In June, Scott Sandelin signed a four-year extension with UMD.
That might have been one of the easiest coaching decisions in Division I hockey history.
All the two-decade tenured head coach of the Bulldogs did was win national championships the past two seasons following a second-place finish in the 2016-17 NCAA Tournament.
And with three of its top five scorers back from 2018-19, as well as several of the league’s best defensemen plus goalie Hunter Shepard, Minnesota-Duluth could make a run at a third consecutive NCAA title.
View From the Glass takes a look at UMD in Part II of its seven-part 2019-20 preview series.
NCAA TITLES: 3 (2011, 2018, 2019).
COACH: Scott Sandelin (369-311-87-.553 in 19 seasons).
2018-19 RECORD: 29-11-2 (14-9-1 NCHC).
2019 POSTSEASON: Won the NCAA champiohsip.
RINK (capacity): Amsoil Arena (6,026), Duluth, Minn.
MIAMI VS. MINNESOTA-DULUTH LAST SEASON: 0-4.
ALL-TIME SERIES: UMD leads, 19-4-2.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 15-16 – at Oxford.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: D Nick Wolff, D Scott Perunovich, D Dylan Samberg, F Noah Cates, F Nick Swaney, G Hunter Shepard.
KEY NEW FACES: F Brady Meyer, G Ryan Fanti, F Luke Lohoit.
KEY LOSSES: F Parker Mackay, F Peter Krieger, F Billy Exell, F Riley Tufte, D Mikey Anderson.
NOTES: The walrus-in-net commercial that run this spring wasn’t much of a stretch for opponents trying to score on Minnesota-Duluth.
UMD allowed just 79 goals or 1.88 per game, the third-best average in Division I. Minnesota-Duluth killed penalties at an 85.7 percent clip, second best in the NCHC.
UMD’s defensive prowess starts with Hunter Shepard in net. Shepard played all but 16 minutes in 2019-20, winning 29 games and posting a 1.76 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
The senior has logged over 5,000 minutes in three seasons, posting 54 wins, 15 shutouts, a 1.84 GAA and .924 save percentage.
Freshman Ryan Fanti will likely enter the season as the Bulldogs’ backup goalie as he hopes to become the latest NAHL netminder to excel in Duluth.
On the blue line, UMD returns five of its six starters from a team that surrendered only 23.4 shots a contest in 2018-19. Dylan Samberg led the Bulldogs’ D-corps with seven goals and notched a team-best plus-22 rating.
Shut down D-men Nick Wolff – who was named captain – Louie Roehl and Matt Anderson all dressed for all 42 games last season.
Despite finishing tied for fifth in Division I in goals (133), only two players reached the 30-point mark.
Scoring leader Parker Mackay graduated, but junior Justin Richards is back after going 12-20-32 and registering a plus-20 rating. He had 18 points in conference play.
Junior Nick Swaney jumped from six goals as a freshman to 15 sophomore year, and Noah Cates – a Philadelphia Flyers draft pick – led all freshmen in goals (9), assists (14) and points (23).
Cole Koepke was another key contributor as a freshman, as the Tampa Bay Lightning selection scored seven times and picked up 12 assists.
Junior Kobe Roth scored eight goals, and sophomore Jackson Cates and Tanner Laderoute combined for 15 markers.
If UMD has a weakness this season, it may be that scoring depth, as four key forwards are gone from 2018-19 and the Bulldogs don’t have a ton of offensive studs coming in this fall.
Brady Meyer has spent two seasons in the USHL, and Luke Lohoit was drafted by Ottawa in the seventh round.
Minnesota-Duluth is the only NCHC team Miami doesn’t visit this season, which may be fortunate for the RedHawks, who are 1-12-1 in Duluth all-time.