Colorado College will take on arguably the hottest team in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference this weekend.
The Tigers travel to No. 17 Minnesota-Duluth, which is 5-0-1 in its past six games, including a tie against No. 1 Minnesota in St. Paul, Minn., and a road sweep of then-No. 20 Western Michigan.
"They are playing a lot better than when we last saw them in October," CC assistant Joe Bonnett said, referring to the season-opening split. "(Junior center Caleb) Herbert is playing well right now."
Herbert (19 points, 13 assists) is tied for the team lead with NCHC rookie of the month honoree Alex Iafallo (19, 10 goals), who averaged a point a game during January. With them and others, the Bulldogs have enough balance that the possible return of injured sophomore wing Austin Farley (12, six goals) makes them only more dangerous.
"They are deep and they are getting good goaltending right now from (senior Aaron) Crandall," CC coach Scott Owens said. "They can come at you in waves."
Senior Alexander Krushelnyski leads the Tigers with 19 points (11 assists).
The fifth-place Bulldogs, 9-4-1 on the road, are focusing on playing better at home, where they are 3-5-2. They know they need to improve that mark if they hope to overtake first-place St. Cloud State, which has 26 league points, two ahead of Denver, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota, which are all tied for second, and three ahead of the Bulldogs (12-9-3, 7-6-1-1) and their 23 points.
Knowing every league point is precious, Duluth coach Scott Sandelin will make sure his team does not overlook the last-place Tigers (3-17-4, 3-8-3-1).
"A lot of their losses have been in close games, and we're expecting a great effort from them," Sandelin told College Hockey News, which named UMD as its team of the week. "We have more familiarity with the teams from our old league, but Colorado College isn't an easy win."
The Tigers can make sure of that by putting in a strong 60 minutes each night.
"We need to avoid those lapses, play together as a team and remain positive," Bonnett said. "If we do that, we will be OK."