No. 7 Minnesota-Duluth in mini-slump heading into weekend tournament

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After taking just one out of six league points against Western Michigan at Amsoil Arena this past weekend, Minnesota-Duluth’s men’s hockey team finds itself in a slump for the first time all season going into this weekend’s North Star College Cup at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The No. 7 Bulldogs are winless in their past three games (0-2-1) having followed up their victory against then-No.

1 North Dakota with a 5-2 loss the next night. The following weekend in Duluth, the Bulldogs lost in a shootout to Western Michigan and then lost outright 4-2 on Saturday.

UMD coach Scott Sandelin is far from worried going into Friday’s tournament semifinal against Bemidji State. His team may be winless in its past three games, but it has yet to string together a losing streak larger than this in 2014-15.

“This group still hasn’t lost back-to-back games all year and you know what, it’s not an easy thing,” Sandelin said. “We’re not going to let that happen. We’ll go play Bemidji and try and win that game Friday.”

This group still hasn’t lost back-to-back games all year and you know what, it’s not an easy thing. We’re not going to let that happen.
— Scott Sandelin

The numbers back up Sandelin’s claim. Avoiding back-to-back losses is a difficult thing to do, especially in the NCHC. Besides the Bulldogs, only North Dakota has avoided losing back-to-back games this season, with its worst strech being two losses in three games.

Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota, who sit first through third in that order in the NCHC, are the only three conference teams to have avoided being swept this year.

Only three teams — North Dakota, Miami (Ohio) and Denver — have avoided a three-or-more game winless streak, but the RedHawks and Pioneers have lost back-to-back games twice this year.

“We don’t lose two games in a row,” UMD senior wing Justin Crandall said. “That’s the thing we’ve been talking about for the year.”

The Bulldogs can attribute their winless streak in part to a lack of goals. In their past three games, they have mustered just two goals each night.

UMD had plenty of chances in its loss to North Dakota, putting 43 shots on goal. That wasn’t the case against Western Michigan, which held UMD to 53 total shots on goal.

“When you get chances and you aren’t scoring, it starts to wear on you a little bit,” said Crandall, who has two goals in the three-game period. “That’s something you can’t let creep in. You have to stay confident. Really that’s been our biggest downfall the last couple games. We’re getting quality chances, but not scoring.”

UMD’s scoring offense ranks second in the NCHC, averaging 3.18 goals per game. The Bulldogs are averaging 3.85 goals per game in their 13 wins, with three or more goals in 12 of those wins. A 2-1 win against Minnesota on Nov. 15 was the lone exception.

In comparison, the Bulldogs are averaging just 2.22 goals per game in losses, having been held to one or two goals in six of their nine losses. UMD has yet to be shut out this season.

This article was written by Matt Wellens from Duluth News Tribune and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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