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Roth finds scoring touch in UMD's sweep of Colorado College

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Minnesota Duluth freshman wing Kobe Roth had a breakout offensive weekend in Colorado Springs, Colo., scoring the first three goals of his NCAA career.

And the last one for Roth and the Bulldogs in the 6-5 and 5-1 wins over Colorado College came with some style.

"We call it the 'Mikko Koivu,' " Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said, referencing the Minnesota Wild captain in his assessment of Roth's third goal, "just like his shootout goal."

A play he's perfected in practice during the weekly Wednesday shootout contest, Roth took a pass from freshman center Justin Richards at the blue line with about two minutes remaining in the game Saturday, Jan. 13. From there Roth flew by the lone Tiger in his vicinity, smoothly shifted the puck from his forehand to his backhand and placed the puck in the near-side top corner.

It was the cherry on top of dynamic weekend for Roth, who used what Sandelin called "a skill play" on Friday, Jan. 12, to tie the Tigers at 2-2 in the first period. Roth then netted his second collegiate goal and first NCAA game-winner Saturday to put UMD ahead 2-1 in the second.

"It's great," Sandelin said of Roth's breakout weekend. "You get the first one and you feel better, kinda get that monkey off your back. It gives you some offensive confidence and scoring confidence and (Saturday) he gets some more."

When Roth verbally committed to the Bulldogs in January 2014, he was in the midst of an explosive junior year for Warroad High School—a season in which Roth finished with 91 points, including 42 goals.

Hip and ankle injuries prevented Roth from putting on an encore performance his senior year at Warroad. He ended up playing only 10 games that season, still totaling 10 points.

Roth went on to play two seasons of junior hockey before coming to UMD last fall, posting 20 points in 35 games with the Cloquet-based Minnesota WIlderness of the North American Hockey League in 2015-16 and 34 points in 59 games with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League between the 2015-16 and 16-17 seasons.

Sandelin said he still sees the offensive talent in Roth that he saw when he recruited him at Warroad, but as Roth points out, it's a lot harder to score as you move up in the hockey world.

"It's a lot tougher," Roth said. "The biggest thing in high school is you get six or seven chances a game so you can put a few away. Now it's maybe one or two every game. You really have to make the most of each opportunity you get."

UMD offense diversifies

After relying on big guns such as sophomore forward Riley Tufte and junior center Peter Krieger in Friday's win, the Bulldogs saw a group of unsung scorers step up on Saturday.

The Bulldogs' five goals came from four scorers—with Roth netting two—and none of the four were among the team's top seven scorers at the start of the evening.

Junior wing Parker Mackay notched his fifth goal (thanks to a CC defender putting the puck in his own net), sophomore defenseman Nick Wolff scored his fourth and junior wing Billy Exell recorded his second.

And Roth's goals were just his second and third of the season.

Asked what he thought about all the different names on the scoresheet, Sandelin responded, "It was awesome."

"When you get some balanced scoring, that certainly helps," the coach said. "It helps their confidence, it helps our team. It was nice to see."

Some Bulldogs in need of R&R?

Tufte, sophomore wing Joey Anderson and freshmen defensemen Mikey Anderson, Scott Perunovich and Dylan Samberg had a productive return to the lineup Friday after helping Team USA capture bronze at the World Junior Championship. The quintet combined for two goals and eight assists.

On Saturday, they combined for a single point—a Samberg assist.

Tufte and Joey Anderson logged a significant amount of minutes Friday playing on the top line with Krieger. Those three combined for four goals, five assists and a plus-7 rating Friday, then were held to no points and an even rating Saturday.

It left Sandelin wondering whether two-thirds of that line was fatigued Saturday after not getting a holiday break like the others.

"Two-thirds of that top line, they might be a little tired," Sandelin said. "They played a lot of minutes (Friday) night and did a lot of good things. (Saturday) I still think they were good. They weren't as good, obviously, as the night before and that's when you need other guys to step up and we got that from other people."

Sandelin said prior to this weekend's series he would look to give the five World Juniors participants a practice or two off if he sensed they needed it.

Now may be the time to do just that.

UMD is set to play five games over a nine-day span starting with Friday, Jan. 19, and Saturday, Jan. 20's home series with North Dakota. UMD will get two days off, play a Tuesday, Jan. 23, game at Minnesota State-Mankato, take another two days off, then host St. Cloud State at Amsoil Arena for a two-game series.

Tufte said after Friday's win he was feeling "pretty good" with the hardest part being the first few days back at UMD this week.

"When we came back I was sucking some wind on Monday and Tuesday," Tufte said. "I got back into it. We're just trying to battle as best we can not taking a break there."

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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