Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Now THAT'S a Bad Point

When UMD rallied from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to earn a 3-3 tie at Denver in November, it was deemed a good point by everyone on the UMD side.

When UMD rallied from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to earn a 3-3 tie at Wisconsin in December, it was deemed a good point by everyone on the UMD side.

They were right.

Along the way, I got a couple questions from people asking what would constitute a "bad point," something I thought was somewhat clear along the way.

If it wasn't clear, UMD made it so Friday night.

The Bulldogs blew a 4-0 deficit by getting completely out-hustled and out-"want-to"ed for the better part of 40 minutes by Michigan Tech in a 4-4 tie. It marks -- unofficially, because I am hardly perfect in my research, no matter how hard I try -- the first time UMD blew a lead of at least three goals in a game it failed to win since 2006.

(That was the infamous "Teddy Bear Toss" game against Bemidji State, where the Bulldogs invited fans to throw teddy bears on the ice for charity after the team's first goal. The first goal came less than two minutes into the game, and when UMD scored a couple minutes later, some knuckleheads threw teddy bears on the ice. That prompted a warning from the officials. Any more of that, and UMD would be assessed a delay of game penalty. Sure enough, UMD scored to make it 3-0, and some idiot threw a teddy bear on the ice. Bemidji would score on the ensuing power play, and eventually complete the comeback in a 6-5 win.)

There was no fan-induced turning point in this game. Michigan Tech upped the physical, started chipping pucks down the rink instead of almost-willfully turning them over, and UMD had no response to either. Instead of keeping the foot on the gas, UMD practically slammed on its brakes, and this is what you get when you slam on the breaks.

The third period was much worse than the second. In the second, Jack Connolly, JT Brown, and Chris Casto had glorious scoring chances that Tech goalie Josh Robinson thwarted. It was a great rally for Robinson, who didn't get much help in the first, but also didn't make any of the tough saves. He made tough saves in the second, and his team responded.

UMD's only real mistake of the second period -- besides not burying chances -- was a pinch by defenseman Drew Olson in the neutral zone that led to a three-on-one. Olson is a fearless player, and he's vastly improved over his three years. His speed and puck skills are a huge factor on the blue line, but this was an ill-advised play given 1) the score, and 2) the fact that Tech had numbers coming up the rink. The goal made it a 4-1 game and set the stage for the disaster that was the third period.

(For the record, I thought Olson played pretty well Friday, and this is simply an example of how the smallest mistake can end up in the back of your net.)

UMD failed on a five-minute power play in the third, one on which Tech scored to pull within 4-3. Then David Johnstone tied it on a power play caused by a post-whistle hit by JT Brown.

That's all it takes in this league. You can't quit playing for any reason. And I guess it's a lesson UMD needed to learn.

We'll find out Saturday if it was learned quickly, or if the Bulldogs will need to have it beaten over their heads.


Lots of comments on the Facebook page and Twitter about the officiating. It was bad. UMD could have gone short-handed probably a half-dozen times in the first eight or so minutes, but nothing was called. On the flip side, Jack Connolly was either tripped or slew-footed on a play that led directly to Tech's shortie in the third.

Oh, and I have never seen a goalie called for diving in the nearly 250 UMD games I've called. That includes the career of Alex Stalock, who had the ability to make a slight brush by a guy the size of Ryan Lasch look like he got run over by something Lisa Kelly would drive to Coldfoot. If you're going to call someone for "charging the goalie" and then call the goalie for diving, you've lost me. That's a penalty that's either one or the other. It's not like we're talking about someone over-reacting to a stick in the skates or something. Either the Tech player ran Kenny Reiter over, or he didn't.

By the third period, neither team had to have a clue what a penalty was and what it wasn't. Picks were apparently legal, because both teams were guilty of them.

In the end, none of it excuses UMD's lack of effort for the majority of the game's second half, especially the third period.

There will be questions asked about the power play, which is last in the WCHA at under 20 percent, and also has scored just three times in 31 chances -- including three uninterrupted five-minute power plays -- since Christmas. Will there be changes? As I mentioned in the postgame Friday night, there is another personnel grouping that UMD has used and seen success with, and it involves using Brown at a point in place of Scott Kishel, with Mike Seidel in Brown's place on the half-wall. Another option might be something we saw briefly during the UAH series, with Connolly working a point and Brady Lamb going to the front of the net.

(It's pretty obvious Connolly is a focal point for the opposition when killing penalties. Moving him around a bit is not going to make anything worse. Yes, he's probably most effective on the half-wall. But he's not effective anywhere with the number of teams that are trying to take him out of the action. The issues have nothing to do with chemistry, in my opinion, but are instead all about execution. You don't need a massive personnel overhaul to fix execution. Sometimes a little tweak -- changing the look -- will do the trick.)

Outside of 21 shots over the six chances last weekend, there isn't much positive going on here, especially since the UNO series started two weeks ago.


Elsewhere, Minnesota held St. Cloud State to one shot in the third period in a 2-1 win. Mike Lee returned in goal for St. Cloud State, but Travis Novak was injured in the third period, and the tweets about him not putting weight on one leg because of a knee injury sure didn't look promising. The series shifts to St. Cloud for a Saturday affair.

North Dakota got two goals late to beat Wisconsin 5-3 in a back and forth game in Grand Forks. Brock Nelson had two points for UND, which went two-for-three on the power play. The Badgers trailed 2-0 and 3-2 before tying the score twice, but Stephane Pattyn got the winner late for UND, followed by a Nelson empty-netter.

Bemidji State got a third-period goal from Jordan George to beat Minnesota State 2-1 in Bemidji. Also, Denver won at Alaska-Anchorage 4-2.


Nikolas Bayuk said...

It has always appeared UMD has had a weak power play under Sandelin. The big problem I see is the lack of shots when they are on the power play. Olsen and a few others have cannons for slap-shots which the other team will think twice about getting in front of.

Are they shifting Brown and Connolly to the point to draw attention their way and opening a lane for someone else to sneak to the net for an open rebound?

The Bulldogs just need to employ some fundemental power play factors and things will. Improve. Stop getting so pass-happy and shoot the puck.

DHG said...

Actually you're completely wrong about Sandy's PP

2010-2011 - #10
2009-2010 - #3
2008-2009 - #4
2007-2008 - #45
2006-2007 - #6

These are out of 58 D-1 teams.