College men's hockey: Bulldogs hit the road for the entire month of November
Two seasons ago, the Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team played four consecutive midseason road series in a stretch that spanned a month and a half. The Bulldogs didn't lose during the first seven of those contests, eventually running their unbeat...
Two seasons ago, the Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team played four consecutive midseason road series in a stretch that spanned a month and a half.
The Bulldogs didn't lose during the first seven of those contests, eventually running their unbeaten streak to 12 games.
Players remaining from that squad say the lengthy time away from home can be a positive in terms of team-building and increased confidence level.
"It's exciting playing on the road," senior goaltender Aaron Crandall says. "You get away from school and it's a good chance to relax and allow the guys to bond."
UMD will have that chance again by playing three road series in a row -- with two bye weeks sandwiched in -- beginning with a nonconference road series at Ohio State. The 20th-ranked Bulldogs (3-2-1) face the Buckeyes (3-3) at 6:05 p.m. tonight and Saturday at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
UMD, which also travels to North Dakota and Minnesota later this month, does not return to Amsoil Arena until a Dec. 6-7 series vs. St. Cloud State.
"To be an elite team, you have to be good on the road," junior forward Adam Krause said. "It's especially good for the young guys to play in front of good crowds. I know North Dakota and Minnesota students and fans are always aggressive. It will be a good growth period for our team because you spend a lot of time with each other on the road and get to know each other better."
That might be especially important with a team that has 17 freshmen and sophomores.
UMD split on its only previous road trip this season, falling 3-1 at Colorado College before rebounding to win 5-1 the next night. Coach Scott Sandelin was pleased with how his team responded in an adverse environment and continued that during last weekend's home split with No. 2-ranked Notre Dame.
"I thought we did a good job to get a road win at Colorado," he said. "Winning against good opponents on the road, those are important in the PairWise (rankings). Every game is important. These are nonconference games that could factor in at the end of the year."
Sandelin says his players are taking steps in the right direction and this road trip marks yet another evolution in their development.
"This will be a different test, a team that we haven't seen much of on the road," Sandelin said of the Bulldogs' first trip to Columbus since 2006 and only second ever. "You have to find out how to win games on the road."
An improved power play and continued stellar penalty-killing are sure methods to success. The Bulldogs are a paltry 3-for-33 on power plays (9.1 percent) but have allowed just three power-play goals in 36 chances (91.7 percent).
Crandall is a main cog in that penalty-killing unit. The last line of defense, Crandall has allowed only five goals in starting the past three games.
"He's been solid," Sandelin said. "In Aaron's last three games, he is seeing the puck well and doing some good things right. He's very noticeable making big saves on the penalty kill."
Crandall entered the season as the No. 2 goalie behind Matt McNeely, but he moved into the starting role midseries at Colorado College. His goals-against average of 1.68 and .921 save percentage are virtually identical to McNeely.
"When both guys are playing well, it's good for the team," Crandall said. "We'd both be lying to you if we said we didn't want to start every game, but you have to pull for the other guy. Right now, it's working out whoever is in there. You have to take advantage of your opportunities."