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UMD men's hockey: No surprise in seeding, Bulldogs heading to Colorado for NCAA tournament

UMD will face Michigan Tech in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Thursday in Loveland, Colo.

UMD men's hockey learns its placement.
Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey players react to the announcement of the team’s placement in the 2022 NCAA Division I men's ice hockey championship brackets on Sunday, March 20, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — Wearing the spoils of their latest victory at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, the Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team gathered in their team lounge Sunday at Amsoil Arena.

The players watched the final moments of the women’s 3-2 loss to Ohio State in the national championship game.

The defeat couldn’t completely dampen the mood as the NCAA Tournament Selection Show started following coverage of the Buckeyes win.

The Bulldogs found out they are headed to Loveland, Colo., where they will face Michigan Tech at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Coach Scott Sandelin said there weren’t many surprises in the selection, but the team is looking forward to another trip to Colorado and their opening round game against the Huskies.

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UMD men's hockey learns its placement.
Minnesota Duluth head men’s hockey coach Scott Sandelin watches the NCAA Selection Show in the team’s players lounge Sunday, March 20, 2022.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“We kind of knew that that just based on what we’ve seen before,” Sandelin said. “It’s a great regional, I know my son (Ryan) played in it last year out there. It’s a great building and it’s a nice area — we’ve been out east a lot.”

The teams last met when UMD opened the 2018-19 season in Houghton, Michigan, sweeping a series at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. The Huskies last played in Duluth when they defeated Union and UMD to win the 2017 Ice Breaker at Amsoil Arena.

Though they are no longer Western Collegiate Hockey Association rivals, there is some familiarity between teams with Hermantown’s Darian Gotz playing for UMD and older brother Eric playing for the Huskies.

Sandelin noted the short turnaround for the Michigan Tech game, but the team will be ready.

“I expect them to play like a lot of teams in our league — hard and heavy,” Sandelin said. “That’s the beauty of playing in our league. We’ve seen a lot and you know what’s the nice thing, too, is that you’re not shocked by other teams because we’ve seen a lot of the best teams.”

If both Denver and UMD win their first-round games, the Bulldogs and Pioneers will meet for a sixth time this season.

The Bulldogs upset Denver Friday 2-0 in the semifinals of the Frozen Faceoff at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul and senior captain Noah Cates likes how the team is playing heading into the NCAA tournament after inconsistency plagued the Bulldogs during the regular season.

UMD's big weekend
Junior goalie makes 25 saves, earns MVP honors as fifth-seeded Bulldogs win their third NCHC playoff title. Minnesota Duluth beats Western Michigan 3-0 in the title game.

“It’s big that we got those wins this past weekend,” Cates said. “We’re just kind of keeping our lead and not giving teams any life late in periods or in the third. That’s big for us and I think we can still tighten up some things, getting pucks deep or out of our neutral zone or D zone and just little things coming down here that are so critical in games and you don’t want to regret.”

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Sandelin agreed and said the team has been playing better over past two weekends than earlier in the season.

“We’d have a good Friday and not a good Saturday and the last two weekends we’ve found something that’s working,” Sandelin said. “Our guys are playing well defensively, our goalie is playing good, our special teams are going a good job. Our guys have gained a lot of confidence and give them credit, there were times in the second half where we’ve struggled offensively.”

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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