It’s the last week of the regular season in the NCHC and all eyes are on the conference as two national juggernauts square off on the ice. The defending national champion Bulldogs of Minnesota Duluth take their talents into St. Cloud, Minnesota to play the first ranked Huskies of St. Cloud State. This is an intriguing matchup with the NCHC conference tournament starting next week, both teams have the opportunity to grab statement wins going into the postseason. St. Cloud has already locked up the regular season conference title, but the tournament championship will still be up for grabs and this series could give the Bulldogs serious momentum going forward.
Keys for the Huskies:
The Huskies are on a five-game win streak and an eight-game unbeaten streak. This has been due to their high powered offense, which has scored four or more goals in 7 of their last eight games. The offense is lead by NCHC’s top three, point leaders: Patrick Newell, Robby Jackson, and Blake Lizotte. The three of them have combined for 107 points on the season and can’t seem to stay out of the box scores.
Despite how well the offense has been, the Huskies have had to play from behind in three of their last six games. Both games in their latest Colorado College series saw late comebacks. One just to manage a tie and the other to earn a win in overtime. This past Friday saw another come from behind victory. The Huskies needed four third period goals to beat Western Michigan. The Huskies can’t allow themselves to play from behind this weekend and need to strike early and often.
The Huskie defense has been lights out. Anchored by Captain Jimmy Schuldt, they’re coming off a weekend where they killed every Bronco powerplay. If the Huskies are going to win both games this weekend their penalty kill will have to remain stought.
Keys for the Bulldogs:
If the Bulldogs want to make a statement this weekend they’re going to need two things.
First, they need to get on the board first and make the Huskies play from behind. Although St. Cloud is the best team in the country when it comes to playing from behind, the best way to beat them is to keep piling on the goals and making them play catch up. The Bulldogs will look to Justin Richards and Parker Mackay to ignite the offense this weekend.
Second, goaltender Hunter Shepard needs to be on his A game. Shepard leads the conference goals against (1.89), save percentage (.915), and shutouts (5). He’ll need to live up to those numbers this weekend. He may not be asked to make 35-45 saves, but the shots he faces will be good looks and he’ll be forced to make good saves.
This matchup between the Huskies and the Bulldogs is a dog fight that even has Mike Vick excited. St. Cloud is going to have the Brooks Center rocking with the Dog Pound out in full force. Can UMD steal two statement wins or will the Huskies prevail once again? Find out Friday night at 7:37 CT. In the mean time, follow us on Twitter for more hockey coverage @StudentUHockey.