Minnesota Duluth’s Kobe Roth, Jade Miller and Tanner Laderoute are well aware they’re not the prettiest trio of forwards in the Bulldogs’ lineup.
And the linemates are not talking about their looks.
“We’re probably not going to wow anybody with any tic-tac-toe plays,” said Miller, the line’s senior center. “I’m not saying we can’t do it, but that’s not really our M.O. We’ll grind guys to death and win puck battles, just supporting each other all over the ice.”
A less glamorous style of hockey was just what the Bulldogs needed last Saturday, down two goals in the third period against Western Michigan at Amsoil Arena and in danger of losing all the ground they’d made up the night before in a tight NCHC regular season title race.
While junior defenseman Scott Perunovich tied the game with a fancy wrap-around, it was UMD’s "Miller Line" battling around the net a few minutes earlier that pulled the team within one.
With Miller camped out at the top of the crease, Perunovich took a pass from Roth, a junior wing, and sent it Miller’s way. Three swipes by Miller and a couple saves later, the puck squirted out to Laderoute, a sophomore wing, who found himself with a wide-open net to score on.
It was the kind of goal Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said he’d been looking for from his team all night.
“Big goal from Tanner and Jade was right where he needed to be, right in front of the net,” Sandelin said. “We finally got pucks there. I’d been harping on it all night to get pucks to the net and have a presence at the net. I didn’t think we did a great job of that. We’re waiting for the perfect shooting lane and that one we just got it there. Jade did a great job creating a little chaos there, Tanner found a soft spot and scored a big goal.”
Sandelin said he likes the trio of Roth, Miller and Laderoute because all three are hard workers who bring a lot of energy to games. They don’t need to score to be successful — “I thought they had a real good game, strong game, regardless of whether they scored,” Sandelin said Friday — but it’s nice when they do, the coach said.
Laderoute, who has only played the last four games now alongside Miller and Roth, finished with two goals and an assist last weekend against the Broncos. He’s now three points short of last season’s scoring totals with five goals and four assists going into this weekend’s NCHC series at St. Cloud State. Puck drop is 7:37 p.m. on Friday at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center and at 4:07 p.m. on Saturday as part of Hockey Day Minnesota on Fox Sports North.
Roth, who played with Miller and Billy Exell for most of last season, matched last season’s goal total on Friday when he scored the game-winner against Western and is now two points shy of matching the 15 points he posted a year ago.
Both Roth and Laderoute have bounced up and down the line chart this season. Both have found themselves alongside Cole Koepke and Justin Richards, and the Cates brothers, Noah and Jackson. The two wings seem to feel right at home with Miller, though, making key plays in key situations, whether they lead to a goal or not.
“We just gel well together,” Roth said Friday. “We’re not the cutest or anything. We just play hard, cycle in the corner, stuff like that. We move our feet, make the easy plays and it seems to work out.”
Bulldogs land on NHL draft rankings
Five future Bulldogs landed on the NHL Central Scouting Mid-Term Rankings for the 2020 NHL Draft.
Two cracked the top 100 of North American skaters, including Andover High School defenseman Wyatt Kaiser and Hermantown center Blake Biondi.
St. Cloud Cathedral center Jack Smith is at No. 162 and U.S. National Team Development defenseman Connor Kelly — who is signed to join UMD next season — is next at No. 163, followed by Carter Loney of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Steinbach Pistons.
Greenway defenseman and St. Cloud State recruit Christian Miller also made the rankings at No. 204.
Huskies’ leading scorer questionable
Huskies head coach Brett Larson told The Rink Live that leading scorer Sam Hentges is questionable with a lower body injury for this weekend’s series against UMD after the sophomore center didn’t make the trip last week to Denver, where SCSU got swept.
Hentges, a Minnesota Wild draft pick, has seven goals and 15 assists in 18 games this season.
“It’s an injury where you want to make sure you’re healed before you go back in,” Larson said. “It’s not serious-serious, but it’s one that if you go back in too early, it could become serious.
“Basically, it’s day-to-day right now.”