Wednesday, November 16, 2011

UMD Players Honored by WCHA

For the second straight week, UMD is front-and-center as the WCHA releases its weekly individual awards.

This time, the Bulldogs are double-dipping, with players of the week on both ends of the ice. Here is the press release from the league:

Veteran forward Jack Connolly, who figured in on half of the University of Minnesota Duluth's eight goals in a two-game conference home-ice sweep of Alaska Anchorage last weekend, has been named the Red Baron® WCHA Offensive Player of the Week for November 15.

A 5-8, 170-pound senior from Duluth, Minn., Connolly scored two goals and set up two others for four points while extending his personal scoring streak to 10 games as the defending national champion Bulldogs pushed their unbeaten streak to eight games (6-0-2). He scored a power-play goal and earned an assist on teammate Joe Basaraba's winner in the series-opening 5-0 victory over the Seawolves last Friday (Nov. 11) and then duplicated that feat the following evening (Nov. 12) as Minnesota Duluth prevailed 3-1 over UAA to complete the sweep. In addition to his four points, Connolly fired four shots on goal and earned a +2 plus/minus rating.

A two-time All-WCHA First Team honoree and a 2011 Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist, Connolly is tied for second in scoring among WCHA players overall this season with 17 points (6g, 11a) in 12 games. Over his 137-game UMD career, he has recorded 154 points (52g, 102a).

University of Minnesota Duluth goaltender Kenny Reiter, who extended his scoreless streak to a school-record 166:45 while backstopping the Bulldogs to a two-game sweep over visiting league rival Alaska Anchorage last weekend, has been honored as the Red Baron® WCHA Defensive Player of the Week. This marks the second straight week Reiter has earned the conference's Defensive Player of the Week honor.

A 6-0, 175-pound senior from Pittsburgh, Pa., Reiter posted his second consecutive shutout and third in the last four games last Friday (Nov. 11) night while stopping all 27 shots on goal as defending national champion UMD blanked the visiting Seawolves, 5-0. Then last Saturday (Nov. 12) in a 3-1 Bulldogs' victory, Reiter finally surrendered his first goal in 166:45 of action when the Seawolves' Eric Scheid scored at 5:18 of the first period. He went on to stop 33 of 34 shots on goal in that game. The 166:45 scoreless streak is a school record, topping by exactly 19 minutes the previous mark set by All-American Alex Stalock from March 19-27, 2009.

Over his last eight games, Reiter owns a 6-0-2 record, a 1.23 goals-against average and a .955 saves percentage. Overall this season, the three-time WCHA Scholar-Athlete is 7-2-2 with a 2.05 gaa and .923 sv%. His career mark at UMD of 36-19-7 (.637) is the second best winning percentage in club history behind former All-American Rick Kosti's .753 figure (60-18-2) between 1983-85. 

The Bulldogs are unbeaten in eight. Reiter has been incredible over that stretch, but Connolly is playing some great hockey right now. His last three games have been probably his best of the season. He seems more engaged on both ends of the ice, and the captain has very good chemistry with linemates Joe Basaraba and Mike Seidel.

It's hard to imagine Connolly exceeding expectations in a season where "Hobey Baker" is listed among the expectations, but he's leading by example right now. By stepping up his game and cementing himself as UMD's best player, he's also making his linemates better. The pass he made to Basaraba for the first goal Friday was something to behold. Give Joe credit for getting to the right spot, but that pass had no margin for error, and it was perfect.

Connolly and the Bulldogs host Minnesota State at Amsoil Arena this weekend. It's the last chance for UMD fans to see the team play at home until late January, as UMD will play eight straight road games over two months starting in Houghton in two weeks.

(Four road series and four off weeks over eight. Thanks for that, WCHA scheduling person.)

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