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College men's hockey: Bulldogs’ top line emerges from slump

Minnesota Duluth hockey players Adam Krause, Alex Iafallo and Dominic Toninato. (UMD photos)

After falling to Bemidji State 4-0 on Friday at the North Star College Cup, Minnesota Duluth senior captain Adam Krause called on “somebody” to step up and end the Bulldogs’ four-game winless streak.

That “somebody” was Krause and his linemates — sophomores Alex Iafallo and Dominic Toninato. The Bulldogs’ top line combined to score both goals on Saturday in a 2-1 win over Minnesota at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

“Those guys need to lead,” Sandelin said Saturday. “That’s something, when you’re struggling, your best players, your top players have to be your best players. (Saturday) we had a lot of guys who played well.”

Toninato leads the Bulldogs in scoring through 24 games with 13 goals and eight assists going into this weekend’s NCHC series at Denver. Iafallo is third on the team in scoring with five goals and 12 assists while Krause — who missed a month with a broken wrist — has four goals and six assists.

The trio was limited to one goal during the four-game slump that included losses to North Dakota, Western Michigan and Bemidji State, plus a shootout loss to the Broncos. Iafallo scored the first goal on Jan. 17 in a 4-2 loss to Western Michigan with assists from Krause and junior Cal Decowski, who centered the Bulldogs’ top line that night because Toninato was serving a one-game suspension for kneeing.

“The last couple games we haven’t been doing what we are doing,” Iafallo said referencing the skid. “This last game we’ve really turned it around. Playing the Gophers, we really upped our game and wanted to get back in the swing of things. It was good to turn it around and get the win.”

Krause scored both UMD goals in St. Paul. The first was a second effort on his own wraparound attempt and the second was a backhand game-winner with 2:11 to play in regulation. Toninato and Iafallo assisted on both with Toninato getting the first assist on the first goal and Iafallo making a backhanded pass from along the boards to get the first assist on the game-winner.

Toninato said there was a greater sense of urgency for Krause, Iafallo and himself on Saturday to score.

“We’ve had our chances and whatnot,” Toninato said. “Sometimes you can’t find the back of the net. It was nice for Krause to get two there (Saturday).”

Gophers cure Bulldogs woes

In addition to asking for “somebody” to step up following the loss to Bemidji State, Krause also called for a “slumpbuster” on Saturday in St. Paul.

That slumpbuster ended up being the Gophers, who are now 2-5-1 since the holiday break and unranked in both polls following losses to Minnesota State-Mankato and UMD in St. Paul.

“It’s always nice playing the Gophers,” Toninato said. “Everyone is up and at ’em for that one. They want to win this one. It’s a huge game. Everybody came ready to play. We had a good team win there.”

The Bulldogs’ third straight win over the Gophers — who will probably need a Big Ten tournament title to reach the NCAA tournament — on Saturday guaranteed UMD will finish with a winning record against its biggest in-state rival for the first time since the 2009-10 season when it also went 3-1 against Minnesota.

In the eight games prior to the three straight wins, UMD had one win and two ties vs. Minnesota.

“Beating the Gophers, that feels pretty good.” Iafallo said. “We had a rough couple games there and now we’re flying high and looking for the next win.

“We’re back. We’re definitely back. You could feel the energy in the locker room and on the bench.”

Bulldogs slip to third in NCHC

With the Bulldogs playing out-of-conference in the North Star College Cup, North Dakota did what it couldn’t do at the beginning of the month in Grand Forks, which was take second place away from UMD. North Dakota, which swept Colorado College at home last week, leads the Bulldogs by three points and travels to first-place Nebraska-Omaha this weekend.

The third-place Bulldogs, who are four points back of Omaha, travel to fifth-place Denver, who are four points behind UMD.

Miami, which is a point back of UMD in fourth, plays only one game at Western Michigan this weekend with the second half of the series coming Feb. 7 outdoors at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Denver and Miami split in Oxford, Ohio, last week while Omaha was on a bye.

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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