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The goal for Minnesota Duluth is to score first

Don't miss the first five minutes of today's Minnesota Duluth game with North Dakota at the DECC. It's a 7:37 p.m. start and the Bulldogs promise to be in high gear for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association men's game. They've seen the result...

Last week
Wisconsin's Tom Gorowsky (left) knocked this loose puck past Minnesota Duluth's Josh Meyers (center) and goaltender Alex Stalock (right) during the second period to put the Badgers up 2-0 Saturday evening at the DECC in Duluth. Gorowsky scored the goal during a five-minute power play for the Badgers. [Derek Montgomery/News Tribune]

Don't miss the first five minutes of today's Minnesota Duluth game with North Dakota at the DECC.

It's a 7:37 p.m. start and the Bulldogs promise to be in high gear for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association men's game. They've seen the results of sluggish starts.

UMD (4-4-3) is 3-0-1 when scoring the game's first goal and 1-4-2 when playing from behind. The best example came in last Saturday's 4-1 home loss to Wisconsin.

"We started slowly and it was our worst game of the season. We've put it behind us and have to get back on track," UMD senior center MacGregor Sharp said.

"Everyone knows how important it is to score the first goal, and so far that's been killing us. The first shift of the game can set the tone for that period and the whole game."

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The Bulldogs didn't look at video of the Wisconsin loss and instead focused on the importance of the opening minutes of play. UMD is 0-3-1 the past two weeks and didn't score first in any of the four games, recording just six goals total.

A handful of points have been emphasized at practice.

"We have to get stronger in front of our net and do a better job of blocking shots. And we have to quit giving up easy goals," senior winger Andrew Carroll said. "We've been giving away goals like Christmas presents."

UMD's coaches want to see a better job of winning faceoffs and finishing checks, not to mention better penalty killing. The Bulldogs are last among WCHA teams in all games at 78.1 percent after finishing third in that category last season.

Giving an honest effort is coach Scott Sandelin's main theme.

"You can't get out-competed in your own rink; we can't have performances like [Saturday]," he said this week. "That's the only time this season that we played that way. We needed a spark to get us going and it never came. You have to go out and create that spark from the start."

Fighting Sioux improving

No. 20-ranked North Dakota had a rough start to the season, losing its first three games to No. 2 Boston University, No. 16 Massachusetts and No. 11 Minnesota State-Mankato -- all on the road. Since then, the Fighting Sioux are 4-3 and have split four straight WCHA series, including a win at No. 3 Colorado College.

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"We haven't played at that high level yet, but we've been winning because of our balance, and we're getting better in all areas," North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said.

He pointed to last Friday's 3-2 home loss to Alaska Anchorage as a low point. North Dakota won 3-1 on Saturday.

A major personnel loss from last season, as North Dakota advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four for a fourth straight year, is senior goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux. He finished his career at 60-38-10 with a .920 save percentage, 2.14 goals-against average and 10 shutouts. Sharing time in goal this season are freshman Brad Eidsness and senior Aaron Walski. The Fighting Sioux are allowing 3.50 goals a game, last among WCHA teams in all games.

Related Topics: BULLDOG SPORTSHOCKEY
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