Friday, March 25, 2011

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: One More Win To Go for UMD

SHELTON, Conn. -- It's officially Saturday on the East Coast, by the way. So don't even think about it.

Watching ESPN's NCAA hockey selection program on Sunday, you'd have thought UMD had some middling, pathetic power play that clicked at like 12 percent.

Nope. 22 percent.

Friday in Bridgeport, UMD made Union pay for a week's worth of hearing about the Dutchmen and their wonderful special teams. Union -- 31 percent on the power play this season -- put up a doughnut in nine power play chances, and UMD scored two man-advantage goals to win 2-0.

The Bulldogs prefer to play a skating game, not a muck-and-grind game. Union tends to lean more towards the muck-and-grind, though they certainly have some guys up front who like to move it move it.

In this game, UMD played more of a grinding style, killing penalties with hard work and a lot of good ol' "want to," blocking shots, paying the price to clear pucks, and winning a lot of one-on-one battles.

I've said all season long that, while this is not the preferred way for UMD to play, and it's obvious when you watch some of their skill guys, they are more capable than ever of grinding out victories. UMD teams of the past weren't as good at this, and it showed when they played teams like Alaska-Anchorage, Michigan Tech, and Bemidji State, who have the muck-and-grind style perfected when they're playing well.

Then UMD would go up against a more skating-oriented team like Denver, and they'd do well, no matter Denver's position in the college hockey pecking order relative to UMD.

With Friday's win, UMD has moved into the NCAA East Regional final Saturday night against No. 1 overall seed Yale, a 2-1 overtime winner over Air Force. UMD is 3-0 in NCAA Tournament openers under Scott Sandelin, who had nothing but praise for his players' effort after the game.

As he should. The Bulldogs rolled up their sleeves, fought off some tight officiating (it wasn't bad at all ... just tight), and won a game that most probably figured they wouldn't win, given the circumstances.

UMD's matchup with Yale Saturday night should prove very interesting. I didn't watch a lot of Yale this season, but did get a look at them in their win over Air Force Friday evening. It seems they want to play a style that will make UMD a bit more comfortable. The Bulldogs will have to be cognizant of a few things in the regional final.
  • Take care of the puck. They only give you one. UMD was pretty smart, especially on penalty kills. They got in a bit of trouble at times by not taking the safe play on clearing attempts at even-strength, but that didn't happen often, because not much of the game was played five-on-five.
  • Discipline. Yale might not be as good as Union on the power play, but you know the one about what happens when you keep playing with fire. UMD just can't afford to play the kind of game they played Friday. It might not doom them, but it certainly increases the odds that Yale will move on.
  • Skate. Move the feet. Make sure the officials have no reason to call anything.
A crew from Hockey East worked the UMD game Friday, while a CCHA group did the Yale game. I know the gut reaction of UMD fans is to hope the CCHA crew works Saturday (one or the other will get the assignment, and I don't know which one at this point). I'm not sure it matters. Whoever it is, UMD has to do a better job avoiding the avoidable penalties.

UMD hasn't made the Frozen Four since 2004. Experienced guys like Justin Fontaine, Kyle Schmidt, Mike Montgomery, and Mike Connolly led the way Friday with superb performances. Noticeably good were J.T. Brown, Wade Bergman, and Travis Oleksuk, who worked his butt off all day long.

They all need to do it again Saturday.

One more win, and a goal -- the Frozen Four -- will be reached.

******

Friday's opening NCAA games weren't completed without some controversy. Michigan "scored" the game-winning "goal" early in overtime to beat Nebraska-Omaha 3-2.

Take a look for yourself (via Goon).



I tempered my initial reaction on Twitter (twitter.com/bruceciskie if you aren't already a follower) for the simple reason that watching a small picture online isn't exactly the best way to judge what really happened in this world of 42-inch high definition televisions.

Since I'm watching online and not getting a great picture much of the time, I figured I'd allow others to help me out a bit. When those others only confirmed what I had already suspected, it became clear that what happened here was, as the great Gorilla Monsoon was prone to say, a miscarriage of justice.

For years, common sense has not been accepted as a standard to overturn a call on the ice. In the eyes of ECAC referees Harry Dumas and Chris McDonald, there was no need to use this years-old standard by which reviews are conducted. Instead, they adopted their own standard.

Since they were probably sure that the puck crossed the line, and everyone talked about Michigan getting screwed in overtime last year (though the difference between a quick whistle and a video review should not need to be explained), they called it a goal.

As the old commercial says, "probably" doesn't cut it.

Being 90 percent sure isn't good enough. Neither is 95. That's not the long-adopted standard, and it shouldn't be the standard. The standard is and should be 100 percent certainty. At some point, the officials have to be encouraged to make calls and trust what their eye tells them. Otherwise, why not just take the officials off the ice, out of the way, and let a video replay judge make all the calls after the plays are completed?

What happened to UNO was wrong, and it's unfortunate that such a well-played, entertaining game had to be ruined by such a dumb mistake by two officials who should know better.

******

How about those Tigers? UNO might have been jobbed out of the tournament, but there was no such luck knocking the WCHA's other team out Friday. Colorado College whacked No. 1 West Regional seed Boston College 8-4 in Friday's big stunner.

The Tigers struck twice on the power play and twice short-handed. They hung a touchdown on BC goalie John Muse, who had exactly zero losses in eight NCAA Tournament starts before Friday. What a way to go out ...

Colorado College plays Michigan for a spot in the Frozen Four Saturday night in St. Louis. It won't be a cakewalk by any means, but CC certainly has been playing well. If you don't believe me, ask Dave Hakstol, whose North Dakota team got by in a 4-3 thriller last Friday at the Final Five. Or ask Jerry York, who isn't used to seeing his teams give up eight goals in a game, especially in the NCAA Tournament.

The Tigers are for real. After a .500 season in the WCHA, Scott Owens appears to have his team peaking when it counts the most.

******

Here is a full capsule of Friday's results and Saturday's games. All times are Central.

FRIDAY
EAST REGIONAL
Bridgeport, Conn.
UMD 2, Union 0
Yale 2, Air Force 1, OT
WEST REGIONAL
St. Louis, Mo.
Michigan 3, Nebraska-Omaha 2, OT
Colorado College 8, Boston College 4

SATURDAY
MIDWEST REGIONAL
Green Bay, Wisc.
North Dakota vs. RPI, 12:30pm
Denver vs. Western Michigan, 4pm

NORTHEAST REGIONAL
Manchester, N.H.
Miami vs. New Hampshire, 3pm
Merrimack vs. Notre Dame, 6:30pm

EAST REGIONAL
Bridgeport, Conn.
Yale vs. UMD, 5:30pm

WEST REGIONAL
St. Louis, Mo.
Michigan vs. Colorado College, 8pm

We'll have the UMD game on 94X and the Bulldog Sports Network starting with a 5pm pregame show. You can hear the game at www.94xrocks.com.

ESPNU will have live coverage of the regional finals, as well as a couple of the Saturday afternoon games. They will also have all the games streamed live on ESPN3.com, whether they are televised live or not.

All games televised will be in high definition.

2 comments:

Thomas said...

http://mgoblog.com/sites/mgoblog.com/files/TheZapruderGoal_9E60/goalo_4.jpg

Jerome said...

I've come to expect better of you, Mr. Ciskie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRQLZ29WEVU

No maybe, probably, or likely, it was a goal. Certainly.