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’Dogs hope power play is on the rise

The statistics say Minnesota Duluth is struggling on the power play right now and it's tough to argue. Since their last power-play goal during the second period against Western Michigan in mid-January, the Bulldogs are 0-for-17 on the man advantage.

The statistics say Minnesota Duluth is struggling on the power play right now and it’s tough to argue.
Since their last power-play goal during the second period against Western Michigan in mid-January, the Bulldogs are 0-for-17 on the man advantage. Over the past 14 games, the Bulldogs are 4-for-48.
“You can’t hide it,” UMD sophomore center Dominic Toninato said. “At the start of the year we were clicking very well and now we’re just struggling. We can’t find the back of the net.”
UMD’s 8.3 percent success rate dating to a sweep of Minnesota is a far cry from the 23.5 percent that it posted during the team’s first 12 games. And while the Bulldogs’ special teams haven’t produced a power-play goal in five games, they are starting to create momentum.
The Bulldogs were able to score within seconds after advantages expired both nights in Denver this past weekend. Freshman forward Karson Kuhlman scored six seconds after an advantage during the third period on Friday and sophomore wing Alex Iafallo converted eight seconds after the end of a second-period power play on Saturday.
“We’re joking that we scored a couple seconds after and we really needed that goal for the stats there,” UMD junior Andy Welinski said. “It doesn’t go in the stats but it’s still showing you have a good power play. You build momentum and you wear down their team. To score right after indicates a good power play.”
Sandelin said the team and coaching staff are moving away from grading the power play on a pass/fail or score/not score basis. Instead, they are measuring the success based on the tangible aspects that result in a successful power play.
“We’ve kind of broken it down into four or five categories,” Sandelin said. “If we do these things well, we’re going to
hopefully score. If not, as long as we’re doing them well, we eventually will score. It gets the focus off ‘you have to score, you have to score, you have to score.’ ”
Some of those intangibles include getting more shots from the point, getting more shots to the net and crashing the net, Iafallo said after Saturday’s win. The Bulldogs also need to improve their breakout and get the opposing goalie moving with clean passes, he said.
Toninato said the Bulldogs already are doing a better job of maintaining puck possession during power plays, which results in less wasted time and energy chasing the puck down to the other end of the ice on clears.
“It’s never fun when you have to go chase the puck down, especially off those opening faceoffs,” Toninato said. “We have to work on those. When they send the puck down, it wastes 15 to 20 seconds and sometimes you can’t get the puck into the zone. When you can keep it in the zone and sustain that pressure, it helps.”
Bulldogs return home to Amsoil Arena
For only the second time this season, UMD plays back-to-back home series at Amsoil Arena when it hosts Northern Michigan in nonconference play at 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday, followed by St. Cloud State in NCHC play Feb. 13-14.
The Bulldogs began the season playing five of their first six games at Amsoil, but homestands have been few and far between since.
“At this time of the season it’s good to be home,” Welinski said. “Those travel weekends really wear down a team.”
Seven of UMD’s final 10 games before the holiday break were played away from Duluth, and in January, the Bulldogs played four of five series on the road.
The Bulldogs have been good on the road, going 10-6 away from Amsoil as opposed to 5-4-1 on home ice.
“We’ve been on the road so much I don’t know if home is going to feel like the road,” Sandelin said. “It’s nice to be at home and, hopefully, we can win some games.”
Northern without top goalie
The Wildcats will be without starting sophomore goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom for a second time this season when they visit Duluth.
Dahlstrom injured his right leg two minutes into Friday’s home game against Alaska-Anchorage. He previously missed two games before the holidays and two games after with head and leg injuries. Dahlstrom led Northern Michigan to a 6-1-1 start with a  0.74 goals-against average and .970 save percentage. Since then he’s slipped to 2.18 and .924.
Junior Michael Doan, who has a 2.56 GAA and .916 save percentage in five starts and seven appearances, most likely will start one game this weekend. The Wildcats also could turn to sophomore Derek Dun, who earned his first collegiate win in three appearances - no starts - by stopping 23 of 26 shots against Anchorage.
“When Dahlstrom is in the lineup, we are never out-goaltended,” Wildcats coach Walt Kyle said. “We haven’t played enough yet with the other guys to be able to say that. I can tell you when Mathias Dahlstrom is in the net, we are, if not better at that position, we are at least equal at that position to anyone.”

Related Topics: HOCKEY
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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