While fans of undefeated Michigan Tech might take exception, it’s hard not to wonder if Minnesota-Duluth is the hottest team in the country.
Even if they aren’t, the Bulldogs are the hottest team in their home state after sweeping top-ranked Minnesota this weekend by 3-0 and 2-1 scores.
The sweep marked back-to-back weekend sweeps of an in-state rival for the Bulldogs, who swept NCHC rival St. Cloud State the previous weekend.
Friday in Minneapolis, Bulldogs netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo stopped 17 shots as the Bulldogs blanked the Gophers, ending Minnesota’s home unbeaten streak at 17 games. It was also the first time since 2003 that Minnesota had been shut out on home ice.
Saturday in Duluth, the Bulldogs made it a sweep behind Kaskisuo’s 24 saves and goals by Dominic Toninato and Karson Kuhlman. The Gophers finally ended Kaskisuo’s shutout streak at 11:18 of the third period, ending 149:37 of shutout play by the freshman phenom.
The last time the Bulldogs swept their in-state rivals was November 2009. The Bulldogs are currently 8-4, a record made more impressive by the fact that every game they have played so far has been against a ranked team. The lowest-ranked team Minnesota-Duluth has played so far was ranked 12. While one team has since dropped out of the top 20, two of the others have moved into the top 10.
Gold Pan strike one
In Denver coach Jim Montgomery’s first year, Colorado College claimed the Gold Pan, awarded to the winner of the season series between the two schools, by sweeping Denver in the last two games of the season between the schools. Given how often CC has won the trophy (12 times out of 21), one could wonder whether a first-year coach appreciated the storied rivalry.
Montgomery showed some flare last week during his radio interview on Wednesday, Nov. 12, referring to the Tigers as “the kittens.” Perhaps Montgomery’s psychological warfare worked, because CC certainly played like kittens and Denver played like tigers, defeating CC 8-1 on Friday night at Magness Arena in Denver.
Denver scored twice in the first two minutes of the game, once by Danton Heinen and once by Nolan Zajac, and never looked back, building a 4-1 lead after one period. Denver defenseman Joey LaLeggia scored the seventh goal, notching his 100th career point.
“I couldn’t have done it without great teammates and the freedom coach Montgomery gives me and Nolan Zajac to be aggressive offensively and take chances jumping into the play,” said LaLeggia. “It’s a nice milestone and better to get against a rival like Colorado College.”
The loss was the seventh in a row for CC, which hasn’t won since its opening weekend against Alabama-Huntsville.
NCHC foes split
The only match-up of top 10 teams this weekend paired No. 7 Miami against No. 2 North Dakota. Fittingly, the series ended in a split, with the RedHakws winning game one, 3-2, and North Dakota taking the rematch 4-1.
Friday’s win by Miami ended an eight-game unbeaten streak for North Dakota, and may have put aside memories of the 9-2 drubbing the RedHawks took the last time they played in Grand Forks. Sean Kuraly had two goals and an assist, including scoring the game-winner on a third period power play.
The series was notable also for the return of North Dakota forward Mark MacMillan, who had been injured against Providence on Oct. 24. On Saturday, MacMillan provided the spark, scoring North Dakota’s first goal after Miami had opened a one-goal lead and assisting on the third goal.
MacMillan’s return comes at a fortuitous time, as UND has two series looming against ranked conference foes in No. 15 St. Cloud State and No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha.