Thursday, October 23, 2008


So, you know that there's no such thing as a Seawolf, right?

Because there isn't.

I'm not making fun of them. You can call your team whatever you want.

Actually, I give them credit for not using something lame that starts with the letter "A", like Aeros or Avalanche or whatever.

So UMD plays the Seawolves. I have a few thoughts.

First off, UMD needs to use their speed on the big sheet. Sullivan Arena is Olympic-size, and instead of skating circles around teams, UAA has bigger players who - while they can move - aren't as fast as the Bulldogs. I expect UMD to have an advantage in team speed, much like they did in Marquette on the big sheet. In that game, they scored an early goal and were dominant on the penalty kill, playing a great 60-minute game.

The Bulldogs have a dynamic top line, led by the play of sophomore Justin Fontaine. He's already got seven points, more than half his total as a freshman. The ice time he got last year is really paying off right now, as is his increased confidence. You put skill like senior Michael Gergen and freshman Jack Connolly, and you have a dangerous combination.

When they're not on the ice, look out for the line of freshman Mike Connolly and seniors MacGregor Sharp and Nick Kemp. The three combined for the game-winner against Western Michigan Saturday, and both Connolly (Mike) and Sharp are off to great starts. Kemp is playing better, but the results aren't showing up on the scoresheet yet. Sharp and Connolly (Mike) are playing great together, and Sharp is finding the net much more effectively than last year. Talking to him Wednesday, he mentions how he's "getting bounces" this year, but you know what they say about good players making their own bounces. Sharpie's worked too hard for me to just pass off his improved play on some dumb luck.

The Bulldogs need to tighten up the penalty kill. UAA's power play comes in hot, and UMD can't just rely on Alex Stalock to shut it down. Stalock is coming off a poor game, which usually means good things, and this time he's coming off a poor game that UMD actually won. That's been a rarity in his time here.

I don't do predictions, but a good weekend is important for the Bulldogs. They have St. Cloud State at the XCel Energy Center next Saturday, followed by series against Denver (road), Wisconsin and North Dakota (home), a home game against St. Cloud State (Thanksgiving weekend), and a trip to Colorado College. Even a top-five team is going to struggle to get more than 12 points out of that 10-game stretch.

Finally, let me take a crack at projecting lines. I hate doing this, but I'm in Anchorage, cold, bored, and tired. Cut me some slack.

Gergen - Connolly (Jack) - Fontaine
Carroll - Akins - Fulton
Connolly (Mike) - Sharp - Kemp
Danberg - Bordson - Schmidt

Meyers - Montgomery
Oberg - Palm
Cascalenda - Lamb

Stalock - Hjelle

This is just a guess, based on what we've seen and what has worked for UMD. I'm not sure if Matt Greer will be able to play Friday, and I'm guessing that the Lamb/Kishel rotation will be back in effect as long as everyone stays healthy.

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