Thursday, October 15, 2009

UMD Readies for WCHA Opener

The UMD Bulldogs are finishing up preparation for their conference opener, which is this weekend against Minnesota State. For UMD, there is a bit of a desire for redemption. To a man, not many were pleased with how the team played in non-conference action against Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan last week. The Bulldogs split the games, beating LSSU 4-3 and losing 3-1 to Northern.

They probably shouldn't be pleased. It could be argued that the Lakers deserved a better fate, outplaying UMD for a good chunk of the second and third periods, but never being able to equalize after falling behind 2-0.

UMD deserves credit, too, because they had to grind their way through a tough third period without two forwards, Travis Oleksuk and Kyle Schmidt, who were injured in the second period.

NMU won thanks to a much more inspired effort than what they got on Friday against Michigan Tech. Head coach Walt Kyle put a real emphasis on Sunday's game, as he was awfully unhappy with how his team came out against the Huskies.

You can expect a similar emphasis on this weekend for UMD. Not only do these games count in the WCHA standings, but the Bulldogs were a tad flat Sunday, and no big hits or saves by Kenny Reiter could really get them going.

MSU is coming off a weekend sweep of Bowling Green, one that probably got some confidence for their new goalies, Austin Lee and Kevin Murdock. While head coach Troy Jutting wouldn't say for sure, you can expect to see each goalie this weekend. Both are inexperienced (Lee is a junior but just made his first collegiate start Friday), and Jutting expects it will take "at least a month" for the position to sort itself out.

The Mavericks have a ton of seniors, especially up front. They also have some size, and have always seemed to be the kind of team that would work well on the DECC's smaller ice. Last year, they were shut out in the Friday game, then blew a two-goal lead and lost 7-4 on Saturday. With the leadership they have both at forward and on defense, expect to see a different Maverick team this week.

Jutting -- armed with a new four-year contract -- has the kind of team every coach dreams of in this league. Despite all the early departures and superstar players that have populated the league in recent years, it usually comes down to your senior leadership. He has no shortage of that, and this should be very interesting weekend of hockey.

UMD will need a much better 120-minute effort Friday and Saturday if they wish to get their 45th season of WCHA play off on the right foot.

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