Bulldogs Sweep their way to top spot
The UMD athletic department will soon have a second No. 1 rank flag to fly this week as the No. 2 UMD men’s hockey team swept their way past the top ranked North Dakota Fighting Hawks this past weekend. (UMD Women’s volleyball owns the other Bulldog number one rank currently).
The win has the Bulldogs poised to take over the No. 1 spot in the nation after knocking off North Dakota 5-2 Friday night and 3-0 Saturday evening.
The Bulldogs rode a 4-point performance from Alex Iafallo. His first two goals sandwiched an Adam Johnson tally, putting the Bulldogs out to a 3-0 lead in the second period.
Late in the second a power-play goal from North Dakota’s Rhett Gardner and an unassisted effort from Shane Gersich brought the Fighting Hawks within one goal of the Bulldogs going into the second intermission.
However, a Neal Pionk goal at 8:32 of the third period doubled the Bulldogs lead, hurting the chances of a North Dakota comeback.
“That was a big shot by Neal (Pionk) and just a good play from everyone there,” said Iafallo, who had an assist on Pionk’s goal. ”Simple things like that are going to help us win games.”
Iafallo would get an empty netter with 28 seconds left to play to round out a hat trick for the night.
UMD freshman goaltender Hunter Miska had 24 saves in the Friday victory. Miska backed it up with 30 saves on Saturday, marking his second shut out victory of the season.
UMD’s special teams and defense were on full display in the Saturday contest.
Karson Kuhlman tallied the Bulldog’s first goal of the evening in the second period, rifling home a wrist at 11:24 of the second for a shorthanded marker.
Defenseman Carson Soucy doubled the Bulldog lead on the power play, putting the puck past North Dakota goalie Cam Johnson at 15:42 of the second.
Kyle Osteberg added a shorthanded tally to make it a 3-0 game in the favor of the Bulldogs leading into the third period.
The final period would go scoreless as Bulldog shot blocking and defense kept them in control throughout much of the frame. UMD head coach Scott Sandelin spoke highly of his special teams units after the win.
“Our special teams came up big. I thought our penalty killers were outstanding this weekend. Guys sacrificing and blocking shots.” Sandelin said. “Obviously Hunter (Miska) had a great game, and we did enough to get a win.”
The Bulldog locker room was audibly excited with their win on Saturday night, UMD forward Kyle Osterberg expressed faith in the players in that room for the season ahead.
“Obviously we showed what we could do against the top notch teams this weekend and you know we just gotta carry that with us,” Osterberg said. “We know what we have in our locker room and we trust in our coaching staff and they trust in us. So all we have to do is go out every game and battle and do the right things.”
The Bulldogs take the road next week in another key Northern Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) series against the St. Cloud State University Huskies.