Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin likes to preach simplicity to his players when it comes to creating offense, especially when it comes to power plays.
"For any power play to have success, you have to get pucks to the net," Sandelin said. "If you get fancy and cute, and try and make the perfect play, you're not going to score."
Bulldogs sophomore defenseman Dylan Samberg followed Sandelin's simplicity orders to a T last weekend in a sweep of Nebraska-Omaha and was rewarded both nights with a pair of goals. Both times the Hermantown native stepped up and ripped a bullet into the back of the Mavericks' net.
The goals doubled Samberg's total to four on the season, putting him tops among a UMD defensive group that now has 14 goals in 24 games this year after posting 29 in 44 games during last season's national championship run.
"He has a lot of offensive abilities that sometimes get overshadowed by how good he is defensively," said Samberg's defensive partner, sophomore Mikey Anderson. "It's nice to see him get a couple goals there. He's got a great shot. When it gets to the net, it's always got a chance to go in. He's got a lot of talent and it's fun to see him produce some points."
Both of Samberg's goals came via power plays, though the one Saturday to put UMD ahead 1-0 in the second period was technically at even-strength because it came two seconds after the Mavericks penalty had expired.
Samberg said he wasn't necessarily looking to score both times. He was just trying to create a scoring opportunity.
"Getting shots on net, when you get guys around the net, it creates a lot more opportunities," Samberg said of UMD's power play, which if you count his goal Saturday is 6-for-17 (35.3 percent) during the current four-game winning streak. "Getting it past that first layer is really huge. That's what (Sandelin has) really been harping on."
With the sweep over the weekend the Bulldogs not only maintained second place in the NCHC, they picked up three points on first-place St. Cloud State to move within five of a tie for the conference lead.
UMD wraps up a six-game stretch against the bottom three teams in the NCHC with a trip to sixth-place Colorado College this weekend. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:37 p.m. Friday and 7:07 p.m. Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Huskies begin a six-game stretch against the bottom three this weekend by hosting seventh-place Miami. St. Cloud State closes the season with series against Western Michigan and UMD.
If the NCHC regular season ended today, UMD would host Miami in the first round of the league playoffs for the third time in four years.
If the NCAA tournament was announced today, the Bulldogs would be one of four No. 1 seeds, likely heading to the Midwest Regional in Allentown, Pa. Jason Moy of United States College Hockey Online.com has the Bulldogs penciled in to play Notre Dame - the team UMD defeated in last year's national championship - in the opening round. Ohio State - UMD's Frozen Four semifinal opponent - and Arizona State are in the other half of the regional.
The Huskies would be the No. 1 overall seed and get to play nearby in Fargo, N.D. The good news about that is host North Dakota wouldn't be there because the Fighting Hawks are on the outside looking in on the Division I tournament.
Polar vortex hits NCHC
The NCHC is feeling the effects of the polar vortex this weekend as Western Michigan had its flight into Omaha canceled due to subzero temperatures. The Broncos are instead bussing nearly 600 miles to Omaha for the series.
UMD said Wednesday it doesn't anticipate any issues when the team flies out of Minneapolis-St. Paul to Denver today for its series at Colorado College. The league said it doesn't anticipate any issues either with North Dakota reaching Denver (charter flight) and Miami getting to St. Cloud.
Two weeks ago, a Colorado blizzard forced the postponement of an NCHC game between Denver and Colorado College in Colorado Springs after the Pioneers' bus got stuck on the freeway. That game has been rescheduled for Feb. 26.
Should a conference game or entire series get canceled and the game(s) can't be made up, leaving teams with an uneven amount of conference games played, the NCHC regular-season title and postseason seeding will be determined by league winning percentage instead of points.
Sandelin said freshman wing Tanner Laderoute continues to be day-to-day after getting injured Friday against Omaha. Laderoute, with six goals and two assists in 22 games, missed Saturday's game as well.
• UMD sophomore wing Nick Swaney on Wednesday was named NCHC Player of the Month for January while teammate Hunter Shepard, a junior from Cohasset, was named NCHC Goaltender of the Month. Swaney had six goals in January to lead all league skaters. He had a hat trick Friday against Omaha. Shepard led UMD to a 5-1 mark with a 1.34 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in January. He shut out the opposition in 13 of 18 periods, with back-to-back shutouts of Miami two weeks ago.