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UMD men's hockey: Bulldogs meet Miami again this weekend, and finally at Amsoil Arena

The RedHawks are back in Duluth for the first time in 47 weeks after traveling to the Twin Ports almost a year ago, only to have their games against Minnesota Duluth canceled by COVID-19.

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Miami forward Monte Graham (18) and Minnesota Duluth forward Noah Cates (21) battle it out for the puck in the first period on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha. (Tyler Schank / 2020 File / News Tribune)

Last March, Miami traveled to Minnesota Duluth for a best-of-three NCHC playoff series at Amsoil Arena that never happened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RedHawks are finally back in Duluth 47 weeks later — with the coronavirus still wreaking havoc on sports and society — in hopes of doing more than just spend a couple of nights in a local hotel , but to play a pair of NCHC regular season games against the Bulldogs at 6:07 p.m. Friday and 4:07 p.m. Saturday at Amsoil Arena.

UMD and Miami have become quite familiar with each other over the previous nine weeks after playing on Dec. 6 and 8 in the NCHC Pod in Omaha, Nebraska, and again last weekend in Oxford, Ohio. The Bulldogs are 4-0 against the RedHawks — coming off 2-1 and 6-3 wins last week — going into Rounds 5 and 6 of 2020-21, so in addition to playing the games, Miami coach Chris Bergeron is hoping his team can get a win at some point as well.

“I just looked at the rankings. St. Cloud (State) is at No. 4 and Duluth is at No. 5. They are our last four and next four games. It makes it pretty difficult. Your margin of error is small,” Bergeron said. “We have to clean up the mistakes. The self-inflicted things, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about Duluth, their best players — or just their players in general — taking advantage of a mistake here or there and capitalizing.”

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Since becoming conference rivals back in 2013, the Bulldogs and RedHawks have met six times in a season and on back-to-back weekends once before. In 2015-16, UMD hosted Miami on the final week of the regular season and again the following week in the NCHC quarterfinals. The Bulldogs won all four games to finish the year 5-0-1 against the RedHawks.

Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said his preparation for every series is similar, no matter the situation, no matter the previous results. But playing the same team on back-to-back weekends — as UMD did once already this season when it started 2021 with a road and home series with St. Cloud State — does create some efficiencies, such as film study. The tape he’ll review of the RedHawks against his Bulldog will be fresh this week compared to the two-month-old video he reviewed last week.

The adjustments made, however, are similar to what a team may make between a Friday and Saturday night game, Sandelin said.

“You're always looking for things you can do better, or maybe ways to exploit different teams,” Sandelin said. “I thought we made a couple adjustments last weekend that helped our team — at least the result was good — so we'll continue to do that.”

The NCHC’s divisional scheduling plan this season, meant to limit travel by teams during a pandemic, means a lot of similar matchups in the second half of the season. In addition to the four games in two weeks with Miami, the Bulldogs see Western Michigan next week in Kalamazoo for the second time in four weeks. The Bulldogs also have two more games scheduled against St. Cloud.

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With just three opponents — plus a makeup game from the Pod against Colorado College on Feb. 18 in Duluth — to prepare for over the past two months, Sandelin said it leads to his team focusing much more on itself than the opposition.

“I like to try and really get our guys focused on what we need to do, versus what other teams are doing because I think when we do those things right as a group, we can be a pretty good team,” Sandelin said. “So hopefully it does help.”

The focus this week for the Bulldogs has been discipline, and not just when it comes to penalties, though that is a big part, Sandelin said. UMD took 10 penalties for 30 minutes against Miami last weekend, including a 5-minute major and 10-minute misconduct by captain Noah Cates for contact to the head on Friday late in the second period, plus a 10-minute misconduct late Friday on junior wing Cole Koepke for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Neither of those penalties Friday resulted in goals, but three of UMD’s five penalties on Saturday did, including a 5-on-3 power play goal that pulled Miami with two goals late.

“We have to cut back on some of the penalties,” Sandelin said. “Some you could argue but at the same time, don't put yourself in those positions. Those are the things that ultimately are going to hurt you in the long run. We have to eliminate some of that stuff and just some of the decisions.

“It’s just understanding game situations and being a little bit more diligent and smarter in those situations, whether it's penalties, whether it's puck management, whether it's positional play, or whether it's line changes. Those are all little things that add up over time, that can cost you games. We got to clean some of that stuff up.”

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Injury report

Sandelin said Wednesday that he expected to have everyone on the roster available for this weekend’s games against the RedHawks. That includes freshman goaltender Zach Stejskal, who did not travel to Oxford last weekend due to injury.

UMD hasn’t had a full roster since a positive COVID-19 test result within the program forced the postponement of the Jan. 15-16 series at Miami to Jan. 29-30, with freshmen Darian Gotz and Luke Mylymok both missing the last four games for the Bulldogs.

As for the RedHawks, Bergeron said Monday junior forward Scott Corbett is expected back after being injured by the Cates hit last Friday. Sophomore forward Ryan Savage, who also missed Saturday’s game along with Corbett, is week-to-week and questionable to make the trip to Duluth.

Follow, Watch, Listen

Miami at Minnesota Duluth

6:07 p.m. Friday and 4:07 p.m. Saturday

At Amsoil Arena in Duluth

Follow

Twitter: Follow News Tribune college hockey reporter Matt Wellens

Live stats: Updates from UMD Sports Information

Live blog: TheRinkLive.com

Watch

Online streaming: NCHC.tv (subscription required)

TV: My 9 Sports Network

Listen

Radio: KDAL 610 AM/103.9 FM

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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