Hockey Series of the Week: Minnesota Duluth vs. St. Cloud State
After last weekend’s convincing sweep over North Dakota, the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs enter a pivotal four-game NCHC stretch.
In the first two games of this stretch, the Bulldogs will be taking on the St. Cloud State Huskies who are ranked No. 5 after falling from No. 3 this weekend.
Duluth rose five spots to No. 14 from No. 9 and they enter this weekend’s series with a 13-10-3 record. However, their seven-game unbeaten streak was snapped in a 1-0 loss to Minnesota State on Tuesday night.
St. Cloud State enters the weekend with a record of 14-5-3 and suffered a 5-2 setback against Minnesota State. The loss was only the second on their home ice.
UMD’s offense has been surging over the past few games as they were previously below averaging three goals per game. Now the Bulldogs are averaging right at three goals per game and are looking increase that total.
The Bulldogs also average about two and a half goals given up per contest which is why some of their games throughout the season have been extremely close.
Dallas Stars draft pick and freshman forward Riley Tufte is the leading scorer for Duluth tallying 17 goals this season and he is an imposing figure on the ice.
Standing at six feet and five inches tall, his presence on the ice can give opposing defenses nightmares.
Freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich is the leading points scorer for the Bulldogs. He has tallied six goals and 17 assists for a total of 23 points.
In net, UMD relies heavily on freshman goalie Hunter Shepard.
This season, Shepard has started 23 of the team’s 26 games, allowing 52 goals, making 532 saves, giving up an average of 2.37 goals per game, holding a save percentage of .911, and having a record of 13-9-1.
For St. Cloud State, they are in need of a spark after losing against Minnesota State in a rather lackluster performance.
The Huskies enter the series averaging just a hair under four goals per game while holding its opponents to two and a half goals per game.
SCSU is also extremely dominant when it comes to crunch time in the third period. They have outscored their opponents 37-22 in the final 20 minutes.
Junior forward Robby Jackson is the leading scorer for the Huskies tallying 10 goals on the season while also being tied for the most points alongside junior forward Mikey Eyssimont.
Junior defensemen Jimmy Schuldt is third in points for the Huskies this season racking up six goals alongside 17 assists. The smooth stick handler will be an integral part of the Huskies’ success this weekend.
Freshman goalie David Hrenak and junior goalie Jeff Smith have both seen a lot of action in net this season.
The freshman net-minder Hrenak has seen action in 10 games while allowing 16 goals, saving 247 shots, allowing 1.71 goals per game, racking up a save percentage of .939, and a record of 5-2.
Junior Jeff Smith has seen action in 15 games while allowing 34 goals, saving 356 shots, allowing 2.54 goals per game, a save percentage of .913 and a record of 9-3-3.
With Minnesota Duluth coming off a loss and St. Cloud State also coming off of a loss, look for both teams to attack each other from the get-go.
Both teams are jockeying for the higher seeds in the conference tournament with St. Cloud State having the upper hand sitting in second place.
St. Cloud State also defeated UMD 5-3 and 5-0 back in November but this series could play out differently.
The NCHC race is heating up very fast and this series could potentially make or break one of these teams.
With the series being played in Duluth, it will be interesting to see how SCSU responds to a pair of games away from home where they have been so dominant.
Christopher Hess is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in history. To contact him, email email@example.com.