Saturday, October 13, 2012

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.

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