Friday, November 11, 2011

UMD Faces Physical Challenge

For the UMD men's hockey team, there have already been tests this season. Their speed was tested against Notre Dame. The series against Minnesota -- especially the outcome -- tested their mettle. Providence was the first road trip, and it tested UMD's ability to play a patient game and play in front of a less-than-ideal atmosphere. Bemidji State tested the Bulldogs' patience even more, and Denver tested UMD's conditioning and provided another opportunity for the team to show its mettle.

This weekend, UMD plays what is likely its most physical opponent to date in Alaska-Anchorage. I'm not basing that off long studies of tape. I haven't seen this UAA team. I'm basing it off what I've seen in each of my previous six years calling these games. I can't imagine it's much different now.

Dave Shyiak will demand that this team work hard, finish checks, and make life miserable for the UMD players, just like he always does. That means that the Bulldogs will need to bring the pain themselves. They need Tim Smith, Brady Lamb, Chris Casto, and other big bodies to throw the lumber early and often in this series. Protect your skill players (though J.T. Brown and Travis Oleksuk don't exactly shy away from contact), and make sure no one dictates anything to the home team.

It's not fancy, and it's certainly not pretty. Instead, for UMD, it's the way they have to play to win. It's something UMD did very well last year, and they are 3-0-1 this year playing teams that don't exactly want to play a skating game. UAA fits that bill, though they certainly have some guys who can skate.

Mickey Spencer has five goals already, and Daniel Naslund can move. They have a couple smaller forwards who likely will mold into Kevin Clark-type players that simply drive opponents nuts with their scoring ability and general competitiveness.

The Seawolves also have experience and talent in goal. Sophomores Rob Gunderson and Chris Kamal don't have sexy numbers, but Kamal flat-out stole games against the Gophers last year, and Gunderson has his share of wins, too. Shyiak has the luxury of being able to play either goalie and know he will have a chance to win the hockey game.


Don't expect a lot of lineup changes for UMD Friday, especially up front. At practice this week, the forward lines from Saturday were intact, and if there is a change to the lineup at all, it will be at that sixth defensive position that has been occupied by three different guys -- Luke McManus, Derik Johnson, and Tim Smith -- so far.

Kenny Reiter will start in goal. UMD coach Scott Sandelin talked Wednesday about the fact that they have stuck with Reiter so far, and he has made it pay off. Sophomore Aaron Crandall hasn't exactly been playing poorly in practice, and he continues to push for playing time. Sandelin was non-committal Wednesday when asked about maybe getting Crandall in a game before Thanksgiving, something that I could certainly see happening, even if UMD stays hot.

That said, they are going to stick with Reiter at least in the here and now.


UMD has a couple special events surrounding Friday's game. You probably know about the camouflage jersey auction happening throughout. If you aren't attending the game, you can still take part in the auction. Defending the Blue Line has set up a couple numbers for call-in bids during the game. They are (651) 253-6737 and (651) 829-1827.

The charity will post live updates on its website during the auction.

In addition, a toy drive will be going on to benefit Toyland Express. Please bring a new, unwrapped toy if you are attending Friday's game.


UMD has not announced 2012-13 recruits that signed during the early signing period, which started Wednesday. Goalie Matt McNeely -- currently with Cedar Rapids of the USHL -- has already signed to play with UMD. The other recruits are expected to sign by the end of the signing period, at which point UMD will announce them.

I know that a lot of you care about recruiting. It was one of the early lessons I picked up when I took this job, because I never really covered recruiting in the past. I still probably don't spend as much time on it as some of you would like, but I will post on the recruits once we get the official word.

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