The Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs struggled last year, in part because of their offense. Coach Scott Sandelin knew he wouldn’t have that one go-to-guy to score, so he hoped for a sort of “offense by committee.”
While scoring for the Bulldogs was extremely spread out — ten players had double-digit point totals — the issue was that the leading point-getter was MacGregor Sharp, who only mustered 17 points.
This year, unless Duluth gets a large, immediate impact from incoming freshmen Travis Oleksuk and Mike and Jack Connolly (no relation), the latter being the U.S. Junior Player of the Year, they will still have to rely on last year’s method with hopefully better results.
However, there are a few plusses for the Bulldogs besides the approved funding for the new DECC.
Though no big names other than Josh Meyers stand out at first glance, Duluth is pretty solid defensively. The defensive corps is also helped out by steady goaltender Alex Stalock, a bright spot in the crease.
For the second year in a row, the Bulldogs have a lot of work to do offensively. In some respects, this seemingly works in their favor as they lost a total of only 43 points. However, that number becomes worse in your mind when you realize that was 21% of their total offense, as they only had 201 points to begin with.
“We were the lowest-scoring team in the league so we’ve got to find ways to improve our offense,” a blunt Sandelin said.
Still, they do return five of their top seven scorers in seniors Sharp, Nick Kemp, Andrew Carroll and Josh Meyers as well as junior Jordan Fulton. Sandelin will also need a bigger year out of senior Michael Gergen.
In addition, the Bulldogs have a few freshmen that may provide a boost on the scoresheet. “[We have] a couple of freshmen that people have talked about that we’ll see how they mesh but we’re all excited to have. Jack Connolly who was mentioned before; Mike Connolly — two pretty good offensive players that can hopefully give us a boost.”
Jack Connolly, in particular, reminds Sandelin of former Colorado College Hobey Baker winner Marty Sertich, so he should be pretty good.
On the Blue Line
The Bulldogs lost a little on defense with Jason Garrison and Travis Gawryletz, but do return Josh Meyers who will be counted on for not only some points, but for his leadership as well.
Besides Meyers, Sandelin will need steady, consistent play out of senior Jay Cascalenda, junior Trent Palm and improved seasons out of sophomore Evan Oberg.
Duluth also has two freshmen who may be able to jump right into the lineup in Scott Kishel and Brady Lamb.
In the Crease
In nets, Sandelin can breathe easy thanks to Alex Stalock, who won the full-time starting job last season.
“One of our key players is Alex Stalock,” Sandelin said. “Really, it starts there with him having another good year for us.”
If Stalock doesn’t have a good year, Sandelin will have to go with untested sophomore Kenny Reiter or incoming freshman Brady Hjelle.