A key nonconference win over eighth-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato wasn't the only thing Minnesota Duluth accomplished last Saturday at Amsoil Arena.
The Bulldogs also got two important offensive pieces up to speed after they missed six games due to upper-body injuries. Freshman Nick Swaney picked up a goal and sophomore Joey Anderson set up a score in the young forwards' first game back since they went down Oct. 28 at Maine.
Coach Scott Sandelin said it was important for UMD to get the two wingers back last week. The Bulldogs will need them fired up and ready to go this week with No. 1-ranked Denver visiting on Friday and Saturday for a rematch of the 2017 NCAA championship. Puck drop is 7:07 p.m. ET both nights.
"You miss six games, it's not as easy as people think to get back into the swing of it, and we were playing a good hockey team, too," Sandelin said Saturday. "It was important those guys get in there and get some minutes and get back into game mode. That was good for them."
Here is a look at Nick Swaney's third goal of the season ... pic.twitter.com/KFCy57w246— UMD Athletics (@UMDBulldogs) November 26, 2017
The first UMD goal Saturday came from Swaney on an odd-man rush, while Anderson assisted junior center Peter Krieger on a rebound goal in the final 10 seconds of the period to make it 2-0.
The assist was just the fourth point of the year for Anderson, who came into 2017-18 as UMD's top returning scorer, having totaled 37 points as a freshman.
"It's nice to get one on the scoresheet, but that's just one of those plays that I just threw one to the net from the wall and it popped out to Kriegs and he put it away," Anderson said. "That's the stuff I'm looking to do. It was nice to get that point."
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Swaney was the team's leading scorer at the time of his injury, having posted two goals and five assists in UMD's first eight games. Playing alongside senior wing Avery Peterson and freshman center Justin Richards on Saturday, Swaney said he went right back to what was working before the injury — keeping things simple."That was big for me to get the confidence back," Swaney said of his goal. "It's different missing six games and having to get back in the flow of things. That was a good boost for me. Our line started out well so I had good chemistry with them."
Two years removed from his days at Lakeville South High School and with two seasons of junior hockey experience playing in the United States Hockey League, Swaney was expected to put up points as a freshman. He had 61 points as a high school senior and 112 points in two junior seasons with the Waterloo Blackhawks.
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Swaney said it's a lot tougher to score at the college level because the chances are fewer and farther between than the junior level. So far, though, the Bulldogs coaches and teammates around him have given the Lakeville, Minn., native plenty of chances to put up points, he said.
"You need your teammates to support you and be there," Swaney said. "Everyone I've played with so far has done a great job giving me opportunities. Things are just working right now."
Bulldogs, Pioneers both battling injuries
Sandelin told Bruce Ciskie on Tuesday on KDAL-AM 610 that junior wing Billy Exell and freshman wing Kobe Roth have been ruled out again this week. Both missed Saturday's game against the Mavericks with upper-body injuries suffered two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the defending NCHC and NCAA champion Pioneers could be without senior defenseman Adam Plant, who Denver coach Jim Montgomery said is listed as doubtful this week.
Don't forget Drop the Gloves Rematch this Friday as @UMDMensHockey takes on Denver. Fans are encouraged to donate winter gloves at the game #GivingBack pic.twitter.com/PmI38YbSPO— UMD Athletics (@UMDBulldogs) November 29, 2017
Plant suffered an upper-body injury Nov. 11 against St. Cloud State and missed a Nov. 17 home game against North Dakota. He made his return Nov. 18, but was knocked out of the game late in the first period thanks to a boarding major by Fighting Hawks sophomore forward Cole Smith.
The Pioneers, who were off for Thanksgiving, did get back senior defenseman Tariq Hammond two weeks ago against the Hawks. The Denver captain missed the first 10 games while still recovering from the broken ankle he suffered in the national championship game against the Bulldogs.
This article is written by Matt Wellens from Duluth News Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.