Earlier this season, Minnesota-Duluth swept North Dakota at home for the first time since 1992, and it was the first time the Bulldogs had swept North Dakota in a weekend series since 1995. This weekend, the Bulldogs did something no Bulldogs team had ever done, sweeping the four-game season series with a 5-3 win Friday and a 4-0 shutout Saturday. On Friday, North Dakota scored first, but the Bulldogs then scored four straight goals, including three in the second period. Riley Tufte scored Duluth’s first goal and last goal of the game. Saturday, Tufte scored again, and also assisted on a power-play goal by Willie Raskob at 12:15 of the first period. A Dominic Toninato short-handed goal at 2:07 of the third period killed any hope of a North Dakota comeback, as goalie Hunter Miska made 29 saves in the win.
Coupled with a win last season in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, Minnesota-Duluth has now won five consecutive games against the Fighting Hawks, a Bulldogs program record. The last team to do that was Denver in 2004-05. Miska also became the first goalie to shutout North Dakota twice in a season since Denver’s Marc Cheverie in 2009-10.
Saturday’s game marked the first time North Dakota had been shutout at home since Oct. 28, 2011, against St. Cloud State. The sweep at Ralph Engelstad Arena was the first home sweep suffered by North Dakota since 2013. North Dakota is now in fifth in the NCHC standings, out of a home-ice spot; if that stays, the Hawks would have to go on the road for the first round for the first time since 2001. North Dakota is now 2-5-1 at home in NCHC games; luckily, many of the games remaining are on the road. North Dakota was also without first-line forward Tyson Jost and second-line forward Joel Janatuinen Saturday, as both were injured Friday. There was no word on their status for next weekend.
Minnesota-Duluth is in first place in the NCHC and now has a six-point lead on second-place Denver. Miska recorded his fourth shutout of the year, and is now one behind the program record for a season held by Kasimir Kaskisuo, Alex Stalock, and Brant Nicklin.
Western Michigan stays hot
Western Michigan looked impressive in sweeping Colorado College, winning 4-2 Friday and then earning a 3-0 shutout Saturday. The Broncos are now 5-1 in the second half, and have won six of their last seven. The streak has moved the Broncos into third place in the NCHC standings, ahead of Omaha by one point, and three points ahead of fifth-place North Dakota. Though his team won Friday, coach Andy Murray thought they played sloppily at times, and would need to be a lot better. In Saturday’s shutout win, Ben Blacker made 25 saves, and the Broncos got all their goals on special teams. Sheldon Dries started it with a power-play goal at 9:04 of the first, Griffen Molino got a four-on-four goal at 14:28 of the first, and Aaron Hadley got a short-handed goal at 11:49 of the second. The Broncos killed off seven Colorado College power plays in the win.
Omaha earns success at home
Like North Dakota, Omaha has struggled at home this weekend. Facing a hot Miami team, the Mavericks rallied Friday to earn a 3-3 tie after letting a two-goal lead slip, but did lose the extra conference point in a the three-on-three OT when Scott Dornbrock scored at 2:50 of the OT period. Saturday night, goalie Evan Weninger made 30 saves and the Mavericks got a goal and assist from Steven Spinner in a 2-0 win, with Fredrik Olofsson getting a power-play strike at 18:16 of the first period and Spinner scoring short-handed at 13:14 of the second. The shutout was Weninger’s second of the year, and moved Omaha into fourth place in the NCHC standings, in possession of the last home ice spot.
“I thought we blocked shots, we got gritty, we won board battles, we got the puck out of the defensive zone when we had to, so that means guys were going to get hit,” said Omaha coach Dean Blais.
With Miami having gotten hot and getting two points on Friday, only five points separate third-place Western Michigan from seventh-place Miami, so the final month is shaping up to be extremely competitive.