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Top-ranked Minnesota-Duluth puts streak on line

by Michael Blinn
Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (14-3-3) at Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (10-8-4)
Friday, Jan. 13, 7:30 PM ET, NBC Sports Network


Minnesota-Duluth: No one picked the Bulldogs to take the whole shebang last year, and despite proving everyone wrong, they were once again overlooked coming into this season. Playing with that chip on their shoulder is a decidedly good look, as they cast off early-season inconsistency and have not suffered a loss since being swept by Minnesota in mid-October. In that span, they've gone 13-0-3, and taking two-game sets with Bemidji State, Minnesota State, at Michigan Tech, and at Western Michigan, as well as earning a win and tie in series at Denver and Wisconsin in the longest current unbeaten streak in the nation. They top the national rankings for the fifth straight week, a unanimous choice this time around. Needless to say, the Bulldogs are primed and ready to continue running all the way into the postseason.

NCAA Hockey on NBC Sports Network

  • Minn-Duluth @ Neb-Omaha, Jan. 13, 7:30 PM
  • Michigan @ Notre Dame, Jan. 20, 7:00 PM
  • Yale @ Harvard, Jan 27, 7:30 PM
  • Cornell @ RPI, Feb. 3, 7:00 PM
  • Boston College @ Vermont, Feb. 10, 7:00 PM
  • Minnesota @ Denver, Feb. 10, 7:30 PM
  • Dartmouth @ Yale, Feb. 17, 7:00 PM
  • Boston U @ Vermont, Feb. 24, 7:00 PM
  • North Dakota @ Denver, Feb. 24, 7:30 PM
  • Denver @ Neb-Omaha, Mar. 2, 7:30 PM
Nebraska-Omaha: The Mavericks haven't laced up their skates since New Year's Eve, but they ended 2011 on a high note, taking a 4-1 non-conference win over Quinnipiac. With Dean Blais in his third season behind the bench, Nebraska-Omaha took second place to upstart Colgate to open the season at the Maverick Stampede, and have won matchups with Alaska-Anchorage, Wisconsin, Colorado College, St. Cloud State, and North Dakota. The Mavs have shown plenty of resilience, and have yet to be swept in a two-game series this season -- including bouncing back for a win in the back half of their weekend tilt against Alabama-Huntsville, set in the big stage of Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, the home of the Predators.


It was conceivable that Minnesota-Duluth might struggle offensively this season, having lost two-thirds of its high-scoring top line in Justin Fontaine and Mike Connolly, as well as blue-line leader Justin Faulk, but that hasn't been the case. Hobey Baker candidate Jack Connolly (12g, 33 pts, no relation to Mike) returned for his senior year and hasn't skipped a beat -- in fact, he's on track to best his career high of 59 points, set last season. Senior Travis Oleksuk (15g, 26pts) has stepped up his game as well, establishing a new high in goals despite being only halfway through the season. Sophomore J.T. Brown (8g, 26pts) is no slouch either, posting 1.30 points per game for the Bulldogs. Defensively, the senior tandem of Brady Lamb (4g, 17pts) and Scott Kishel (3g, 15 pts) has ably filled the void left by Faulk's ascension to the professional ranks. Kenny Reiter (14-2-3, 2.18 goals-against average) remains coach Scott Sandelin's bread-and-butter in net, ranking near the top in all major goaltending categories.

There were similar offensive concerns for WCHA foe Nebraska-Omaha. The Mavericks' top three scorers from 2010-11 graduated, though Blais has assembled a balanced attack coming from all four lines: 11 Mavericks are scoring in double digits this season, with sophomore Matt White leading the way. In his second year, White (10g, 27pts) has already surpassed his freshman year totals and is second in the nation with 3 shorthanded goals. Not to be outdone, senior captain Terry Broadhurst (14g, 23pts) is scoring at a career-best pace, and should best his previous season's numbers for the third straight year. Freshmen Jayson Megna (7g, 21pts) and Josh Archibald (7g, 11pts), who spent his break with Blais in Canada for the WJC, have been pleasant surprises, while sophomore Ryan Walters (7g, 16pts) is evolving nicely for the Mavs. In the crease, junior John Faulkner (5-4-1, 2.90 GAA) began the season as the incumbent, though he hasn't played back-to-back games since mid-October. Freshmen Ryan Massa (4-3-1, 2.49 GAA) and Dayn Belfour (1-1-2, 2.30 GAA) have proven themselves capable, and should continue to press for more time as the season moves on.

Leaders: Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs Leaders: Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks
Jack Connolly - 20GP-12G-21A-33pts Matt White - 22GP-10G-17A-27pts
Travis Oleksuk - 20GP-15G-11A-26pts Terry Broadhurst - 22GP-14G-9A-23pts
J.T. Brown - 20GP-8G-18A-26pts Jayson Megna - 22GP-7G-14A-21pts
Mike Seidel - 20GP-8G-9A-17pts Ryan Walters - 22GP-7G-9A-16pts
Caleb Herbert - 20GP-7G-10A-17pts John Faulkner - 11GP, 5-4-1, 2.90 GAA, .877 SV%
Kenny Reiter - 19GP, 14-2-3, 2.18 GAA, .921 SV% Ryan Massa - 9GP, 4-3-1, 2.49 GAA, .907 SV%

Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks
Coach: Scott Sandelin (192-200-52) Coach: Dean Blais (303-147-41)
14-3-3, (10-2-2 WCHA) 10-8-4, (7-4-3 WCHA)
21.98% PP (13th in NCAA) / 82.7% PK (24th) 21.62 % PP (14th) / 80% PK (40th)
Drafted: Scott Kishel (MTL), Drew Olson (CBJ), Joe Basaraba (FLA), Dan DeLisle (CHI), Caleb Herbert (WSH), Max Tardy (STL) Drafted: Brent Gwidt (WSH), Josh Archibald (PIT), Bryce Aneloski (OTT)

"We'll just have to deal with teams coming at us with their best, day in and day out, and we're going to battle back and play every game like we always have. I think we're not going to let it get to our minds too much that teams are coming for us. It's just another hockey game that we have to go out and try to win." -- Minnesota-Duluth senior captain and forward Jack Connolly on the target on the Bulldogs' back after last season's national championship

"Terry's gonna find a way to get the puck with his speed. He's gonna anticipate; he's smart. Terry is obviously our captain, our leader and he's a guy that leads by example. We've pounded that into his head ever since he was a freshman. That's one of the things that Terry does. He's fast, he finds the puck, he makes plays." -- Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais on senior Terry Broadhurst's goal-scoring explosion this season


Minnesota-Duluth is averaging 4.10 goals per game, tops in the NCAA, while their scoring margin of 1.75 is second-best. Nebraska-Omaha is one of the NCAA's most disciplined teams, averaging just 10.6 PIMs per game, fourth-best in the country. … NHL Connections: Mavericks freshman goalie Dayn Belfour is the son of Hall-of-Famer Ed Belfour, while Dominic Zombo's father is former Red Wing Rick Zombo, who also played for Dean Blais. Bulldogs freshman defenseman Derik Johnson's dad Jim Johnson enjoyed a 13 year NHL career, while assistant coach Derek Plante was a mainstay with the Buffalo Sabres in the 1990s. … Family Affair: Minnesota-Duluth freshman Adam Krause will face off against his older brother Joey, a freshman forward for Nebraska-Omaha. Bulldog freshman forward Justin Crandall and sophomore goalie Aaron Crandall are the first siblings to play on the same Minnesota-Duluth roster in 11 years. … Tale of the Tape: The Mavericks are the second-tallest team in the NCAA this season with an average height of just under 6-foot-1, through freshman Andrej Sustr is the tallest player in the NCAA ranks at 6-8. Bulldogs goalie Kenny Reiter is the third-oldest player in college hockey this season.

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