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NCAA Matchup of the Week: Quinnipiac at Minnesota Duluth

A late non-conference matchup awaits

Maddie Rooney, Minnesota Duluth Al Saniuk

This week’s featured matchup is an intriguing non-conference series between two middle-of-the-pack teams. Quinnipiac is 8-13-3, but has had several close games against out-of-conference opponents. UMD (10-10-2) is coming off of a big home sweep over Ohio State, and the Bulldogs don’t want to lose any momentum from that.

Both teams are unranked in the most recent Ice Garden poll, though Minnesota Duluth did receive votes. The Bobcats are 27th in both the PairWise and in KRACH. The Bulldogs are 13th in the PairWise and 10th in KRACH.

The puck drops in Duluth at 3:07 p.m. central time Friday and Saturday.

How do our writers see things playing out this weekend?

Eleni Demestihas: I think UMD will take this matchup, though I do think the Bobcats can (and will) give them a fight. The Bulldogs are hot right now, and the confidence boost of their Ohio State sweep should carry over. The Bobcats haven’t been bad, and with Melissa Samoskevich just recently notching her 100th point they might be poised to hit their stride offensively. If they do, they might be able to eke out a close win during the first game, but I think the UMD forward core will ultimately be too much for the Bobcats.

Valerie Fox: QU has the talent and potential, but I don’t think they’re quite there just yet. UMD is on fire, winning four of their last five, and just swept a top-5 team in the nation pretty decisively. Moreover, the Bulldogs have been fantastic at AMSOIL Arena, with a 7-1-2 home record (the 2-9-0 road record is what’s killing them). They’ve scored 21 goals in their five-game stretch, which sets up an interesting matchup against a solid Q defense. Also, Q’s been on the road since December 1, and I think the bus and air miles are going to wind up wearing them out. I’ll take a UMD sweep.

Gabriella Fundaro: It seems like the Bobcats have yet to fully tap their potential this year, but who knows if they will at this point? They typically do a good job defensively and with limiting shots on goal from opponents, but containing Minnesota Duluth’s core forwards (Gabbie Hughes, Naomi Rogge, Anna Klein, Anneke Linser, and Sydney Brodt) will be a tough ask, especially over two games. With a young defense, the Bulldogs are vulnerable themselves, but Quinnipiac has not threatened consistently this year. I think we’ll see a sweep for UMD, with a 2-1 win in game one and a 4-1 win to close it out.

Nathan Vaughan: I hate saying it but I see a sweep by the western team. QU hasn’t lived up to the hype they generated in years past and Duluth, while sometimes disappointing, has won some big games notably a big sweep of Boston College. I do think the games will be fun to watch, but in the end, the better team will take both.

William Whyte: What has happened to Quinnipiac? In 2015-16 they led all of D1 in limiting shots against, with the lowest shots against per game (at 17.95) of any team in any season since until Wisconsin took it down to 16.71 this season. In 2016-17 they swapped places with Wisconsin in second; in 17-18 they were down to ninth; and this year they’re in fourteenth. Their offense has dropped off a cliff, too: in 2015-16 they were in seventh place in D1, this season they’re in 29th and scoring 1.3 goals less per game than they did four short years ago. Melissa Samoskevich has nine goals this season and no-one else has more than five. Meanwhile, in Duluth, gold medallist Maddie Rooney has the 30th-best save percentage and the 34th-best goals against average in the nation and Minnesota-Duluth have losses to weak teams like Bemidji and St. Cloud, and a mid-season sweep by Ohio State, after a good start to the season with a sweep of BC and a tie against Minnesota. This wasn’t all Rooney’s fault — UMD are second-worst in the WCHA in shots allowed per game, so the defense has to take some of the blame too. But it wasn’t a good look all round.

So this matchup seemed like two struggling teams. But last weekend UMD exploded against Ohio State, chasing their goalie and scoring eleven goals in two games. This should be a relatively easy game for Rooney, as Quinnipiac are averaging fewer shots on goal per game than UMD are used to seeing — and this despite the fact that Quinnipiac have played a lot of games against the porous defenses of Harvard, Dartmouth, Union, Yale and Brown. This doesn’t look like two struggling teams any more, it looks like one weak one and one that knows how to be decent. GRaNT thinks Quinnipiac will score two goals in a game. I think they’ll be lucky to score that over the weekend. 3-1, 5-1 UMD.

KRACH: The KRACH calculator gives Minnesota Duluth an 80.38% chance of winning.

GRaNT: The GRaNT rankings, created by Grant Salzano, predicts a score of Minnesota Duluth 2.82, Quinnipiac 1.61, or basically a 3-2 win for the Bulldogs.