Series Preview: with Cameranesi healthy, men's hockey seeks first NCHC win

Above: After missing two games with an upper body injury, UMD's leading scorer Tony Cameranesi returns to the lineup against Denver this weekend. Alex Ganeev/Statesman BY JIMMY GILLIGAN | The Statesman

When: UMD (3-4-2, 0-2 NCHC) vs. DU (5-3, 2-0 NCHC): Friday and Saturday (Nov. 13-14), 7 p.m. at Amsoil Arena

Leading scorer Tony Cameranesi returns from injury and looks to spark UMD’s offense against No. 5 ranked Denver University.

The Bulldogs (3-4-2, 0-2 NCHC) head into the matchup on a three-game losing streak. Struggling to score last weekend despite outshooting Nebraska Omaha, UMD dropped two 4-2 games and fell to No. 13 in the USCHO poll.

But this weekend the important number is 13, Tony Cameranesi. The senior returns to the lineup after missing last weekend’s series with an upper body injury. He leads UMD with eight points (two goals, six assists) in seven games played this season.

“You look at the way we played last weekend without him, I thought we played extremely well, we had plenty of opportunities to score,” head coach Scott Sandelin said.  “We did a lot of good things last week except for get the puck in the net enough times, so hopefully getting him back will do that.”

As of last weekend, Denver’s stock is heading the opposite way of UMD’s: up. This was reflected in this week’s USCHO poll, where the Pioneers were ranked No. 5—the same position they began the season at.

In their opening National Collegiate Hockey Conference series last week weekend, DU swept in-state rival Colorado College, and hung on to the “Gold Pan Trophy,” given to the winner of the rivalry series.

The Bulldogs know that feeling. They swept their own in-state rival, the University of Minnesota, three weeks prior, capturing a non-existent trophy and retaining bragging rights.

UMD needs a quick start to squash any momentum Denver has brought with them to Duluth. Especially considering that Pioneer offense improves as the game wears on—12 of their 29 total goals have been scored in the third period. They have ten in the second, and seven in the first.

The Bulldogs have two first period goals in three games at Amsoil Arena this year. However, they haven’t scored first in their last three games.

“It’d be nice to score the first goal for a change, (and have) a real good start,” Sandelin said.

He also hopes to see his team play 120 focused minutes this weekend.

“We’ve got to eliminate some of the lapses, and a lot of it for me is some of their decisions with the puck. (We need to) just make simple plays and good decisions,” Sandelin said.

If they get as many shots as they had last weekend (84), the Bulldogs will have a good chance to pick up some NCHC points.

After UNO’s Evan Weninger, who owns a .954 save percentage, stopped 80 of those 84 shots, the Bulldog shooters will get a break: neither DU goaltender has a save percentage over .905 and both have averaged at least 2.50 goals per game.

Last year, both teams split their regular season matchup. But in the opening round of the NCHC playoffs, Denver took two from UMD, winning 4-3 and 4-0. It will be another tough NCHC matchup for both teams.

“They have a real solid lineup lines 1-4, not surprising—it’s the NCHC,” Sandelin said. “They’re not a very big group but they’re very quick, they’re very sound positionally, and they're very sound with their sticks.”

UMD women's hockey Series Preview: David, meet Goliath

Season preview: Three keys for UMD women's basketball