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After weekend sweep of North Dakota, UMD hockey hits the road to play Mankato

Nick Wolff (5) of Minnesota Duluth competes with Brad McClure (19) of Minnesota-State Mankato for the puck at Amsoil Arena in Duluth earlier this season. Clint Austin / Forum News Service1 / 2
Riley Tufte (27) of Minnesota Duluth controls the puck against Connor Mackey (2) of Minnesota-State Mankato earlier this season at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Clint Austin / Forum News Service2 / 2

DULUTH — Hot off a weekend sweep of NCHC rival North Dakota at home, Minnesota Duluth has little time to celebrate the extension of an eight-game winning streak over the Fighting Hawks.

That's because the ninth-ranked Bulldogs (13-9-3) hit the road Tuesday, Jan. 23, to wrap up a regular-season series with seventh-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato (18-7-0). Both teams drop the puck on their final nonconference game of the season at 7:07 p.m. at Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato.

The timing of Tuesday's game may seem odd sandwiched between a pair of tough, key NCHC series against the Hawks last weekend and St. Cloud State, which visits Amsoil Arena this weekend.

The Bulldogs' locker room is fine with what could be seen by many as a scheduling snafu, though. They'd much rather be playing Tuesday in Mankato than practicing in Duluth, senior captain Karson Kuhlman said.

"We're hockey players. That's what we're here to do — play games and big ones at that," said Kuhlman, an Esko native. "(The Mavericks) are a good team. We got the better of them earlier in the season and we know they're going come out and play."

The Bulldogs beat the Mavericks 3-1 in Game 1 of the series on Nov. 25 at Amsoil Arena. A win Tuesday and sweep of the regular-season series would further strengthen UMD's NCAA tournament resume.

UMD's seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1) has not only vaulted the team from No. 14 to No. 9 in this week's United States College Hockey Online poll. The Bulldogs are now up to No. 8 in the much more important Pairwise rankings — the system used to select the NCAA tournament field — after UMD went into the winter break on the bubble at No. 16.

The Bulldogs have a strong nonconference record at 6-2-3 going into today's game against the Mavs, who are seventh in the Pairwise. UMD's record against WCHA opponents sits at 1-2-1, however, after playing the Mavericks, Michigan Tech (0-1) and Bemidji State (0-1-1) in the first half.

"It was a great weekend for us to keep taking steps," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said Saturday. "We want to keep it going. Hopefully all these types of games, these types of weekends, hopefully continue to build our team."

Draft rankings released

A handful of Bulldogs and Northland natives made NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings that were released Monday, Jan. 22, for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

Bulldogs freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich of Hibbing came in at No. 124 among North American skaters. Averaging a point per game this year, the Bulldogs' leading scorer (6-17—23) is tied for third nationally for points per game by a freshman and tied for second nationally for points per game by a defenseman.

Minnetonka senior forward Luke Loheit is ranked No. 185 among North American skaters and Grand Rapids native Zach Stejskal, currently with Central Illinois of the United States Hockey League, is ranked 29th among North American goaltenders. Both are verbally committed to UMD.

Other Northland natives appearing in the rankings include forward Blake McLaughlin (Chicago, USHL/Minnesota recruit) of Grand Rapids at No. 29 among skaters; forward Gavin Hain (U.S. U18 Team/North Dakota) of Grand Rapids at No. 85; and Ryan Ullan (Bismarck, NAHL/Northern Michigan) of Hibbing at No. 24 among goaltenders.

Ex-UMD players on Olympic rosters

Switzerland and Finland announced Monday their women's hockey rosters for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Goaltender Eveliina Suonpaa, who played one semester at UMD in the second half of the 2014-15 season, was named to the Finnish women's team, bringing the total number of former Bulldogs players and coaches participating in the 2018 Olympics to 11.

Former All-America forward Lara Stalder (2013-17) is also going back to the Olympics with Switzerland after helping her country win a bronze medal in 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Stalder, the 2016-17 Swiss Ice Hockey Woman of the Year, finished her career at UMD in 2016-17 as the team's most valuable player, the WCHA Player of the Year and a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award as national player of the year.

Joining Stalder on Team Switzerland are the former St. Scholastica sister tandem of Monika, Nina and Isabel Waidacher, as well as current St. Cloud State goaltender Janine Alder.

It's the first Olympics for Monika and Isabel Waidacher and second for Nina Waidacher, who was on the 2014 bronze-medal team with Stalder.

NO. 9 UMD (13-9-3) AT NO. 7 MS-MANKATO (18-7)

What: Nonconference game

When: 7:07 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23

Where: Verizon Wireless Center, Mankato

Radio: KDAL-AM 610/KDAL-FM 103.9

Internet: (audio); (video)

Twitter: @mattwellens

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