A fresh start for men's hockey

BY JIMMY GILLIGAN | The Statesman Head coach Scott Sandelin and the University of Minnesota Duluth Men’s hockey team is looking at its final nonconference matchup of the season against Northern Michigan (9-9-6, 7-7-4 WCHA) this weekend as a chance at a fresh start.

On a four-game winless streak, the Bulldogs (8-10-5, 5-8-3 NCHC) are treating these two games as a new season, looking to jumpstart some positive momentum after compiling a 1-3-2 record in 2016.

“We think about it being like the start of the year,” Sandelin said. “It’s a nonconference series, which is a little rare at this time of year, but it’s an opportunity for us to go in and bring everyone on the trip and try and get two wins.”

The last time these teams faced one another, which will be almost exactly one year ago this weekend, the Bulldogs came away with two home wins.

Statistically, both Northern Michigan and UMD have similar team numbers: the Bulldogs average 2.6 goals per game while the Wildcats score 2.4 goals per game on average.

Additionally, both teams have similar records, hovering around the .500 mark. Despite their similarities, and the fact that NMU actually has a better overall record, the Bulldogs rank much higher in the Pairwise rankings, due to their strength of schedule (UMD is tied at No. 19 and NMU is No. 34).

Sandelin hopes his team can overcome and find a path to success this weekend, as there are only nine games left (after this series) before the NCHC playoffs.

“We gotta find a way to get over the hump. We’re running out of time,” Sandelin said. “It’s been like a broken record: play well, lose, play well, lose, one goal short, one goal short. Mentally, over time, that adds up, but hopefully the group is strong enough not only to get over that, but to find a different way. You don’t know what’s going to spark it”

Andy Welinski takes a shot against St. Cloud State University. The senior captain leads the Bulldog defensive core in points this season with 2 goals and 9 assists. BRAD EISCHENS/STATESMAN

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