UMD newcomer isn't shy about scoring goals
Growing up in Eden, N.Y., Alex Iafallo hadn't heard much, if anything, about the city of Duluth or the Minnesota Duluth men's hockey program. In suburban Buffalo, the NHL's Sabres were the focus of hockey talk in town. But winning the 2011 NCAA D...
Growing up in Eden, N.Y., Alex Iafallo hadn't heard much, if anything, about the city of Duluth or the Minnesota Duluth men's hockey program.
In suburban Buffalo, the NHL's Sabres were the focus of hockey talk in town.
But winning the 2011 NCAA Division I championship put Duluth on Iafallo's map in a hurry and the 6-foot-0, 180-pound left winger committed to the Bulldogs.
Now, after two seasons with the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League and 10 games into his UMD career, Iafallo is the team's top scorer. He has five goals and five assists heading into a nonconference series this weekend at top-ranked Minnesota. The 19th-ranked Bulldogs (5-4-1) and Gophers (8-1-1) meet at 7:10 p.m. today and 4:10 p.m. Sunday at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.
"He's a smart player and has tremendous speed," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. "He likes playing the game and has fun. He doesn't look like a freshman at times."
Iafallo and fellow freshman center Dom Toninato of Duluth East have played on the same line together all season, as they did most of the 2012-13 season in Fargo. That familiarity has paid off for the Bulldogs, especially in last weekend's National Collegiate Hockey Conference split at North Dakota when Iafallo scored two goals and added two assists to earn conference rookie of the week honors.
"It definitely helps knowing somebody coming here and all that chemistry we had together the past year," Iafallo said. "That definitely contributed to our success there and, hopefully, it keeps going here."
Sandelin says with all the things newcomers must learn, knowing at least one linemate well is one less potential pitfall.
"I'm a big two-thirds of a line guy; I look for that (in recruiting)," Sandelin said. "It was almost like having two returning players. They've done a good job together.
"Anytime you can have a bit of chemistry, at any position, it
certainly helps. They know each other's tendencies so there's certainly a comfort level."
Iafallo was lucky to play at all last season. He tore the meniscus in his right knee and needed surgery to repair the problem.
"I was pretty scared at first because I didn't know what actually had happened (to my knee) and what was going to happen to my career," he said.
He ended up missing 20 games before returning to the Force and teaming with Toninato. Iafallo says the surgical repairs made him stronger, faster and an all-around better player.
"It changed my whole game," he said.
Iafallo led all USHL players in playoff scoring with 16 points as the Force reached the championship series before losing to Dubuque.
Now his attention has turned to helping UMD attempt an upset of the No. 1 team in the country. The Bulldogs might need a few goals to keep pace with the NCAA's second-highest scoring team (4.2 goals per game).
"It's going to be a good test for us because we know we're at the same level," Iafallo said. "We just have to bring our quickness and work hard and we'll see what happens."