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College men's hockey: Sandelin guards against Bulldogs' mental lapses

News Tribune file photo Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin was unhappy with his team's failure to stick to the game plan in Saturday's loss to St. Cloud State.1 / 2
Minnesota Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin reacts after a ref waved off a goal due to a high stick during Saturday night's game against St. Cloud State at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. --- Clint Austin /caustin@duluthnews.com2 / 2

Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said he addressed his team's unwillingness last Saturday to stay with the game plan in a home loss to St. Cloud State, a defeat that cost the Bulldogs valuable points in the NCHC standings.

That doesn't mean he's not worried about it happening again, however.

"We've got to figure this out. It's not like we're a ways away," Sandelin said Wednesday during his weekly news conference at Amsoil Arena. "We just got to get some guys in the right mindset and this whole team needs to be in a better mindset. We're running out of time if we want to take a step and continue to become a better hockey team so we're playing our best hockey at the right time. We need to start taking some steps."

The fifth-ranked Bulldogs travel to Oxford, Ohio, this weekend for a pair of NCHC games against Miami at Goggin Ice Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Friday and 6:05 p.m. Saturday.

UMD is coming off a 3-1 win on Friday and 4-2 loss Saturday to the NCHC-leading Huskies at Amsoil Arena. The Bulldogs led 2-0 during the first period of Saturday's loss, but gave up a pair of goals in the final minutes of the first period en route to defeat.

A victory would have moved the Bulldogs within one point of second-place Western Michigan and two back of St. Cloud State in the conference title race. Instead, the Bulldogs are now in a fight for home ice sitting fourth, two points back of third-place Denver and one point ahead of fifth-place North Dakota.

"If we're not willing to stay with a game plan and not stay with how we need to play and do it consistently, we're going to have games like that," Sandelin said after Saturday's defeat. "That's not going to be good enough to go anywhere. It's not going to be good enough to move up the standings in this league. We've got to rectify it and solve it quickly and get guys kind of reset and on the same page."

During his news conference Wednesday, Sandelin said his team played better in Saturday's loss than it did in Friday's win. UMD had the advantage in shots on goal Saturday, 32-22, while on Friday it went to the Huskies, 31-18.

The problem on Saturday for Sandelin, he said, were the mental lapses that led to carelessness with the puck. The team wasn't as sharp as it could be in hockey situations, either, the coach said, citing "getting caught with too many guys off a rush" as an example.

"When we play the game within the way we need to play it, we're a pretty good team," Sandelin said. "We're a pretty good team and we showed that in the first 10-12 minutes on Saturday."

Sandelin said his team needs to find consistency. He again preached the need to put together a full 60 minutes against the RedHawks, who sit four points back of UMD in sixth place in the NCHC.

"You have to be more consistent. It's January. We can't be up and down," Sandelin said. "Everyone has to buy into that right now. We're close to there, but we'll find out this weekend. It's going to be a big test for us on the road."

Slap shots

Sandelin shuffled his forward lines last weekend, moving freshman wing Noah Cates alongside senior center Peter Krieger and sophomore wing Nick Swaney. Junior wing Riley Tufte was slotted with sophomore center Justin Richards and senior wing Parker Mackay. The two lines accounted for all five of UMD's goals against the Huskies.

Asked Wednesday if he'd continue those lines at Miami, Sandelin said, "Probably."

"I don't want complacency," Sandelin said. "I feel there is a little bit of that right now. Maybe a couple tweaks changes that, we'll see."

• Despite slipping one spot in the NCHC standings over the weekend, the Bulldogs jumped in the Pairwise, going from sixth to fourth. That's the difference between receiving a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

• The RedHawks were without senior forward Josh Melnick in a pair of one-goal losses at Western Michigan last week. Melnick's 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) leads the team. Coach Enrico Blasi said Monday there was no timetable for Melnick's return, but based on other comments, it didn't appear he'd be available this week

"Not having (Melnick) is big for our team and we can't replace that," Blasi said. "We're going to have to do that by committee."

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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