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College men's hockey preview: 2017 NCHC Frozen Faceoff

No. 2 Minnesota Duluth vs. No. 3 Western Michigan

  • What: NCHC semifinal
  • When: 4:08 p.m. Friday
  • Where: Target Center, Minneapolis
  • Records: Minnesota Duluth is 23-6-7 overall; Western Michigan is 22-10-5
  • Rankings: The Bulldogs are No. 3 in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Magazine polls; the Broncos are No. 8 in both polls
  • Series: UMD leads 12-7-1 after the teams went 2-2 against each other during the regular season
  • Coaches: Scott Sandelin, in his 17th season at UMD, is 310-283-82; Andy Murray, in his sixth season at Western Michigan, is 103-94-32
  • TV: CBS Sports Network
  • Radio: WWAX-FM 92.1
  • Internet: network1sports.com/station/kqds (audio); nchc.tv (video)
  • Twitter: @mattwellens
  • UMD update: The Bulldogs reached the Frozen Faceoff via 5-4 (OT) and 5-3 wins over Miami last week in an NCHC quarterfinal series in Duluth. UMD outscored the RedHawks 5-3 in the third periods and overtime to sweep the series. UMD has outscored the opposition 44-21 in third periods this season to rank second in the NCAA with a plus-23 differential. The Bulldogs are back at the Frozen Faceoff for the second consecutive season after missing the inaugural two tournaments at Target Center. UMD beat North Dakota in the semifinals last year before losing to St. Cloud State in the championship. The Bulldogs are coming off their second best regular season (21-6-7, .721 win percentage) in program history having posted the fewest regular-season losses since joining the NCAA ranks in 1961-62. UMD has yet to lose back-to-back games in a single weekend this season. It's the third time that's happened in the program's 56-year history. UMD is seeking its first conference postseason title since winning the WCHA Final Five in 2009. Senior wing Alex Iafallo, the league's regular-season scoring champion, enters today's game riding a nine-game point streak (5-9—14). It's the second time this season he's put together that kind of run after totaling eight goals and eight assists from Oct. 28-Dec. 9.

    Quote: "It's exciting to get back down here. It was a fun experience for our players last year being our first time in the tournament. Unfortunately we didn't accomplish the goal of winning it. It's fun this time of year to continue to play and, hopefully, get good preparation for next week." — Scott Sandelin

    Western Michigan update: The Broncos needed three games last week in Kalamazoo, Mich., to eliminate Nebraska-Omaha. The Broncos lost the opener 2-1 in overtime, then won 5-2 and 2-1 in OT. This is just the Broncos' second trip to the Frozen Faceoff after going 0-2 in the inaugural tournament in 2014. The 22 wins the Broncos have racked up are the most in six seasons under Murray and the most since winning 27 games in 1995-96. The Broncos are the only team to have beaten the Bulldogs twice the season — 4-3 on Nov. 11 in Duluth and 7-4 on March 3 in Kalamazoo. Western Michigan lost 2-0 in Duluth on Nov. 12 and 6-3 on March 4 at home. Broncos senior captain Sheldon Dries has 11 points in 16 career games against UMD, including five points in four games this season. Sophomore forward Matheson Iacopelli has two goals and four assists against UMD this year. Like the Bulldogs, who won the North Star College Cup in January in St. Paul, the Broncos already have a tournament trophy in their case from this season after winning the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit.

    Quote: "If you talk to both coaches, Scott and myself, we would both say certainly the goals against (from the last meeting) is something that is tough to live with. The number of goals we got Friday and the certainly the goals they got Saturday are not like the normal games we have against Duluth, which have been very tight barn burners. They've been low scoring for the most part." — Andy Murray

    No. 1 Denver vs. No. 4 North Dakota

    • What: NCHC semifinal
    • When: 7:38 p.m. Friday
    • Where: Target Center
    • Records: Denver is 28-6-4 overall; North Dakota is 20-14-3
    • Rankings: The Pioneers are No. 1 in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Magazine polls; the Fighting Hawks are No. 11 in both polls
    • Series: North Dakota leads 143-123-12 though Denver won the lone regular-season series Nov. 11-12 by tying 1-1 and winning 3-2.
    • Coaches: Jim Montgomery, in his fourth season at Denver, is 97-46-18; Brad Berry, in his second season at North Dakota, is 54-20-7
    • TV: CBS Sports Network
    • Internet: nchc.tv (video)
    • Live blog at https://undhockey.areavoices.com

    Denver update: The NCHC regular-season champion Pioneers swept Colorado College a week ago 4-1 and 4-0 to reach their fourth Frozen Faceoff in the event's four years. Denver has won 14 straight games over its biggest rival, the Tigers, and own 13 straight wins going into the Frozen Faceoff. A year ago, Denver brought at 11-game winning streak into Target Center, only to lose to St. Cloud State in the semifinals and then tie North Dakota in a meaningless third-place game. The Pioneers sport the nation's top-scoring defense, giving up just 1.84 goals per game. Junior goaltender Tanner Jaillet has started 33 of 38 games, but over the last three weeks has split time with senior Evan Cowley, who has Denver's only two shutouts this season in his last two starts.

    Quote: "The one thing that has been the backbone of our success this year all year long has been our commitment to team defense. ... Because of our ability to play good defense, it's led to turnovers which has led to a lot of transition opportunities." — Jim Montgomery

    North Dakota update: The Fighting Hawks are making their fourth straight Frozen Four appearance after sweeping St. Cloud State in Grand Forks 5-2 and 6-5 in OT. This is North Dakota's 15th straight trip to a conference championship weekend dating to the WCHA Final Five. The Hawks have yet to make it out of the semifinals in their three previous trips to Target Center. Of the four NCHC teams participating this weekend, the defending national champion Hawks are the only one that is not considered a lock for the NCAA tournament. Duluth native Trevor Olson, a junior forward, scored the game-winner last Saturday against the Huskies and has three game-winning goals in the Hawks' four-game winning streak.

    Quote: "We want to get to the things that we want to do. We want to try to replicate last year and we want to have a lot better success at this tournament than we've had in the past too." — Brad Berry

    Matt Wellens

    College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

    (218) 723-5317
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