not be Minnesota's final trip to the DECC.
The Gophers face Minnesota Duluth in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association men's series Friday and Saturday, and aren't scheduled in town again until Feb. 4-5, 2011, after the DECC expansion opening.
But don't rule out a Minnesota return for the league playoffs in two weeks. The No. 12-ranked Bulldogs (18-13-1), fourth in the league, are close to clinching a home playoff berth with four regular-season games to play, while Minnesota (15-15-2) is seventh, seven points back.
Entering the series, the teams have similar records the past month -- Minnesota 3-5 and UMD 2-6 -- however, Minnesota swept No. 17 Colorado College last weekend, and UMD was swept at No. 8 North Dakota.
"We have to stay together and not get individualistic. That's how you come out of bad stretches," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said Wednesday. "We have to have an aggressive mindset and not be afraid to make mistakes."
UMD is scoring just 2.25 goals a game in the eight-game stretch and its power play is 6-of-50. For the season, UMD's offense is averaging 3.22 and its power play is at 21.4 percent.
The Gophers, who went 7-1-1 in a midseason stretch, also have had trouble scoring, averaging 2.81 goals a game. Junior goalie Alex Kangas has a .908 save percentage and 2.62 goals-against average.
"Alex has had a good solid year but it's been frustrating because of our lack of goals," said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. "But our scoring has been better, our power play has been better, and we can be a pretty good team."
Because of two sub-par seasons, Lucia has heard fan chatter about job security with two years remaining on his contract. However, athletic director Joel Maturi has said publicly he has faith in Lucia and has no plans to change coaches.
"I love what I'm doing and I plan to be here for a long time," said Grand Rapids native Lucia, 51, a head coach for 23 years, the past 11 at Minnesota. "When you do any job for a long time, there are times you're going to get beat up a little bit. Everyone goes through it."
UMD women reach next step
The UMD women took care of business on the final weekend of the WCHA regular season, winning twice at Bemidji State to claim a WCHA title tie and the No. 1 playoff seed. Next up is last-place North Dakota in the league's best-of-three opening playoff round starting Friday at the Duluth Heritage Sports Center.
"We crossed the finish line in first place, which was a great success for us, but now we're at the starting line again," said UMD coach Shannon Miller. "We have to be respectful of ourselves, the opponent and the game plan, which got us this far. We have to start another streak."
UMD (24-8-2) is 12-1-2 the past 15 games and has a 12-3-1 mark at the DECC this season. The Bulldogs are playing their first games at the Heritage Center, where they've practiced the past two weeks. UMD is No. 2 in the PairWise Rankings, which assures the Bulldogs of being in the eight-team Division I tournament field, which will be selected March 7.
North Dakota (8-20-4) is 3-9-1 the past 13 games and was 0-4 against UMD in the regular season.