College hockey: UMD men are back to No. 1 heading into two-week bye

The Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team is once again the No. 1-ranked team in the nation following a road sweep of Nebraska-Omaha, and now has two weeks off to prepare for a pair of top 10 battles before the holidays.

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The Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team is once again the No. 1-ranked team in the nation following a road sweep of Nebraska-Omaha, and now has two weeks off to prepare for a pair of top 10 battles before the holidays.

The Bulldogs, who hold a seven-point lead atop the NCHC standings, picked up 48 of 50 first-place votes in the poll and 33 of 34 votes in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll to reclaim the No. 1 spot on Monday. The Bulldogs (10-2-2 overall, 7-1-0 NCHC) were No. 1 in both polls from Oct. 31-Nov. 13 and a unanimous No. 1 in both polls the week of Nov. 7.

UMD fell from No. 1 to No. 2 following a 4-3 loss and 2-0 win at home against Western Michigan on Nov. 11-12, but picked up 6-4 and 3-2 wins last weekend over the Mavericks in Omaha to jump back into the top national spot and increase their lead in the conference standings.

“You want to go into break on a good note and that’s what we did. We got six more points,” Bulldogs captain Dominic Toninato said Saturday after sweeping in Omaha.

Due to a scheduling snafu, the Bulldogs are off this week for Thanksgiving, then off again the following week before traveling Dec. 9-10 to No. 2-ranked Denver for their final NCHC series of 2016.


UMD then closes out 2016 with a nonconference home-and-home series against 10th-ranked and WCHA-leading Bemidji State on Dec. 16-17, with Friday’s game taking place at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.

Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said after Saturday’s win the next two weeks will give his players a chance to heal up and get some rest. It will also be a good chance for the team to do some self-evaluation.

Sandelin said his team will skate a few days this week before taking some time off for Thanksgiving. The Bulldogs will practice in full next week and will likely hold an intrasquad scrimmage either then or the week leading up to the trip to Denver.

“I’m proud of our guys. It’s been quite a grind. Our guys have won games in different ways,” Sandelin said Saturday. “It’s a good time to sit back and see where we are all at. There are some areas we can continue to get better at. There are some areas we are strong in. Certainly when you play good teams, you find out. We’ve played some good teams and so far we are in a good spot.”

The Pioneers (7-2-3, 3-0-3) received the three first-place votes the Bulldogs didn’t get this week in the two polls. Denver was No. 1 in both national polls a week ago, but slipped to No. 2 after tying twice at home against Miami, which is last place in the NCHC.

The Pioneers did take four-of-six league points last weekend by winning in a shootout each night. They are second in the NCHC to UMD and can close the seven-point gap with a home-and-home series Dec. 2-3 against in-state rival Colorado College.

  • The UMD women’s hockey team handed the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation its first loss of the season a week ago, splitting with Wisconsin at Amsoil Arena via a 4-1 win and 4-1 loss. The result was the Bulldogs slipping a spot from No. 3 to No. 4 in Monday’s poll, however, after two voters handed first-place votes to the last unbeaten team in NCAA Division I women’s hockey, St. Lawrence. The Badgers remained No. 1 with 13 of 15 first-place votes and Minnesota is still No. 2, but the Saints are now No. 3 after beating UMD by a single point in voting. The Bulldogs (8-3-3 overall, 7-3-2 WCHA) travel to Cambridge, Mass. this week to face unranked Harvard at 6 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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