Minnesota Duluth kept Omaha netminder Evan Weninger busy, firing 39 shots on net Friday in a 2-2 tie and then following that with 35 shots on Saturday in a 5-0 win. Duluth got very balanced scoring, with Dominic Toninato scoring both goals Friday and five different players scoring goals Saturday. With the shutout win Saturday, freshman Hunter Miska got his fifth shutout of the year, tying the school record for shutouts in a season held by Kasimir Kaskisuo, Alex Stalock, and Brant Nicklin.
“I thought our guys did another good job of allowing me to see the puck real well tonight,” said Miska. “It’s a great honor to be up there with those three guys and share that record, but we just have to keep focusing and looking forward.”
Duluth is now unbeaten in its last seven games. Duluth has 12 wins in the NCHC this year, tying their best total ever in the conference. However, since Duluth only took five of six points, the Bulldogs have left No. 2 Denver an opening in the race for the Penrose Cup that is awarded to the winner of the league’s regular season. Denver has two games in hand, and will face Colorado College for a two-game set this weekend.
North Dakota’s offensive woes continue
Last week, North Dakota got shutout by Colorado College. On Friday against St. Cloud State, North Dakota continued to have trouble finding the net, firing 29 shots but only getting one goal, at 8:16 of the third on a power play. Before that goal, North Dakota had a goal-less draught of 108:49. Saturday, wasn’t much better, though the Fighting Hawks did get a win, 2-1 in overtime. North Dakota fired 26 shots on net. They fell behind 1-0 after one period, but tied it at 14:10 of the second on a goal by Mike Gornall, who also scored the winner at 41 seconds of overtime. North Dakota also had Cam Johnson back in net Saturday, and he made 20 saves.
“The morale when he scored on the bench, the excitement, it was second to none,” said North Dakota coach Brad Berry. “The biggest thing for us is the last four games, we played well enough to win all four of those games. We have to take that and get better in different areas. To come out of this game without a win would have been a travesty. It’s huge for morale because now guys have belief that we are doing the right things. We have to continue building our group.”
Since a series against Omaha the first weekend of January in which North Dakota exploded for 16 goals to sweep the series, North Dakota has gone 3-5, and goals have been difficult to come by. Even in games where North Dakota has scored three goals, they have lost games in that stretch. The good news for North Dakota is that the Hawks are still in third place in the NCHC and in possession of home ice, thanks in part to Duluth’s taking five of six points from Omaha this weekend. North Dakota is tied for third with Western Michigan, but the Broncos have two games in hand, and has a three-point lead on Omaha and a four-point lead on St. Cloud State.
Splitting the series in Grand Forks meant North Dakota’s struggles at home continue, as the Fighting Hawks are 3-6-1 in league play in Grand Forks.
Western Michigan struggles with Arizona State
No. 9 Western Michigan struggled in a nonconference series with Arizona State. Friday, the Broncos twice had a one-goal lead, but Arizona State tied it on a power-play goal at 7:28 of the third, but Corey Schueneman got the game-winner with a blast from inside the left point and Griffen Molino added an empty-netter to seal the win. Broncos coach Andy Murray said after the game that his team had tried to play too much of an individual game and needed to be better Saturday. However, the Broncos trailed 2-1 late in the third before Wade Allison got an extra-attacker goal at 19:05 to get Western Michigan a tie. ASU goalie Joey Daccord made 50 saves in the tie.
Despite the tie, Murray was pleased.
“I thought our game for most of the hockey game was real good,” said Murray. “I thought we dominated in terms of offensive statistics and shots and scoring chances. They are a very hardworking, determined team. I like how they play. Coach has got them a very aggressive system.
“We did dominate in a number of areas, but there are certain game-deciding situations where you have to be accountable. It may be the chance to put the puck into an empty net; we had a few of those and didn’t do it. Or it may be a situation where you have the puck in your zone and need to move it forward and you take it back, which actually resulted in their second goal. That can’t happen.”
Western Michigan has also had a trend of getting a lot of shots but not capitalizing. Last week against Miami, the Broncos fired 47 shots on net and outshot the RedHawks 47-19, but lost 4-3. In Saturday’s 2-2 tie, Western Michigan outshot ASU 50-33.