Saturday, October 27, 2012

Game 6: Wisconsin at UMD

After a decent start Friday, UMD ended up falling 2-0 at home to Wisconsin.

As expected, the lineup is a tad bit different for Saturday's rematch. The Bulldogs can ill afford to drop two straight at home to open the conference season for a second straight year, and they can ill afford to keep playing the way they played for a good chunk of Friday.

If this setup doesn't work, I'm sure the coaches won't hesitate to tinker with things during their off week.



Seidel - Camaranesi - Basaraba
Crandall (Justin) - Decowski - Herbert
Danberg - Hendrickson - Flaherty
Farley - Tardy - Krause

Olson - Welinski
Bergman - McManus
Johnson - Casto

McNeely - Crandall (Aaron) - Fons

LaBate - Zengerle - Barnes
Paape - Meuer - Mersch
Little (Ryan) - Dahl - Little (Sean)
Navin - Woods - Zulinick

Wittchow - Ramage
Schulze - Faust
McCabe - Simonelli

Rumpel - Peterson

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Badgers Keep it Simple to Beat UMD

Friday night looked like the home opener against Ohio State for a little bit, minus the frantic goal-scoring.

The game between UMD and Wisconsin started with a great pace. Both teams were flying up and down the rink, and there were scoring chances to be had. Wisconsin had a couple good opportunities blocked, and UMD was able to generate a superb flurry that started on a shot by defenseman Tim Smith.

However, unlike the home opener, UMD couldn't score. And unlike the home opener, the pace settled down quickly, which was a distinct advantage for the visitors.

Wisconsin took control of the first period, began dominating the shot chart, and eventually scored on a scramble play in front. Basically, UMD freshman goalie Matt McNeely couldn't control the initial shot, then couldn't contort himself to cover the puck. Meanwhile, UMD's skaters couldn't locate the puck and had trouble tying up UW players as they jammed at the loose biscuit. Eventually, Badger forward Tyler Barnes jammed it home for a 1-0 lead.

At one point, shots were 14-6 in Wisconsin's favor. The first period was all sorts of ugly, and even a late run of shots for UMD didn't lead to many grade-A chances.

Looking at the shot charts, the second period was particularly ugly for UMD. There just wasn't any ability shown to get to the net and pressure UW goalie Joel Rumpel. Meanwhile, Mark Zengerle -- who is good, but that shouldn't be news to anyone -- ripped a low wrister for a power-play goal late in the period for a 2-0 lead.

At times in the second, 1-0 felt like 5-0 with the way the game was going. The Bulldogs just didn't have anything generated, despite having some energy and working pretty hard in the defensive zone. When the period ended, each of UMD's six shots on goal appeared to be from at least 30 feet away, outside of a bad-angle shot from Justin Crandall and a chance in the slot from Austin Farley, both during the Bulldogs' lone power play chance of the stanza.

A five-minute third period power play allowed UMD to get a lot of shots, but many of them (13 in the period) were blocked. The Bulldogs got some momentum and got some pucks to the net, but Rumpel stood tall and stopped 29 in the game.

The story of UMD's struggles could be told in the faceoff circle. Wisconsin won 28 of 54, including 15 of 23 in the third period. Zengerle was dominant, winning 19 of 26. His teammates combined to go 9-19 on 26 draws. On the UMD side, freshmen Cal Decowski and Tony Camaranesi -- who were on the ice virtually every time the Bulldogs had a decent scoring chance, it seemed -- were picked on in the circle a bit. The two won seven of 26 draws (even though the numbers match up, not all of these were against Zengerle). UMD's other draw-takers were much more successful, going 19-9.

The Bulldogs have to find a way to win more draws, especially in the third period. After going 8-15 last night, UMD is 12-33 on 45 third-period faceoffs over the last two home games.

A lot of this is inexperience. Camaranesi and Decowski are quality young centers, and they simply have to learn what they can get away with when taking a draw. It's a process, and until they get it figured out, they will take some lumps on draws.

What we saw in the third period was UMD start to move the feet more consistently, creating turnovers and scoring chances. The next part of that equation is playing that way for 60 minutes, as well as getting more bodies and pressure to the front of the net. To beat the Badgers on Saturday, the Bulldogs have to break through the proverbial picket fence UW had in front of Rumpel, especially after taking the lead.

As for lineup changes, don't ask. We saw Decowski centering Caleb Herbert and Justin Crandall late, and I think that might be a preview of the top line in Saturday's game. But I just don't know. Camaranesi should be in the top six, too, but I'm not sure who he'll have with him.

Defensively, too many guys are playing average-ish in my view right now. UMD has eight defensemen who can play, as Scott Sandelin noted in our pregame interview Friday. I don't know if there's any way that the two who didn't play Friday -- Luke McManus and Derik Johnson -- sit again Saturday. This group is capable of being better than it's shown so far, and part of this process early in the season is figuring out who can play with who.


A couple things that happened in the third period bothered the hell out of me, for different reasons.

One of the keys to Friday's game, we surmised, was going to be discipline. UMD is averaging way too many penalty minutes per game, and it's affecting the team's ability to play effectively. In the third period, Adam Krause of UMD and Sean Little of UW took matching minors. It was a 2-0 game at the time, and the Bulldogs were very frustrated with the way things were going. The normally mild-mannered -- dare I say "nice"? -- Krause took a ten-minute misconduct to go along with the minor.

We like to say that it's the little things. Whatever Krause did or said, he knows he's not allowed to do or say. Part of playing well is keeping your composure, and Krause lost his long enough to cause UMD to play with a shortened bench for 12 minutes. It's the second straight week that a UMD player has taken a ten-minute misconduct during a game.

Doesn't sound like much, but continuing to pile up misconducts -- either of the ten-minute or game variety, since both count as ten-minute penalties in the book -- is a hell of a good way to brand your team as undisciplined. Officials notice these things, and they don't give a lot of breaks to teams they think aren't disciplined.

In the final seconds, UW captain John Ramage appeared to slew-foot Camaranesi while the two chased for a loose puck. There aren't many plays in hockey more dangerous than the slew-foot, which happens when a player sweeps the leg of an opponent out from behind, causing the opponent to fall on his back. It can lead to head injuries in a lot of cases. I wrote about one in December of last year, when former UMD defenseman Matt Niskanen was slew-footed by Boston riot-starter Brad Marchand.

In this case, Ramage -- a smart and physical player who deserves all the ice time he gets and is in his second year as UW captain -- would have been better served tying Camaranesi up along the boards and letting other players battle for the puck. The game was over at that point, and there's just no need for such a dangerous move.

Ramage was then called for a contact to the head minor at 20:00, which must have been related to the scrum that happened after the apparent slew-foot.

Also in the third period, UW's Morgan Zulinick was thrown out for a hit from behind on UMD's Dan DeLisle, who went down in a heap near the Wisconsin penalty box. Since the officials jumped in right away, there was not really a chance for anyone from the Bulldogs to retaliate, which probably saved UMD more penalty minutes. DeLisle returned to the game.


Elsewhere, Denver beat Michigan Tech 5-1. Nick Shore and David Makowski each had two points, and Sam Brittain made 27 saves. Tech goalie Pheonix Copley -- who frustrated the Gophers last week -- allowed four goals on 15 shots before sitting down in favor of Jamie Phillips.

Ben Hanowski had two goals and Drew LeBlanc had four points in St. Cloud State's 5-1 win over Minnesota State. Danny Kristo had three assists as North Dakota won at home over Alaska Anchorage, 4-1. Zane Gothberg became the first Thief River Falls native to start in goal for UND since some guy named Ralph Engelstad. You might have heard of him.

Nebraska Omaha blew a 3-1 lead and had to settle for a 3-3 tie against Bemidji State. The Beavers are now 6-1-4 against UNO since the teams joined the WCHA.

In non-conference play, Cornell beat Colorado College 2-0 in Ithaca, N.Y. In an exhibition game, Minnesota had to score two goals in the second period for a 2-2 draw with the U.S. Under 18 Team. The Gophers play Canisius Sunday afternoon.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Game 5: Wisconsin at UMD

Someone asked me on Friday if I'm going to miss the UMD-Wisconsin rivalry.

A bit, I guess.

In my seven-plus years of calling games, it hasn't been that nasty (outside of Patrick Johnson breaking Jason Garrison's leg a few years ago, and then John Ramage trying to behead Chad Huttel at the end of a bad night -- for UMD -- a couple years back at the DECC). These two teams aren't as compatible in terms of on-ice style as UMD and Denver are, but they usually can put a decent contest together.

More than the games, I'll miss the ready-made excuse to drive to Madison, which is a great town. And between the TV guys, radio guys, and newspaper guys, UW has one of the nicest media contingents in college hockey.

Before UMD and Wisconsin bid each other farewell until -- well, who knows when? -- let's enjoy this weekend's series.



Crandall (Justin) - Herbert - Seidel
Farley - Camaranesi - Basaraba
Young - Hendrickson - Flaherty
DeLisle - Decowski - Krause

Olson - Welinski
Bergman - Corrin
Smith - Casto

McNeely - Crandall (Aaron) - Fons

LaBate - Zengerle - Barnes
Little (Ryan) - Dahl - Little (Sean)
Paape - Zulinick - Mersch
Navin - Woods - Meuer

Wittchow - Ramage
Schulze - Faust
McCabe - Simonelli

Rumpel - Peterson

For UMD, senior captain Cody Danberg (upper body) is out for at least Friday's game. Indications are that the injury isn't terribly serious, and he will be available for the team's next weekend series, two weeks from now in Omaha.

UMD Tries to Badger Visitors in Final WCHA Opener

History will be made at the end of this, the final of 48 seasons for UMD in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

The 2-2 Bulldogs host the 0-2 Wisconsin Badgers this weekend at Amsoil Arena, opening the last league schedule before many longtime WCHA members go their separate ways.

Outside of a ceremony commemorating the 1992-93 UMD team that won the school's last MacNaughton Cup championship, there is little time for looking back for a Bulldog team that is looking to get points to kick off the WCHA season.

UMD is in a similar position to Wisconsin. The Bulldogs possess a number of young players who will likely become key parts of the team over the coming months, and this is probably a really good time for an opponent to face UMD for the only time this season. For Wisconsin, however, the problem is that this exact same thing can be said about the Badgers.

UMD coach Scott Sandelin expects similar hockey to what UMD faced last weekend in South Bend, with a team that likes to forecheck and play with speed.

He also hopes his team continues to improve at both ends of the rink.

"We want to be a hard team to play against," Sandelin says, "and we know we have to take better care of the puck than we did last week."

Turnovers doomed UMD in a 4-1 loss to Notre Dame last Friday, and while Sandelin liked a lot of what he saw from his team, he knows the turnovers are going to be a factor if the problem doesn't get fixed.


The Badgers got to sit around last week and think about opening weekend, when they went to Green Bay and lost two games to Northern Michigan. It's an odd time for a bye week, but after a disappointing performance, it might not have been the worst thing in the world for UW.

"It allowed us to do some things in practice that we saw in the games, so you can look at that as a good thing," 11th-year head coach Mike Eaves said this week. "But do we need to play games now? The proof will be in the pudding when we play this weekend (in Duluth). We feel like we controlled the things we could. We tried to design practices with tempo. From a planning point, we think we did it well."

Wisconsin struggled last year, finishing 10th in the league despite a late-season surge. The Badgers lost their first-round playoff series to Denver when the Pioneers scored in overtime of the deciding third game.

Losing an All-American defenseman and Hobey Baker finalist like Justin Schultz is going to hurt any team, but Eaves likes the depth he has on the blue line, and he understands that no single player can replace Schultz.

"You do it by committee," Eaves noted. "You don't replace a Justin. You have people share the responsibility, and you try to get that gap closed."

Junior center Mark Zengerle and wingers Tyler Barnes and Michael Mersch have plenty of talent and experience, but there's no doubt that UW will miss having promising freshman Nic Kerdiles in the lineup.

Caught in an NCAA eligibility flap, Kerdiles was initially suspended for the entire 2012-13 season, but the former U.S Under 18 star had his suspension reduced to 30 percent of the Badgers' season after a UW appeal.

After committing to Wisconsin at the age of 15, Kerdiles (really) wanted to be a Badger. Eaves is appreciative of the youngster's maturity and loyalty.

"Through this whole thing, what stands out his how mature he is," Eaves said. "There were moments he was truly disappointed, but he was able to step back, see the big picture, and make the decisions he made."


The Bulldogs are nearly at full strength for the weekend, with only senior forward Cody Danberg (upper body) out of the lineup Friday (he could play Saturday). That's a hell of an opportunity for freshman Austyn Young, who made his college debut last week and will play in Danberg's spot in this series.

Other lines will stay the same, though there are some areas where Sandelin might consider changes in the near future. That means freshman Austin Farley is back on a line with junior Joe Basaraba and freshman Tony Camaranesi. Farley was a healthy scratch last Friday.

I've been consistently wrong on the goaltending situation so far this season. I thought Aaron Crandall and Matt McNeely would both play against Ohio State, but only Crandall did (I got this right after watching Friday's game, but was wrong heading into the weekend). I thought Crandall would start the opener against Notre Dame, and out came McNeely to play well.

Of course, "being wrong" hasn't stopped me from trying in the past, and it won't stop me now.

I think McNeely starts Friday, and no decision will be made for Saturday until after the coaches see how McNeely plays first. It'll mark his first game in Duluth since he played in an exhibition game against UMD while with the U.S. Under 18 National Team in January 2011.


Speaking of the Under 18s, they are at Minnesota Friday. Cloquet/Esko/Carlton forward Karson Kuhlman has confirmed via Twitter that he will play for Team USA. Kuhlman has committed to play at UMD. Kerdiles -- suspended from Wisconsin until Nov. 30 -- has also received clearance to play in that game.

The Gophers then host mighty Canisius on Sunday afternoon. The other non-conference action this weekend pits Colorado College against Cornell.

In league play, Minnesota State plays at St. Cloud State. The Mavericks are off to a good start, and this is the first look at two possibly improved teams in conference play. Michigan Tech visits Denver for what should be a pretty good series. Also, Alaska Anchorage travels to North Dakota. The Seawolves couldn't beat a seriously-shorthanded UND team last week in Fairbanks, so the odds look daunting in Grand Forks this weekend. The other league series pits Bemidji State against Nebraska Omaha. The history here is interesting. Despite being consistently ahead of BSU in the league standings over the first two years of WCHA membership, UNO is 1-6-3 head-to-head. Go figure.

UMD-Wisconsin coverage starts at 6:30 on 94X (94.1 FM in the Twin Ports, 104.3 FM elsewhere), as well as the Bulldog Sports Radio Network (KBAJ 105.5 FM Deer River/Grand Rapids and KAOD 106.7 FM Babbitt/Ely). You can hear the game via the internet either here or here. Both streams are free.

In addition, you can hear games on your mobile device by simply downloading the free Red Rock Radio App, available for iPhone and Android devices. Listen to 94X on that to hear the game.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

UMD Hockey Commemorates 1993 MacNaughton Cup Team's 20th Anniversary

This weekend marks another opportunity for the UMD men's hockey program to celebrate its rich history.

20 years ago, Duluth was invigorated by the Bulldogs, as veteran coach Mike Sertich and locally-raised star Derek Plante led UMD to its second -- and most recent -- MacNaughton Cup championship.

The legendary trophy awarded to the WCHA regular-season champion has been handed out annually since 1960, counting a three-year run in the early 1980s where the trophy went to the CCHA regular-season champion.

(Michigan Tech brought the Cup with it to the CCHA in 1981, as it is the trophy's trustee and has been since 1951.)

UMD has put some great teams on the ice, including a run of back-to-back Frozen Four appearances under Sertich in the 80s, and two Frozen Four trips under current coach Scott Sandelin, whose teams have posted four straight 20-win seasons.

Despite that, no UMD team has won the Cup since Plante and his crew did it 20 years ago.

"It's hard to go back and think that it's been 20 years, it's gone by so fast," Plante said this week. "The memories of that team are very vivid. We had a lot of great friendships from that team; some of my best friends were on that team."

The 1992-93 Bulldogs went 21-9-2 in WCHA play, finishing 27-11-2 overall. The team set a school record for home winning percentage, going a marvelous 17-1 at the DECC.

Plante played in 37 games as a senior, scoring 36 goals and totaling 92 points. Junior forward Chris Marinucci -- a Grand Rapids product -- had 35 goals and 77 points in 40 games.

Neither player was from Duluth, but the Twin Ports really gravitated toward the pair as they became stars at UMD.

"It was quite gratifying because it heightened the enthusiasm throughout Northern Minnesota," said Sertich, who coached at UMD from 1982-2000 and won a school-record 335 games in his career. "People identified with them and it enhanced the fan base throughout the Arrowhead region. Marty Olson, Jon Rohloff, (and) Rusty Fitzgerald were also part of that element."

Defenseman Brett Hauer contributed 10 goals and 56 points, and goalies Taras Lendzyk and Jerome Butler practically split the action (Lendzyk played in 60 more minutes over the course of the season).

Plante would end up being named the WCHA Player of the Year, Hauer the Student-Athlete of the Year, and Sertich won Coach of the Year for a fourth time.

"Derek's senior year was utterly fantastic," Sertich said. "He and Greg Johnson (North Dakota) were the two best players in the country. (Maine's Paul) Kariya won the Hobey, but I still don't believe that he was the best."

(Marinucci would win the Hobey Baker Award as a UMD senior in 1994, after a 30-goal senior season.)

One of Plante's vivid memories of that season is celebrating the league championship with thousands of fans at the DECC after UMD clinched the title. For many teams, the MacNaughton Cup is nothing more than a photo opportunity, but this UMD group accepted the trophy and then acted like it had won something, since it had.

"I think every time you achieve something, you should enjoy it," Plante said. "I think if your team is confident in itself and believe you've earned it, then why wouldn't you touch it and raise it?"

A number of players off that 1992-93 team went on to pro careers. Among them were Hauer, who played pro until the end of the 2007-2008 season, including stops in Russia and Switzerland, along with the IHL and AHL. He played 37 NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders. Fitzgerald played in the IHL and UHL, along with a stint in Germany, and also played in 25 games for the Penguins between 1994 and 1995. Rohloff had a nice professional career that included 150 NHL games, all with the Bruins.

But the best pro career -- not surprisingly -- belonged to Plante. He scored 96 goals in 450 NHL games, won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars, and provided one of the iconic moments in Buffalo Sabres history during a 1997 series against Ottawa. We'll let legendary Sabres VOX Rick Jeanneret take it from here:

"Derek proved to all that there was a place for the small guy," a clearly appreciative Sertich says. "His heart was a helluva lot bigger that most "big" guys, and his will and determination were unparallelled."

Some two dozen players and staff from the 1992-93 Bulldogs will be on hand for Saturday's first-intermission recognition.

The weekend series against the Badgers opens UMD's final season of WCHA membership, meaning this group has one last chance to win the coveted trophy for a third time in school history.

Monday, October 22, 2012

BlogPoll Ballot: October 22

Here is this week's ballot:

Movement aplenty, it seems. I think it's justified.
  • I hope there's room on the K-State bandwagon. Watching them tear apart West Virginia was damn impressive. The fact Oregon and Florida sit behind KSU is not a shot at either of them. The Wildcats were that good this past week, and deserve this bump.
  • Florida looked good in beating up South Carolina, too. The Gators are obviously a serious threat.
  • Cue the "Alabama vs. Florida in the SEC Championship" and the "That's The Real National Title Game" hype. Meanwhile, Oregon and Kansas State just lie in the weeds.
  • Louisville and Rutgers are still unbeaten. No, I don't think it matters in the big picture, unfortunately.
  • Notre Dame did not impress against a BYU team I don't think is terrible, but also shouldn't be able to stay this close in South Bend.
  • I hate to rate Wisconsin this high, but I really like what I've been seeing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Game 4: UMD at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- For the second straight weekend to start the season, it's UMD trying to pull off a sweep in Game 2 of a series.

Didn't go so well last time, and if you talk to UMD coach Scott Sandelin about it, he seems to think it was largely a self-inflicted defeat. Not mistakes so much, mind you, but just not a crisp performance, and certainly not play that was up to Friday's standards.

The Bulldogs played a smart, patient game to win here Thursday, and more of the same is likely going to be needed. UMD would be wise to avoid the kind of defensive zone time it was stuck in for much of the last 25 minutes of the series opener, because Notre Dame is too dangerous to have that kind of puck possession on a consistent basis.

(On a side note, I'm really happy we toured the campus Thursday, because it's been pouring most of Friday afternoon. I had a chance to hit the College Football Hall of Fame earlier in the day, but got back to the hotel before the first of the freak monsoons hit.)



Crandall (Justin) - Herbert - Seidel
Danberg - Hendrickson - Flaherty
Young - Camaranesi - Basaraba
DeLisle - Decowski - Krause

Bergman - Casto
Olson - Welinski
Smith - McManus

Crandall (Aaron) - Fons

Notre Dame
DiPauli - Tynan - Rust
Schneider - Lee - Wuthrich
Larson - Gerths - Nugent
Costello - Fogarty - Voran

Taker - Calabrese
Russo - Johns
Johnson (Eric) - Ryan

Summerhays - Rogers - Johnson (Mike)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

(Friday?) Hockey Notes and Thoughts: UMD Grinds Out Road Win

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Sometimes, you have to win ugly. For starters, it beats the hell out of losing pretty, or losing any other way. It also counts just the same as any other kind of win does.

UMD did that on Thursday night, grinding out a tough 3-1 win over Notre Dame.

Bulldog head coach Scott Sandelin noted -- and most observers would have to agree -- that UMD had a few passengers in Saturday's 3-2 loss to Ohio State. In other words, there were players that weren't pulling their weight.

It's not brought up here as a method of calling anyone out, either. Sandelin isn't going to do that publicly, especially after Game 2. And we're not going to do it here.

Instead, it's brought up to point out that it didn't really happen on Thursday.

At some point, every one of the 18 skaters UMD used in its lineup made a contribution worth noting, with the most accolades going to the fourth forward line, the top four defensemen, and freshman goalie Matt McNeely.

The fourth line -- centered by freshman Cal Decowski -- contributed the eventual game-winning goal right after a penalty ended midway through the second period. Decowski threaded a pass to senior Dan DeLisle, who burst off the bench after Wade Bergman got out of the box and went across the ice to get to the bench. DeLisle skated in all alone and beat Notre Dame goalie Steven Summerhays high for a 2-0 lead. Decowski scored his first collegiate goal late in the first period on a five-on-three.

Their linemate, sophomore Adam Krause, didn't get on the scoresheet, but he was a factor, especially on the penalty kill, which allowed one goal in six chances.

UMD's top four defensemen -- Wade Bergman, Chris Casto, Drew Olson, and Andy Welinski -- were very good in this game. Notre Dame has some strength up front, with guys like Anders Lee, TJ Tynan, Bryan Rust, and others perfectly capable of making life difficult on defensemen. The top four played a lot of minutes, moved their feet, moved the puck, were physical, and did a great job clearing bodies from the front of the net so McNeely could see the puck.

And when McNeely saw the puck, he generally made the saves. The rookie from Burnsville, who played for the US Under 18 National Team before spending last season with Cedar Rapids of the USHL. He made a nice glove save on defenseman Robbie Russo in the first period, and he looked to be strong positionally. He fought traffic to make some saves, and it seemed that his rebound control got better as he got more comfortable in the game.

McNeely admitted to Kevin Pates he was nervous before the game, but credited his teammates.

“I knew what I had to do and my teammates sacrificed their bodies on defense. They blocked a lot of shots and let me see a lot of shots. Notre Dame didn’t get that many high-quality chances.”

It wasn't perfect, pretty, or anything resembling. But Sandelin asked his team to play a patient game, and avoid the mistakes that come when you try to do too much. Generally, he got that. The pace wasn't what last Friday's win over Ohio State was. That was okay, though. Notre Dame's structured style of play rewards opponents that avoid mistakes, and UMD did just that.

Sometimes, the simple game is the better game, and Thursday was a great example of that.

Getting another win out of Friday's game might require some adjustments. The Bulldogs gave up too much offensive zone time in the last 25 minutes of Thursday's game. Doing that again with this kind of dangerous offensive talent on the other side of the rink could be problematic.

One thing is clear, however, in the early going: This UMD team, while remarkably different from last year's, still looks to have plenty of ability in all zones, and there's no reason to think it can't compete on a nightly basis, regardless of the opponent.


Touchdown Jesus, overlooking Notre Dame Stadium on this gorgeous campus.

Had a chance to tour the Notre Dame campus Thursday with UMD Faculty Athletic Representative Al Mensinger. You can feel the history of the place virtually everywhere you walk. Touchdown Jesus is just one piece of that. Located on top of the campus library overlooking the football stadium, which is south of this spot, it's one of the central pieces of the historic area.

It was my first time on this campus. I've always heard people talk about having a visit to Notre Dame on their proverbial bucket lists. Only now do I understand why.

Between the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the library, the football stadium (which we didn't tour), the new arena, and so much more, you can spend hours just checking out the history of this grand university.

The Compton Family Ice Arena isn't quite as nice as our new building, but with a pricetag at nearly $40 million cheaper, it shouldn't be. I didn't tour the home team's facilities, but I was told by multiple people that the locker room area the Fighting Irish occupy is incredibly nice. UMD's spot wasn't bad, either, for that matter.

The press box is spacious and well-planned, too, and the arena has the typically awesome scoreboard.

For those UMD fans coming in Friday for the second game, and then Saturday's football game, they should enjoy what they see.


The UMD football team hosts Homecoming Saturday against Bemidji State. While the Bulldogs try to go to 7-1, there is a fundraiser going on for one of their own affected by lymphoma. Here are the details from UMD Sports Information Director Bob Nygaard.

As part of this Saturday's Homecoming football clash with Bemidji State University, the University of Minnesota Duluth will be raising funds for junior defensive end Jordan Bauman, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment for Stage II Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Proceeds from the sale of specially-designed rally towels --  as well as 20 percent of sales from the UMD Stores, Cold Stone Creamery and Famous Dave's concession stands at James S. Malosky Stadium -- will go to the Jordan Bauman Benefit Fund and the Tackle Cancer Foundation.

Bauman, a two-time letterman and a 2011 starter with the Bulldogs, was first diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma during his junior year at Stratford High School and underwent eight months of treatment.  At a checkup this this past August,  just prior to the start of UMD's preseason camp, he learned that the cancer had returned.

Our best wishes are with Jordan for a speedy recovery. Please consider a donation if you are attending Saturday's game.

Game 3: UMD at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Thursday nigh hockey?

It's weird. I keep thinking it's Friday.

Either way, hockey is near.

Thursday was "Tour The Awesome Notre Dame Campus" day for me. Check for pictures.



Crandall (Justin) - Herbert - Seidel
Danberg - Hendrickson - Flaherty
Farley - Camaranesi - Basaraba
DeLisle - Decowski - Krause

Bergman - Casto
Olson - Welinski
Johnson - McManus

McNeely - Crandall (Aaron)

Notre Dame
Costello - Lee - Schneider
DiPauli - Tynan - Rust
Larson - Gerths - Voran
Herr - Fogarty - Wuthrich

Russo - Johns
Taker - Calabrese
Lind - Beers

Summerhays - Rogers - Johnson

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bulldogs Make First Roadie of Season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Last weekend wasn't bad.

It's tough to get a real gauge of what we saw from UMD last week against Ohio State, but I keep going back to this sentiment.

I saw a lot more things I liked than things I didn't like, and it has to be considered a good starting point for this Bulldog team that was chalk full of uncertainty entering the season.

With all that being said, however, UMD has to show some improvement this week.

A Thursday-Friday series at Notre Dame is going to provide an impressive test at this point in the 2012-13 schedule.

The Fighting Irish are a formidable foe, or at least it seems that way on paper. No one saw Notre Dame missing the NCAA Tournament last season, especially after starting 13-6-3, with wins over UMD, Western Michigan, Boston College, and Ferris State. No one saw that 6-12 finish coming. No one saw this team averaging a scant 1.78 goals per game over that 18-game limp to the finish line.

The Fighting Irish failed to meet expectations last season, but that doesn't mean the same thing will happen this time around. ND got off to a good start last week, beating Maine 1-0 and then Nebraska Omaha 3-2 at the Ice Breaker Tournament in Kansas City. That doesn't solve the goal-scoring issue that popped up last season, but it does show that coach Jeff Jackson has the kind of defense and goaltending to contend, even if Notre Dame doesn't score a ton of goals.

Goalie Steven Summerhays has 50 saves on 52 shots in two games, and he gets to play behind guys like big Steven Johns, Shayne Taker, and Kevin Lind, and the mobile Robbie Russo and Sam Calabrese. There is a nice mixture of size, experience, mobility, and puck skill in this group, and it's one that could give fits to UMD's top forwards.

It's up to guys like center Caleb Herbert and winger Mike Seidel to use their skill and experience to make plays against a solid defensive group, then make those plays count against a quality goaltender. For UMD to win either of these games, it's going to take the kind of jump the Bulldogs displayed in Friday's win over Ohio State. A sluggish start like what UMD had on Saturday night in an eventual 3-2 loss could doom the visitors very early in either game against Notre Dame.

Of course, if TJ Tynan, Anders Lee, Bryan Rust, Austin Wuthrich, and others start filling the net, the Irish will be as tough to defend as they are to score on.

No matter what happens this weekend, remember that it's early. A lot of people get into a bit of a tizzy over the Pairwise, but it's rare that single games make a significant impact, and when they do, it's only because other losses during the season allowed it to happen.

As an example, everyone liked to point to UMD's loss to Vermont in a holiday tournament in the 2009-2010 season as a reason why the Bulldogs missed the NCAA Tournament that year. What they forget about are late-season losses to Alaska-Anchorage, Minnesota, and Michigan Tech, all of which missed the NCAAs.

Yeah, reversing the Vermont loss would have changed things. But it wasn't the only loss like that.

Similarly, the Ohio State loss won't cost UMD a spot in the national tournament. A loss this week to Notre Dame won't, either.

There's plenty of hockey to be played, and this should be a fun series between two quality teams. The result matters, but it doesn't matter as much as many people will try to make it sound. We can grip about the PWR in March. For now, it's hockey season, and it's not like the NHL is playing or something. Enjoy!


Don't expect a lot of changes for UMD, including in goal, where I think Aaron Crandall will start at least Thursday's game. It's too early for big shifts in the lineup, though I'd like to see more of sophomore defenseman Derik Johnson and freshman center Cal Decowski, based on how they played on Saturday night.

Johnson played a smart, mature game, and he was very good with the puck. Decowski was a factor in all zones, and I thought he was the most consistent center UMD had in the lineup Saturday, outside of maybe Jake Hendrickson.

Since this is a non-conference trip, UMD did travel all players, so the ability is there to make changes from one night to the next if Scott Sandelin decides to. Indications are that won't happen, but at least the coach has options if there are injuries or ineffective players on Thursday night.

UMD will play the series, then travel back to Duluth by bus after Friday's game. Even with going through Chicago at night when traffic shouldn't be bad, this is probably going to be a trip that last 10 or 11 hours.


Elsewhere in the WCHA, there is one conference series. Unbeatable, unstoppable, unflappable, completely invincible Minnesota heads to Houghton for probably the last time. Michigan Tech should be able to put up a better fight than Michigan State did last week, largely because of its strong and experienced blue line and the smaller-than-Mariucci ice sheet at the Mac.

All other action is non-conference. Alabama-Huntsville travels to St. Cloud State, RPI is at Minnesota State, Lake Superior State takes on Bemidji State, Northern Michigan is at Nebraska Omaha, North Dakota and Alaska Anchorage play at the Brice Alaska Goal Rush in Fairbanks, Denver hosts UMass-Lowell Friday and Air Force Saturday, and Colorado College plays at Air Force Friday before hosting Lowell on Saturday. Wisconsin has the weekend off before opening WCHA play at UMD next weekend.

Monday, October 15, 2012

BlogPoll: This Week's Ballot

This week's ballot looks as follows:

A few things:
  • What the hell happened to West Virginia?
  • I'd be stunned if the national championship game wasn't SEC vs. SEC again.
  • No, that doesn't mean I think that should happen.
  • I don't have any better read on Mississippi State or Louisville this week than I did last week.
  • Rutgers, too.
  • Ohio, for that matter.
  • TCU is a team to watch. I think this is still a good club, but Casey Pachall's absence will undoubtedly have an impact on the offense.. He's tough to replace.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Game 2: Ohio State at UMD

According to last year's UMD media guide, Friday's 6-2 win over Ohio State marks UMD's most lopsided season-opening victory since a 12-4 win over U.S. International to kick off the 1985-86 season.

(That doesn't count exhibitions, since exhibition games don't count in the standings.)

The previous mark under Scott Sandelin was a 5-2 victory over Nebraska-Omaha in the 2002 Maverick Stampede.

This is a different day, however, and I think it's safe to assume we will see a different game. Expect Ohio State to be better, and expect the conditioning of both squads -- which have been practicing officially for all of about a week, mind you -- to be tested.



Crandall (Justin) - Herbert - Seidel
Danberg - Hendrickson - Flaherty
Farley - Camaranesi - Basaraba
DeLisle - Decowski - Krause

Bergman - Casto
Olson - Welinski
Johnson - Corrin

Crandall (Aaron) - McNeely - Fons

McCormick - Fritz - Greco
Lippincott - Simpson - Crane
Dzingel - Lundey - Johnson
Carlson - Statchuk - Szczechura

Gedig - McLean
Jardine - Dalrymple
Martell - DaSilva

Olson - Hjelle

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Well, That Was A Good Start

UMD head coach Scott Sandelin looks at Opening Night as a starting point.

He has to like the point his players gave him to start from Friday.

UMD overwhelmed Ohio State 6-2 at Amsoil Arena, using dynamic freshmen, experienced skill players, and plenty of snarl to frustrate the young but capable Buckeyes for most of the evening.

In my slew of season preview materials, I mentioned a few keys to the upcoming season. One of them was special teams. Sandelin pointed out in our Friday pregame chat -- quite fairly, in my view -- that many of last year's penalty kill struggles were keyed by a poor start to the season, including the second weekend, when the Gophers scored six goals in nine power plays.

The penalty kill didn't start well Friday, allowing a goal in tOSU's first power play chance. That goal tied the score at 1-1 less than three minutes in, after freshman Austin Farley scored on his first shift as a Bulldog.

But the killers were tested -- and how -- when Joe Basaraba (charging) and Tony Camaranesi (slashing) took simultaneous minor penalties at 7:41 of the first. The Bulldogs successfully killed a two-minute five-on-three Buckeye power play. Ohio State managed six shots in those two minutes, but none of them were notable or terribly dangerous for UMD junior goalie Aaron Crandall.

On the night, the Buckeyes had 13 shots on goal in eight power plays, but only the one goal to show for it. Meanwhile, UMD struck three times in eight power play chances.

Special teams were a decisive win on Friday. It won't be that way every night, but this was a good jumping-off point for Sandelin and his staff.

Five-on-five, UMD controlled much of the game. The Bulldogs outshot tOSU 31-14 when the game was at even strength, and they outscored the visitors 3-1 at even strength. UMD had the best of what short-handed scoring chances happened, too.

There weren't a lot of passengers for UMD. Farley and Camaranesi were as entertaining as advertised, connecting on a goal at 65 seconds of the first period.

(One that wouldn't have counted last year, thanks to a rules change that allows goals in college hockey to count if they are directed in by a skate, as long as there is no distinct kicking motion.)

Freshman defenseman Andy Welinski is going to be really, really good, folks. Senior Drew Olson is a great partner for him, I believe. I thought Wade Bergman might have struggled with the puck a bit, but he was still pretty sound positionally, and he's unbelievably strong for a player of his size. Very responsible player in all zones, and he's always been one of my favorites. His maturity on the ice is shown on a night like this, where he doesn't handle the puck well all the time, but still manages to make smart plays and rarely puts anyone in a bad position. He also made a whale of a play to set up Joe Basaraba's first-period goal.

Despite being held shotless, I thought Caleb Herbert did well in his return to the center position. Herbert won 18 of 24 draws he took, assisted on two goals, and wasn't afraid to get involved physically.

Basaraba, Camaranesi, and Farley combined for 13 shots. Mike Seidel had six more. Justin Crandall was a factor in all three zones.

Older brother Aaron was rock-solid in goal, shaking off a shaky second-period tOSU goal to finish with 25 saves in a strong performance.

Told you: There weren't many -- if any -- passengers for UMD on this night.

Ohio State will be better on Saturday, starting in goal, where I'd be surprised if we didn't see freshman and NTDP product Collin Olson. I don't think Brady Hjelle was bad in his return to Duluth, but he gave up some big rebounds, and that hurt him in the first period, when he wasn't getting much help at all.

As for UMD, I don't know what will happen in goal. Sandelin has hinted that Crandall could start back-to-back games, but I know he also wants a look at freshman Matt McNeely. If that doesn't happen Saturday, I'd think it happens next week in South Bend.


Very nice tribute to the late Dick Stewart on Friday. His trademark windsock was proudly waved from his seat before the game, and UMD arranged to have hundreds of replica windsocks dropped into the student section from the catwalk above. Sweet visual and a classy gesture toward UMD's No. 1 fan and supporter.

UMD lost a great supporter in Stewart, and two former players in Bruce Fishback and Bruce Olson. It was great of the school to recognize them before Friday's game.

Our Red Rock Radio family is also grieving. Sales manager Jim Payne passed away on Thursday night. Jim was a neat guy to work with. He admittedly never really had a great understanding of sports, but he understood its place, and he and his staff have worked hard over the years to sell UMD sports and allow us to continue carrying the games.

His personality -- especially his often-infectious laugh -- will be missed in our office, and I want to send my thoughts out to his family.


Elsewhere in college hockey, Minnesota won big over Michigan State, 5-1. Hobey Bjugstad had two points, as did freshman defenseman Mike Reilly, who only adds to what was already a group bordering on an embarrassment of riches. New Hampshire toppled St. Cloud State 5-3, as the Huskies struggled to hold on to the puck. Ben Hanowski had a goal and an assist in a losing effort.

Northern Michigan outshot Wisconsin 8-3 in the third and scored twice for a 2-1 upset in Green Bay. Chase Grant and Matt Leitner each had a hand in all four Minnesota State goals in a 4-1 win at Alabama-Huntsville. Grant had a hat trick and an assist, while Leitner had a goal and three assists. The game drew a crowd of over 5,000. Rylan Schwartz had three points for Colorado College in a 5-4 home win over Clarkson. The Tigers led 5-1 in the third period before letting the Knights back into the game.

At the Ice Breaker, Nebraska Omaha -- or "Omaha" as the school seems to prefer, or "Nebraska" as Dave Strader noted a few times on NBC Sports Network -- throttled Army 5-1. Zach Raubenheimer had a goal and two dimes. The Mavericks will play Notre Dame in the title game Saturday night, largely in front of friends and family in Kansas City (2,200 attendance for UNO's game Friday ... ugh).

At the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage, UAA beat Canisius 2-0. Derek Docken and Scott Allen had the Seawolves goals, and Chris Kamal threw a 14-save shutout.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Game 1: Ohio State at UMD

Here we go.

Time to kick off the 2012-13 UMD men's hockey season. It's nice to see Steve Rohlik again, as the man who helped build this program as an assistant coach for a decade at UMD is now working with old college teammate Mark Osiecki at Ohio State.

Rohlik got a bit emotional reminiscing before the morning skate Friday, and he joked his daughters will probably be cheering for UMD in this series. You can hear that conversation in the first intermission.

But for now, as Adrian Peterson once said, it's time ... to play hockey.



Crandall (Justin) - Herbert - Seidel
Danberg - Hendrickson - Flaherty
Farley - Camaranesi - Basaraba
DeLisle - Tardy - Krause

Bergman - Casto
Olson - Welinski
Smith - McManus

Crandall (Aaron) - McNeely - Fons

Dzingel - Simpson - Crane
McCormick - Fritz - Greco
Lippincott - Lundey - JOhnson
Carlson - Oddo - Szczechura

Jardine - Gedig
DaSilva - Dalrymple
Cristofoli - Krogh

Hjelle - Olson

UMD Starts Anew, Hopes Not To Start Over

It's one thing to have to rebuild.

After UMD made the 2004 NCAA Frozen Four, UMD was never able to put it together in the 2004-2005 season. A slew of freshmen -- 11 of them -- came on board for the 05-06 campaign, one that saw only 11 wins as UMD tried to rebuild its talent base.

Three years later, UMD was back in the NCAA hunt. The WCHA playoff champions rode the hot stick of senior center MacGregor Sharp and the goaltending of Alex Stalock to a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

In 2005, UMD was rebuilding.

In 2010, UMD was able to reload. Yeah, Evan Oberg left early, and Sharp graduated, and Stalock was long gone, but the Bulldogs brought in freshmen named JT Brown and Justin Faulk, and used the leadership of guys who were around when the team was struggling -- captain Mike Montgomery, for example -- to catapult the program to its first national championship.

Now, Brown is gone, as are star forwards Jack Connolly and Travis Oleksuk, and defenseman Brady Lamb. Goalie Kenny Reiter and his 52 wins are headed to Fort Wayne of the ECHL.

It's time for another reload.

Or, at least that's the plan.

It all starts Friday with Ohio State, another team in flux. The Buckeyes and Bulldogs combine for 32 freshmen and sophomores, and many of those youngsters are expected to make an impact.

Both teams lose leading scorers from last year. Connolly had 60 points at UMD, while Chris Crane led Ohio State with 24. Co-leader Ryan Dzingel returns, and guys like Max McCormick, Curtis Gedig, Darik Angeli, and Tanner Fritz should be better-positioned to do good things and be consistent in the tOSU lineup.

Despite the Columbus location of campus, Ohio State should have a notable cheering section tonight. Seven Buckeyes hail from Minnesota, including former UMD goalie Brady Hjelle and Duluth East graduate Al McLean, a defenseman.

UMD relies on sophomore Caleb Herbert (33 points) and senior Mike Seidel (17 goals) to carry their production over from last season. Herbert will get a chance to center Seidel and sophomore Justin Crandall, who was Herbert's wingman for the first part of last season, before Herbert moved permanently to wing in November.

Freshmen Tony Camaranesi and Austin Farley should make their presence felt up front early, as will young defenseman Andy Welinski, a Duluth native who has two years of USHL experience under his belt after he left high school a year early.

The fact that we're talking about reloading with this program is -- by itself -- a win. UMD won nearly 100 games over the last four years, and with that has come a bit of respect for the program. Despite the uncertainty, UMD is solidly in the top six of the WCHA in the preseason polls, and national rankings list UMD in the top 15.

The lines should look a bit like this Friday (the five skaters not likely to play Friday are marked with an asterisk for their groups):

Justin Crandall - Caleb Herbert - Mike Seidel
Austin Farley - Tony Camaranesi - Joe Basaraba
Cody Danberg - Jake Hendrickson - Keegan Flaherty
Dan DeLisle - Max Tardy - Adam Krause
Charlie Sampair - Cal Decowski - Austyn Young*

Wade Bergman - Chris Casto
Drew Olson - Andy Welinski
Luke McManus - Tim Smith
Willie Corrin - Derik Johnson*

Aaron Crandall - Matt McNeely - Alex Fons

You can find coverage of this weekend's games on 94X, 94.1 FM in the Twin Ports, and 104.3 FM in the surrounding area. Listeners in northeast Minnesota can hear the games on KQ 105.5 FM out of Deer River, or KQ 106.7 FM in Babbitt/Ely.

Online, the games can be found at or this page.

More UMD coverage:
Season preview: Goalies
Season preview: Defensemen
Season preview: Forwards

Thursday, October 11, 2012

2012-13 UMD Hockey Preview: Forwards

For being 5-8 and 160 pounds, Jack Connolly casts one hell of a shadow.

After four years, three All-American honors, three NCAA Tournament appearances, a national championship, a Hobey Baker Award, and 197 career points, Connolly has taken his talents to Sweden to play professionally in the Swedish Elite League.

On the surface, Connolly's departure -- coupled with the losses of offensive stars Travis Oleksuk and JT Brown -- would probably cripple UMD, dooming the Bulldogs to a second-division finish in this, the final season for them in the WCHA.

"Jack's a phenomenal player, makes the game easier for his linemates," said senior Mike Seidel, one of Connolly's linemates last season. Seidel talked about how he feels younger players will step up, even if it takes multiple players to fill that one void.

Oleksuk and Brown, the players that at least some national "pundits" felt were the only reason Connolly was able to pile up the points he did, also have moved on. Oleksuk is in the San Jose Sharks organization, while Brown is with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Seidel called all three "great two-way players," but one thing UMD didn't have last season, especially when it came to the penalty kill, was great depth.

Head coach Scott Sandelin -- who kicks off his 13th season Friday -- is hesitant to blame any one position for the PK foibles last season. UMD started poorly, as Minnesota went six-for-nine on the power play over a two-game sweep in Duluth in October. UMD's penalty kill was under 80 percent for the season, and combined with a power play that wasn't as good as the talent level suggests it should have been, the special teams were a bit of a disappointment.

In the 2010-11 championship season, UMD's special teams combined to out-score the opposition 57-38. Last year, the ratio swung the other way, as opponents outscored UMD on special teams 43-41. That meant the Bulldogs had to do damage at even strength, and they did, outscoring opponents 106-63.

(Going back a bit, the special teams ratio was 59-42 in UMD's favor in 2009-2010, 58-49 in 2008-2009, 24-23 in favor of UMD's opponents in 2007-2008, and 49-43 UMD in 2006-2007. In the 2007-2008 season, UMD scored 74 goals in 36 games, but still were barely outscored on special teams.)

Seidel will start the season paired with Caleb Herbert and Justin Crandall. The latter two have chemistry, and showed that a lot last season, especially early. While there is legitimate concern if Herbert is better as a center or a wing, a relative lack of depth at center has bolstered the decision to put the sophomore in the middle to start things out.

Connolly's other linemate for most of last season, junior Joe Basaraba, will skate with two of the more intriguing newcomers on this team, center Tony Camaranesi and winger Austin Farley. Camaranesi starred at Wayzata before playing a year in the USHL. He is a potentially dynamic center who can kill penalties and make plays, and he will be given every opportunity to make an impact on this team.

Farley, meanwhile, had himself a good run with the USHL's Fargo Force, where he made a name for himself by scoring big goals and not being afraid to flap his gums. UMD hasn't had a player of his ilk probably since Luke Stauffacher, and it's an edge to the game that's a lot of fun when it's on your team.

Guys like Max Tardy, Adam Krause, Jake Hendrickson, and Keegan Flaherty should be able to shoulder a little more of the offensive load. Sandelin said he'll likely run three power play lines at first, to gauge where the pieces best fit.

On the kill, which needs to be better, look for Crandall, sixth-year senior captain Cody Danberg, Krause, Flaherty, and Hendrickson to play big roles. As I mentioned, Camaranesi can also kill, giving Sandelin at least six forwards who can help in that area.

The depth of this group is good, even if the high-end talent isn't necessarily there like it was last year. The hope is that Sandelin can find more bodies to contribute, meaning his top players won't get worn down, as it looked they might have last year.

A big key is for guys to play their designated roles. As an example, it's unfair to expect Herbert to win faceoffs the way Oleksuk could, and it's unfair to think Camaranesi can make the kind of impact Connolly did right out of the gate. But if Sandelin can get them to play their roles well, there's no reason the team can't be good.

While there is concern about the center position and the ability of this team to win faceoffs without Oleksuk, UMD is strong on the wings. If the young guys can help boost the scoring, I don't doubt for a second that UMD will contend for home ice once again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2012-13 UMD Hockey Preview: Defensemen

When Justin Faulk and Mike Montgomery -- among others -- departed from UMD after helping the Bulldogs to the 2011 NCAA title, they left some question marks behind.

UMD had bodies on defense last season, but no one knew going in how it was going to play out. While there were some bright spots, the Bulldogs also had their share of struggles against forecheck pressure at times, and the defense had moments where it seemed unable to clear the puck out of the UMD zone.

Of course, things could have been much worse if undrafted freshman Chris Casto hadn't played as well as he did out of the gate. Two goals and 13 points in 41 games isn't a terribly impressive offensive haul, but Casto displayed a presence in the defensive zone that indicated he will blossom into a very good defenseman.

The now-sophomore is now a big key to the 2012-13 Bulldog team, one that should sport improved play and depth along the blue line.

Also returning is senior Wade Bergman, who played a ton of minutes, mainly five-on-five and on the penalty kill, last season. Bergman has 34 points in 107 career games, but scored some big goals over his first three seasons at UMD. Senior Drew Olson -- an assistant captain -- has played in 109 games, and while his offensive numbers aren't gaudy, he's probably the best skater UMD has among its defensemen. He's accomplished enough in that area that when forward depth has lacked in recent years, there's been talk of Olson moving to forward. It hasn't happened for a variety of reasons, but it's not like Olson would be embarrassed at the position.

Junior Tim Smith from Superior returns after playing in 22 games last season. Sophomores Luke McManus (third-year sophomore) and Derik Johnson (true sophomore) are also back. McManus got in 14 games last season, and probably saved his best hockey for the end, as he acquitted himself very nicely at the regional. Johnson played in 11 games and scored a goal and five points.

Casto, Bergman, and Olson will play big roles, and McManus showed in March that he's probably ready for increased playing time, too.

And I haven't talked about one of the WCHA's best freshmen yet.

Duluth native Andy Welinski left Duluth East early, opting to play for Green Bay of the USHL. He became one of the best in the league over his two seasons with the Gamblers. Welinski piled up 15 goals and 37 points last season while posting a plus-35 for the league's best team. While you never really know when the light will come for a freshman, the Anaheim Ducks' property seems poised to make an immediate impact at UMD. Welinski will probably be running the UMD power play very soon, perhaps as early as Friday.

The other freshman is Willie Corrin, another USHL product out of International Falls. Corrin has also benefited from two years in the USHL, his time spent with Fargo. He played 111 games there, tallying 36 points. He has puck-moving skill, but is also a tough defensive player.

UMD has eight defensemen on the roster, which means there will be plenty of competition for playing time. If I had to guess, I'd say that Welinski, Casto, Bergman, and Olson will -- in some way or another -- comprise the top four. The others will be left to compete for ice time, with McManus probably a nose ahead of the others heading into the season.

Don't look for Sandelin to decide on a rigid top six very early in the season. Even during last year's 17-game unbeaten streak, he rotated guys in and out of the lineup, and made sure everyone had a chance to travel on a road trip here and there. The top five -- Bergman, Casto, Olson, Scott Kishel, and Brady Lamb -- was largely unchanged for most of the season, but the other guys were given plenty of opportunity to play so they could stay fresh.

I doubt the philosophy will change this season. It just doesn't make any sense to staple-gun players to the press box early in the season. Then, when injuries happen, UMD would be stuck with players who aren't in any kind of groove on the ice because they never play.

This group has some snarl, some puck-moving ability, and Welinski brings some high-end offensive potential. It might not be getting the press that Minnesota's defensive group is getting, but UMD will be improved defensively this season. That improvement will be a big key to the upcoming season.

2012-13 UMD Hockey Preview: Goalies

Replacing an All-American who practically carried a No. 7 seed to a league championship and NCAA berth wasn't going to be easy.

And Kenny Reiter wasn't expected to be the guy carrying the torch.

Indeed he was, though. Reiter, of Pittsburgh, came in to UMD out of the North American Hockey League -- regarded as the second-best junior league in the country behind the USHL -- and he sat for his first two years, including a freshman season where he took a redshirt.

Reiter didn't play until the opening weekend of the 2009-2010 season, when the sophomore lost his first career start to Northern Michigan. He didn't see action against a WCHA opponent until he took over for Brady Hjelle for the third period of a loss to St. Cloud State two weeks later, and he didn't win a WCHA game until UMD won at Colorado College on Nov. 6.

He picked it up from there. Eventually, Reiter outperformed Hjelle enough to start UMD's home playoff series against Colorado College that year. He then performed exceptionally well in a 2-0 loss to North Dakota at the Final Five that ended UMD's season.

Reiter traded off with then-freshman Aaron Crandall for much of the 2010-11 season, but had the job pretty well secured by February. He was a key cog in UMD's national championship run, playing notably well in a shutout win over Union to open the NCAA Tournament, and then in the title game win over Michigan.

As a senior, Reiter played in 38 of 41 UMD games, going 23-9-6 with a 2.43 goals against and .911 save percentage. Reiter posted a 2.37 goals against and .912 save percentage in his UMD career, winning 52 games and pitching nine shutouts to tie Stalock's career record.

Alas, Reiter's eligibility is exhausted, and he's playing pro hockey.

It leaves UMD with a question mark in goal, but it's a question mark junior Aaron Crandall hopes to answer. Crandall played a bunch in his freshman year, basically alternating with Reiter while both struggled to win the job full time until we were in the month of February. Reiter ran with the proverbial ball, UMD won its first-ever national championship, and the rest was history.

Crandall appeared in just four games last year, starting three. He performed very well in one fill-in appearance, during the January rear end-kicking delivered by Michigan Tech. He had a .917 save percentage against WCHA foes, but it was only .855 for the season, largely because of a rough start in the opening weekend against Notre Dame.

I expect Crandall to start at least once on opening weekend against Ohio State, perhaps in Friday's opener.

Joining Crandall are freshman Matt McNeely and Alex Fons, who spent half a season at Minnesota before returning to the NAHL last year. He didn't play at Minnesota, and is officially a freshman at UMD.

Head coach Scott Sandelin has a competition on his hands. McNeely was highly-touted out of the U.S. Under 18 program, but "only" had an .892 save percentage last season in the USHL with Cedar Rapids. Fons had a great season with Fairbanks, winning 21 games and posting a 2.33 goals against and .907 save percentage.

The development of the youngsters will be a huge key. Goalies don't always end up committing early to colleges -- and many of the ones that don't still end up having nice careers -- but it's worth noting that UMD doesn't have a single goalie committed in a future class (not 2013, 2014, or beyond).

Sandelin has a strong three-man competition, and he will make the most of it. Barring unforeseen circumstances early in the season, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see all three goalies play at some point.

That doesn't mean the goaltending won't be good. Sandelin noted at times last year that it wasn't quite as good as he'd like it to be, and that will probably happen again.

However, there is reason for hope that McCrandons will have plenty of help from the guys in front of the chosen goaltender on a particular night. If that happens, the peripheral numbers might improve, even if the overall play from the position isn't remarkably better.

Packers Apparently Paranoid As Well As Not Very Good Right Now

I think it's safe to say frustration is setting in for the Green Bay Packers.

I don't think that's necessarily a good thing, but only time will tell for certain.

Sometimes, the news reports on NFL teams on Wednesdays can be a little scarce. Teams typically give Tuesdays off to the players, with Wednesday being the first day of practice ahead of a Sunday game.

This time around, the Packers managed to -- sort of -- make news on an off day.

Green Bay has the most penalty yards in the league with 390 and the fourth-most penalties with 40 in five games.

After correcting this issue a year ago, it's back, and this is not a distinction the Packers really want to accompany their 2-3 record.

... "It's definitely on us as players," one Packer said Monday. "But I think the refs are out to get us this year."

Oh, boy.

It's just one quote from a player who didn't want to be identified.

But it's a sign of frustration.

Yes, a number of close calls have gone the way of Green Bay's opponents over the last three weeks. There were three bad ones in the Seattle loss, most notably the play at the end of the game. There were three more in the New Orleans game: Darren Sproles' fumble that everyone talked about, but also the trap by Jimmy Graham that was inexplicably ruled a catch and upheld after a Mike McCarthy challenge, and the obvious push-off by Marques Colston before a first-quarter touchdown catch.

To add to it, the Packers aren't playing as well as they are capable, and everyone from McCarthy on down is well aware of it. Even Aaron Rodgers isn't terribly sharp, missing on throws he wasn't missing on last year, and making decisions uncharacteristic of him.

It doesn't get any easier in Houston Sunday night. But the answer isn't to point a finger at the officials. I'm the first guy to rag on them, but I would like to think I'm smart enough to not accuse them of some sort of bias.

The quote stinks of paranoia, but is likely the simple result of frustration. This team isn't used to not playing well, and these first five weeks really haven't been up to anyone's standard in that organization. If this frustration is used to fuel the team, it can be a good thing. But if all it does is get guys playing over the line where they commit more penalties, it's obviously not going to be helpful.

Monday, October 08, 2012

BlogPoll: Week 7 Ballot

Here you go:

Let's sort out some more of the unbeatens, okay?

I don't know what to make of Ohio, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, or Oregon State. I'm tepid-at-best about Mississippi State, but I think the Bulldogs have a sneaky-tough team.

And if it weren't for bowl-ineligible Ohio State, no Big Ten teams would be on this ballot. Nice job, B1G. For your sake, let's hope your hockey conference doesn't end up sucking this much.