It’s a makeup game from the season-opening NCHC Pod in Omaha, Nebraska, in which the Tigers arrived a week late because of a positive COVID-19 test result within their program. The Tigers also visit St. Cloud State on Saturday for a second makeup game from the Pod.
After 4-0 and 4-1 losses last weekend in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said his team is happy to be playing Thursday instead of being on the bye. That would have made for a miserable two weeks before the regular season finale Feb. 26-27 against St. Cloud State.
“There’s a lot of not happy people. Guys are, quite frankly, PO’d,” Sandelin said. “They are disappointed in the weekend. We had a good meeting on Monday and our guys have had a good few days. It’s nice that we have a quicker turnaround to get to play again. So we’ll see what happens.”
Colorado College handed an exhausted Bulldogs team its first defeat in Omaha, 4-1, on Dec. 13 in the one and only meeting to date this season. The Bulldogs, who started 5-0-1, were playing their third game in four days — and fifth game in eight days — and needed a goal in the final 64 seconds by sophomore forward Luke Loheit to avoid the shutout.
Tigers junior forward Grant Cruikshank scored two goals late in the first period that day — one on the power play and the other shorthanded — and then assisted on the goal that made it 3-0 1:16 into the second period.
Cruikshank missed six games for the Tigers in January, returning last weekend at Omaha to score two goals on Saturday in the series finale. The Tigers lost all six of their games without Cruikshank and come to Minnesota this weekend on a nine-game losing streak after getting swept in Omaha last week 7-1 and 3-2.
“They’ve got some guys that are dangerous players,” Sandelin said. “It’s going to be a tough, tough game, a tough challenge. They pressure all over the rink too and they get they play with speed.
“They’re a good hockey team, just like everybody in our league. We have to be ready from the start and we have to play a really good hockey game tomorrow night to win.”
The loss to Colorado College in the Pod was the start of a seven-game slump for the Bulldogs, who went 1-5-1 from Dec. 13 through Jan. 9. UMD then rattled off six consecutive wins against Western Michigan and Miami to briefly lead the NCHC before suffering the sweep last weekend in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to fall to third.
Including Thursday’s game with the Tigers, the Bulldogs have just three games remaining on the 2020-21 regular season schedule. After the home-and-home series with the Huskies — Feb. 26 in St. Cloud and Feb. 27 in Duluth — it’s straight to the single-elimination NCHC Frozen Faceoff March 12-16 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where — depending on who you ask — UMD may or may not need the league’s automatic bid to reach the NCAA tournament.
Junior wing Cole Koepke — who scored the lone UMD goal last weekend with two minutes to go Saturday to prevent back-to-back shutouts — said Saturday after the loss in Kalamazoo that UMD can’t take anything for granted at this point.
“At this time of year, you can either go one of two ways. You can either fall apart or come together as a team and learn from this and realize we need to come out every single night,” Koepke said. “We have to come together and be ready for stuff like this, especially around this time of the year. We have three more games and after that, it’s win or go home.”
Colorado College at Minnesota Duluth
6:07 p.m. Thursday
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