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.

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