It's hard to complain about a weekend that sees you split a road series in a tough venue, but there weren't many people happy with UMD's performance in Colorado Springs.
Yes, they gutted out a huge win on Friday, but they lost their cool and took some undisciplined penalties in a 6-2 loss to Colorado College in the Saturday game of that series.
Now, a Tigers team branded as "chirpers" by many in attendance in Colorado has to visit the DECC, a rink where they'll find fewer places to hide than there are on the big ice in Colorado Springs.
What will happen? Is Colorado College going to get behind their captain -- Mike Testwuide (pictured) -- and put up the kind of gritty effort required to get points at the DECC? Or will they get frustrated and knocked off their high-tempo game?
It seems like the classic matchup. UMD knows how to play in-your-face hockey in their rink. They know they can take away time and space effectively, and they can -- at the same time -- create room for their big playmakers to strut their stuff.
It's worked this way all season. Teams like North Dakota and Denver have tried to silence Justin Fontaine, Rob Bordson, and the Connollies (Jack and Mike), only to find them too hard to contain for 120 minutes.
Even if you keep them off the scoreboard, they wear you down with their puck possession and cycling ability. Once you're worn down, you've opened up for shots from UMD's secondary scorers (Travis Oleksuk, Kyle Schmidt, and Drew Akins come to mind), and the top line will hit you eventually.
Colorado College is dangerous, too, especially on the power play. That's where they burn you for trying too hard to play physical hockey. However, the Tigers have slumped a bit offensively as of late, putting more of a burden on freshman goaltender Joe Howe. He's been good, but he can't hold up forever.
UMD would be wise to hit everything that moves on Friday. Take their skill guys -- Bill Sweatt, Stephen Schultz, Rylan Schwartz, William Rapuzzi, and company -- off their game a bit. Don't cross the line, obviously, but make sure they know they won't get time and space to freewheel. Make them use the whole ice, and take advantage of your ability to more easily clog passing lanes while killing penalties.
The Bulldogs are going to need better goaltending than they got Sunday. UMD coughed up five goals on 23 shots, and neither Brady Hjelle nor Kenny Reiter looked terribly sharp. Reiter starts Friday, and he needs to be like he was against Mercyhurst. Hopefully, he won't be hung out to dry nearly as often.
With the Bulldogs just two points back of second-place Colorado College, and both teams within striking distance of league leader Denver, the weekend should be very interesting. The march to St. Paul is on in full force.