MARQUETTE, Mich. -- Last night was crazy. The only thing that wasn't crazy was the drive from Sault Ste. Marie to Marquette. Since not a ton went right at Taffy Abel Arena -- obviously, we had problems with our broadcast, which I will address in a moment, and UMD was much leakier on defense than anyone could have expected.
“Our penalty killing and our goaltending will need to improve, and we can’t be so inconsistent," UMD coach Scott Sandelin told Kevin Pates after the game. "In the first period our defense was horrid and in the second period we took too many penalties."
The only notable event on the drive over was when someone mistook a roadside "Vote For" sign that was shaped oddly for a deer and slammed on the brakes for a brief moment.
Anyway, the game was weird. UMD hasn't played a 6-6 tie since 1992, and they haven't failed to win a game in which they scored at least six goals since the final home game of the 1998-99 season (a 10-7 loss to Minnesota).
So, yeah, it was weird.
Justin Fontaine scored two goals and had two assists, marking the first four-point game by a UMD player in a season opener since I-don't-know-when.
(Our records that are readily available go back to 1999, and I'm venturing that a busy UMD sports information director Bob Nygaard won't be able to dig that up while three UMD teams are playing home games on a beautiful Saturday in Duluth.)
Fontaine had three points at home against Lake Superior State last year, so that makes seven points in two years. They won't miss having to deal with him.
Mike Connolly had three points, and UMD do-everything-behind-the-scenes-guy Christian Koelling says Jack Connolly should have had three points, too. Koelling told us Jack should have received a second assist on Mike's game-tying goal late in the third period, but instead Fontaine got the only assist on the goal.
Fontaine was plus-three, as was Jack. Those two are going to make quite an impact on the Bulldogs' penalty kill this year. Mike was a mere plus-two.
Obviously, there are defensive issues. I'm guessing Kenny Reiter won't carry a 5.54 goals against and poor save percentage through the entire season. Biggest thing? UMD has to tighten up in their own zone, and they have to avoid those prolonged lapses where the opponent is possessing the puck and buzzing Kenny.
Northern Michigan isn't likely to lie down tonight. They lost to rival Michigan Tech Friday in overtime. They're going to be ready for UMD.
We'll see what personnel changes are coming for the Bulldogs, who had one extra forward and four defensemen in the stands Friday. I doubt much will change with the forward lines, outside of Max Tardy likely playing tonight. The questions are on defense. I would guess all ten will have at least one game played by the end of next weekend, but I don't have a good guess on what the plan is for Saturday.
As for the broadcast, I apologize. We had unforeseen and (from our standpoint) unavoidable technical problems with the setup in Sault Ste. Marie. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we weren't able to test any equipment because of bad information provided to us at the arena (had a wrong phone number on a line we needed to use). It set us back in getting on the air, and it made it impossible for us to diagnose something we normally would have diagnosed 20-30 minutes before going on the air.
Were it not for that, we would have been on the air on time and stayed on the air the whole game. Granted, the sound quality wouldn't have been ideal (it would have been the way it was by the end of the second period and for the rest of the game from there), but we would have been on the air.
Tonight, I can't make any promises, because I don't know if we'll run into the same phone line problems. But I can promise that we'll be on the air on time, and we won't have the same on-and-off hiccups-turned-catastrophes that we dealt with last night.
We'll be on the air at 6 p.m. with the pregame show. The online feed is available at www.94xrocks.com.