Friday, November 30, 2012

Game 13: UMD at Michigan Tech

HOUGHTON, Mich. -- It's not exactly a snowglobe this time around.

I don't think Houghton has much more snow -- if more at all -- than Duluth does. A nice, uneventful drive here.

The game shouldn't be that way. Both teams have reason to be desperate for their own reasons. UMD needs points, while Michigan Tech is 1-3 in WCHA play at home so far. The Huskies are also entering a stretch of five games in nine days that includes a trip to Marquette Tuesday (Northern Michigan) and Madison for a Friday-Saturday series against Wisconsin next week.

Nice job, schedule maker.



Seidel - Cameranesi - Basaraba
Farley - Crandall (Justin) - Herbert
Danberg - Hendrickson - Flaherty
DeLisle - Young - Krause

Olson - Welinski
Bergman - Johnson
Corrin - Casto

McNeely - Crandall (Aaron)

Furne - Kero - Pietila (Chad)
Pietila (Blake) - Khaira - Petan
Johnstone (David) - Johnstone (Jacob) - Gordic
Eick - Rix - Hietala

Seigo - Sweeney
Stebner - Nielsen
Hyland - Davis

Genoe - Copley - Phillips

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bulldogs Seek Snow Belt Slump-Buster

With 12 games played, we are one-third of the way through this UMD season.

No longer can "It's early" be used as an excuse when things go poorly. Instead, it's time to seek solutions and get things going the right way.

I already told you what I think the primary problems are. The biggest issue I'm seeing is how one bad thing spills into another, creating a cavalcade of bad stuff that the Bulldogs are having trouble avoiding.

The good news is that fixing one or two of those problems could solve virtually all of them.

The bad news is they aren't easy problems to fix.

The first of three crucial WCHA series starts Friday in Houghton for the Bulldogs, who have struggled historically against Michigan Tech, but have won the last five games in Houghton, dating back to the 2010 Winter Carnival. In that weekend set, UMD scored three straight goals, including a Mike Connolly shortie in the third period, to win 3-2 after trailing 2-0.

The atmosphere isn't quite what it was at the end of the Jamie Russell era in Houghton, as Mel Pearson has quickly rejuvenated the Tech fanbase. If you've never been to Houghton, you'd understand that -- outside of outdoor activities like skiing and snowmobiling -- there isn't a lot of competition for Tech hockey. It's just a matter of the team playing well enough to be relevant, and people will go to the games.

What are they seeing on the ice? Emerging young players like Alex Petan (freshman), Jujhar Khaira (freshman), and Blake Pietila (sophomore), and David Johnstone (sophomore) are carrying the offense, while Pearson struggles a bit to get his upperclassmen contributing at the level he wants.

(Look out this weekend, however. Junior Ryan Furne has three goals and seven points in six games against UMD.)

Tech's defense and goaltending are currently owned by uppers, however. Senior captain Carl Nielsen and assistant captain Steven Seigo are the top defensemen, while juniors Brad Stebner and Daniel Sova are big bodies who compete. None of Tech's big defensemen are all-zones types, but they are tough to beat in their own zone, and they play a very simple game when necessary. Look to see lots of chips of pucks this weekend from Tech's blue-liners.

In goal, senior Kevin Genoe has emerged as the starter, according to Pearson. He has a .913 save percentage in five games, with a 3-1 record. Genoe's career numbers are ghastly, but he played with confidence against Bemidji State, and as we understand, confidence matters a lot for a goalie.

I said these next six games are crucial for UMD, and I mean that. The Bulldogs have four points through eight league games, a very low number for what's been a competitive program lately. If UMD is going to get this thing turned around in time to make a run, the Bulldogs need to get 8-10 points out of these six games. It's doable, but there's no way anyone can think it's going to be easy.

If you're hoping that sophomore Caleb Herbert can finally get in the goal column this weekend, you might be in luck. Herbert scored twice in four games against Tech last season, and we can only hope that he finds the back of the net somehow this weekend. I still have the feeling that goals might come in bunches once Herbert gets one, but the odds of that happening admittedly become more remote the longer he goes without a goal.

Keys for this weekend, besides the stuff I have already talked about? I think UMD goes -- to an extent -- as its senior line goes. Jake Hendrickson, Keegan Flaherty, and captain Cody Danberg were very good against North Dakota, and so was the team. They were good on Friday against St. Cloud State, and UMD won. On Saturday, I thought they were mediocre at best, and everyone else responded in tow, unfortunately.

Coach Scott Sandelin told Kevin Pates that he didn't think anyone played well on Saturday, which probably isn't going to make him happy if it occurs again.

"I actually don't think we came out that bad (Saturday)," junior goalie Aaron Crandall said, "but we never really rebounded from the second goal," which Crandall noted came off a turnover.

I didn't think UMD was doing anything special before Ben Hanowski's power play goal in the first period on Saturday, but the quick second goal by Nic Dowd absolutely took some life out of the UMD bench. Can't argue that. It's still not acceptable in my view, but Crandall might very well be on to something.

I expect the seniors to play well on Friday, and if everyone responds like they did against North Dakota, there's no reason UMD won't win the game, unless Genoe does a head stand and steals the points for the Huskies.

However, if the team comes out flat or goes flat as soon as something happens, it could be trouble.

It isn't early in the season, but there's still plenty of time. UMD just has to shake out of this slump. America's Snowglobe awaits, and while it isn't the easiest place to get four points, that doesn't mean it can't or won't happen.

Or that it doesn't need to.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What Will Snap UMD Out of Funk?

At 3-7-2, things have not gone according to plan for the UMD men's hockey team.

But rather than trying to oversimplify things (score more and give up less, rah rah!), I thought it would be worth it to throw a few things out there that I'm seeing, stuff that I believe could help turn things around for the Bulldogs for more than a single night.

Scoring. Wait, I just said I wouldn't make it this simple.

It isn't.

The Bulldogs are averaging 2.42 goals per game, and UMD has scored all of five goals in its last four home games. Those numbers won't cut it.

There are a few reasons for this issue, and this issue is part of the problem in other areas. So much of UMD's early-season troubles either come back to scoring or are caused by it, that it has to be mentioned as a source of strife and a way of climbing out of this funk.

Puck possession. As an example, the lack of scoring is -- at least in part -- due to a downturn in UMD's puck possession compared to recent years. If you want to get some sort of proof that UMD doesn't have the puck as much as it has in the past, look at the five-on-five scoring.

Last year, UMD's power play struggled a bit (comparatively speaking). It scored 40 goals in 41 games, an average of .98 goals per game on the power play. This season, UMD has 14 power play goals in 12 games, an average of 1.17 per game.

It's not a stark difference. Assuming a 41-game season again, UMD is on pace for 48 power play goals. That's a 17 percent or so increase, not huge, but not insignificant.

But look at even-strength scoring.

Last season, UMD averaged 2.59 goals per game at even strength, getting 106 of them over 41 games. In 12 games this season, the Bulldogs have 15 even-strength goals, an average of 1.25 per game.

That's a decrease of 52 percent from last season.

Why is the power-play scoring ahead of pace, but the even-strength scoring basically halved?

Because a power play thrives off puck possession, which leads to crisp puck movement, which leads to players out of position, which leads to grade-A scoring chances and potential rebounds.

At even-strength, UMD isn't possessing the puck nearly as much as it needs to be, which decreases scoring chances by its mere nature. Because the opponent has the puck more, it means the Bulldogs are dealing with more scoring chances in their own zone, and they have to work so hard to get the puck back that when they get it, it's time for a line change.

Why isn't UMD possessing the puck as much?

Faceoffs. At times this season, the faceoff performance has been passable. But UMD was dominant in the faceoff circle at times last season, and the Bulldogs have yet to even approach that level, even for a period here and there.

It all started opening weekend, when the Bulldogs lost 18 of 25 draws in the third period against Ohio State, a game tOSU ended up winning 3-2 on a third-period goal.

It continued against Notre Dame, where it was a struggle to win draws both nights, but the Bulldogs weren't awful. Against Wisconsin, UMD struggled -- especially against Mark Zengerle -- on Friday, and were around 50/50 on Saturday.

UMD finished a little ahead of 50/50 against Omaha, then was absolutely hideous in this department against North Dakota. UND won 53 of 85 faceoffs Friday, then 47 of 84 on Saturday. All that puck-chasing eventually led to a UND overtime winner on Saturday, when UMD turned the puck over in its own zone and couldn't get to the front of the net before the winning goal was scored.

Against St. Cloud State, UMD was 49 of 123 on the weekend, including an unacceptable 21 of 58 on Saturday night.

It's too much puck-chasing and not enough established possession. It takes away the ability to be as effective on the forecheck, and it makes virtually everyone's job more difficult.

Turnovers. Every team turns the puck over. Sometimes, they just flip it up the rink, knowing they are giving up possession by doing so. That's not the problem.

In this case, UMD's turnovers are magnified by just about everything listed above. It impacts the bottom line -- scoring -- because every turnover takes away puck possession. Because of the struggles on faceoffs, UMD isn't possessing the puck as much, which only exacerbates the problem.

So as I was saying, the Bulldogs' struggles can -- in many ways -- be traced back to scoring. However, the issue can't just be resolved by saying "score goals and stop giving them up." There are reasons why UMD isn't scoring as much, beyond the fact that Jack Connolly, Travis Oleksuk, and JT Brown are all drawing paychecks to play the game now. Those losses are certainly a factor, but given the talent on hand, combined with the play of some of these youngsters, there is no reason to think that a 50 percent drop in five-on-five scoring is realistic, unless other factors are in play.

Just as I am pretty sure confidence is a part of why Caleb Herbert has as many goals in 12 games as I do, I'm confident that confidence (yeah, that makes sense, so deal with it) is a factor in the faceoff circle. UMD's centers have to bear down and win puck possession more often than they have been, and if it comes down to cheating on faceoffs, as it often does, the guy with the Bulldog on his jersey needs to be better at it than the guy on the other side of the dot.

This slump is breakable, and there are plenty of good players available. It's up to the players to step up, and up to the whole group to find way to accrue points.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Packers Slaughtered on National TV

Before Sunday night's Packers-Giants debacling, I sent a tweet imploring my favorite football team to not get embarrassed on national television.

Truth be told, it's been years since Green Bay was handed a defeat like what we saw Sunday when the lights are turned on for national television. It was a thrashing so sound and so complete that it made last January's 37-20 playoff shellacking look like a nail-biter. 38-10 doesn't tell the whole story, because the big blue foot was off the gas for most of the second half and the entire fourth quarter.

Eli Manning threw virtually wherever he wanted and whenever he wanted. The Giants ran roughshod, gaining nearly 150 yards and -- again -- doing what they wanted, when they wanted.

Green Bay was completely dominated at the line scrimmage both offensively and defensively. The offensive line was nothing short of offen-sieve. Marshall Newhouse clearly needed help at left tackle, and head coach Mike McCarthy never gave it to him.

McCarthy morphed into Mike Martz on this night, constantly refusing to max-protect and failing to recognize the awful game his left tackle was having. Three-yard passes on third-and-loooong became the norm, because the Packers took either a sack or a stupid penalty on the way to third down, then had no chance of setting up a longer play because of the job being done by the line in front of Aaron Rodgers.

Defensively, I'm not going to say the Packers quit, because as evidenced by the 59-yard screen pass to Ahmad Bradshaw on the third play of the game, the Packers never started playing defense in this game. Hard to quit something you never start doing in the first place.

No pass rush, no coverage (made worse by the lack of pass rush, because the secondary would even get exposed on plays it covered well), no tackling, no gumption. Nothing.

It was a terrible performance for Green Bay. Naturally, McCarthy said afterward he would have to look at the film before getting too in-depth into what went wrong.

I don't know why anyone would want to subject themselves to that. Burn the film and get back on track against the Vikings. Think too much about this, and Adrian will run for 275 on Sunday.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Game 12: St. Cloud State at UMD

For the first time since the season's opening weeks, UMD has a chance to claim consecutive victories.

It won't be easy. St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko wasn't pleased with his team's offensive push on Friday, and more is expected in this game. SCSU is a quality team, and it's not likely the Huskies will just accept being swept and get on the bus.

UMD has to earn this, and it won't be easy. It will take a better start, improved defensive zone play (can't afford to miss on that many clearing chances again), and more production from lines not centered by Tony Cameranesi to secure the four points.



Farley - Cameranesi - Seidel
Herbert - Crandall (Justin) - Basaraba
Danberg - Hendrickson - Flaherty
Sampair - Decowski - Krause

Olson - Welinski
Bergman - Johnson
Smith - Casto

Crandall (Aaron) - McNeely - Fons

Kossila - LeBlanc - Brodzinski
Hanowski - Dowd - Morley
Murray - Thorson - Holka
Oliver - Rehkamp - Bertsch

Prochno - Jensen
Gravel - Prow
Rabey - Johnson

Faragher - Reijola

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: UMD Works to End Winless Streak at Seven

For UMD, Friday night was a long time coming.

I think it had been pretty well-documented that the Bulldogs played quite well despite earning just one point last week in North Dakota.

Many "Your team deserved a better fate" comments could be found in the press box in Grand Forks, as well as on Twitter after Saturday's overtime loss.

From an effort standpoint, there's no question that UMD was able to carry many of the positives over into Friday's 2-1 win over St. Cloud State, a win that snapped a seven-game winless streak that didn't produce many truly ugly performances. Instead, UMD was guilty of some ugly lapses over the course of some of those seven games. It was those lapses, and not a general lack of effort, that kept the Bulldogs from winning.

On Friday, things could have gone south. St. Cloud State scored first after a clean offensive zone faceoff win, as Kalle Kossila tipped in an Andrew Prochno blue-line shot. The play was made possible after UMD's fourth line was guilty of a somewhat silly icing. Because that group couldn't change, it was paramount to win the draw, and when Cory Thorson won it for SCSU, UMD was in a bit of trouble.

Unlike UMD's last Friday home game, a 2-0 loss to Wisconsin in October, this game featured a strong response by UMD. It started in goal, where Aaron Crandall made some key saves during SCSU power plays late in the first and around the midway point of the second period. UMD had just 11 shots on goal through 35 minutes of play, thanks to a dedicated defensive effort that clogged up passing and shooting lanes. The Bulldogs missed the net or failed to pull the trigger on a number of quality scoring chances.

As the game wore on, freshman Tony Cameranesi's line did more and more to establish itself, and the hard work finally resulted in a goal at 16:20 of the second, when great passing by Austin Farley and Mike Seidel sprung their center behind the St. Cloud State defense, even though SCSU's top pair of Nick Jensen and Prochno (they're really good players, too) was on the ice. Cameranesi didn't miss, and UMD tied the game.

When finally afforded a power play chance in the third period, UMD struck. The Bulldogs worked hard around the net to maintain puck possession, and after a scramble, the puck came to Wade Bergman, who got a wrist shot by a down-and-out St. Cloud goalie Ryan Faragher for a 2-1 lead.


UMD was disciplined throughout the game, though there were still some hits thrown. The Bulldogs had just eight penalty minutes all night, and there were only a couple glaring misses by the officiating crew that would have added to that total.

Crandall was rock-solid in goal, and probably earned himself a second straight start on Saturday. The netminder made some big saves, appeared to see the puck well through traffic, and kept rebound opportunities to a minimum. By no means is this a sign that Crandall is about to earn the full-time No. 1 job, no more than a couple quality performances would have put Matt McNeely in that position. It's too early for that. But Crandall should start the series finale.

Justin Crandall worked in the middle instead of Caleb Herbert, and while there were some good things from that line (with Joe Basaraba), you can see that players are struggling with their confidence in the offensive zone. There is too much tentative play, made obvious when you see guys passing up good shooting chances for passes or drives to the net. When things aren't going your way, nothing seems easy. I don't know if this group will be broken up heading into Saturday, but if they can't start showing more in the offensive zone, that time could be coming.


In other action of note Friday, Colorado College stormed back from a 4-0 deficit to earn a 4-4 non-conference tie with New Hampshire. CC plays Yale Saturday, after those Bulldogs upset Denver 2-1 in overtime.

In league play, Alaska Anchorage and Bemidji State played to a 2-2 draw at Sanford Center, while Minnesota State beat Wisconsin 4-2 for the Mavericks' first win at Kohl Center since 2008.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Game 11: St. Cloud State at UMD

After a four-week hiatus, UMD returns home Friday to take on St. Cloud State. The Huskies are 6-4 and coming off a bye week, while 2-6-2 UMD is still trying to shake a seven-game winless skid.

UMD is 2-1-1 against SCSU in this building, with the loss being an 8-2 humdinger during the 2010-11 season, and the wins both coming in a two-game WCHA playoff series here in March 2011.



Farley - Cameranesi - Seidel
Herbert - Crandall (Justin) - Basaraba
Danberg - Hendrickson - Flaherty
DeLisle - Young - Krause

Olson - Welinski
Bergman - Johnson
Smith - Casto

Crandall (Aaron) - McNeely - Fons

Hanowski - LeBlanc - Bertsch
Murray - Dowd - Morley
Kossila - Thorson - Brodzinski
Oliver - Rehkamp - Milan

Prochno - Jensen
Gravel - Prow
Rabey - Daly

Faragher - Reijola

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Game 10: UMD at North Dakota

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Off an exciting 4-4 tie that was virtually everything but a win for UMD, the Bulldogs try again to snap their winless slide.

For all the talk about UMD's poor record in this barn, the Bulldogs are now 1-0-1 in their last two games here.

Hey, it's something. Can't move Earth in an instant.



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

Olson - Welinski
Bergman - Johnson
Smith - Casto

McNeely - Crandall (Aaron)

MacMillan - Knight - Kristo
Caggiula - Grimaldi - St. Clair
O'Donnell - Rowney - Gaarder
Pattyn - Chyzyk - Rodwell

MacWilliam - Mattson
Forbort - Schmaltz
Simpson - Panzarella

Gothberg - Saunders - Maris

UMD Signs Three Recruits

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Missed the chance to post this Friday, because I was already at the rink when it was announced.

But if you didn't hear, UMD officially signed three 2013-14 recruits to letters of intent during the fall signing period.

Of course, this is all pending the whole NCAA Clearinghouse bit, but here is the lowdown:

Alexander Iafallo • F • 5-11 • 165 • 12/21/93 • Eden, N.Y. (Fargo/USHL)
Is in his second tour of duty with the Fargo Force, the club formerly coached by UMD assistant Jason Herter ... has two points (one goal, one assist) to his credit through three games this year ... racked up 32 points in 58 appearances in his first season with the club last winter, racking up 32 points on 17 goals and 15 assists ... tallied three power play markers and finished the season with a +11 rating ... current teammates with fellow Bulldog recruit Dominic Toninato.

Dan Molenaar • D • 5-11 • 186 • 7/5/93 • Eden Prairie, Minn. (Sioux City/USHL)
Spent last season with two different USHL clubs (Green Bay and Sioux City) after wrapping up a stellar prep career as a point-producing defender at perennial powerhouse Eden Prairie High School ... finished his first season on the USHL circuit with 18 points on two goals and 16 assists (including nine on the power play) ... has two goals and one assist to his credit through nine games in 2012-13 while sharing the locker room with UMD recruits Jared Thomas and Blake Heinrich.

Kyle Osterberg • F • 5-8 • 171 • 9/5/94 • Lakeville, Minn. (Omaha/USHL)
Caught the attention of the college hockey world when he made a verbal commitment to UMD prior to his 16th birthday ... bolted from the prep scene after just one season with Lakeville South, a year in which he led the club with 63 points (19 goals, 44 assists) ... joined the United State National Team Development Program (NTDP) after leading all Minnesota freshmen in points in 2009-10 ... totaled a combined four goals and 19 assists while playing with both the U-18 and U-17 teams the past two seasons ... has seven points (two goals, five assists) through his first 10 USHL games with the Omaha Lancers. 

More should be coming in the spring, but this is the list for now.

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Bulldogs Didn't Win, But Progress Made

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- No, it wasn't a win.

No, a tie is not a win. But Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena, a tie indicated progress.

At this still-somewhat-early stage of the college hockey season, UMD fans should be pleased with progress.

The Bulldogs earned a 4-4 tie here in a wild game that featured 135 shot attempts, 79 shots on goal, 85 faceoffs, and enough momentum swings to drive both coaches to baldness.

There was a lot of good in these 65 minutes for the visitors. A lot.

There was also some bad, but we'll start with the good.

This was another good night for Tony Cameranesi's line, centering Austin Farley and Mike Seidel. Both of Cameranesi's linemates scored, with Farley netting a pair, and each of the three had at least one point in the game.

After a weekend in Omaha where they were average to mediocre, UMD's all-senior line of Jake Hendrickson, Cody Danberg, and Keegan Flaherty were as good as they've been all season on Friday. They were a combined plus-four, active on the forecheck, and created scoring chances. Drew Olson's game-tying goal came with this trio on the ice.

UMD's defense was pretty solid in this game. There were still some mistakes, but I thought Olson rebounded from a tough Sunday with a strong game, and Wade Bergman added another solid performance to his streak of them. He isn't fighting the puck like he was before, and I think he's been more active in the offensive zone, something I like to see from him because I know he's fully capable of being a factor there.

The Bulldogs moved the puck up the rink pretty well, avoiding the blue-line turnovers I discussed in my series preview. I thought UND's transition opportunities were limited for the most part.

Biggest need for improvement? UMD failed on a couple occasions to make the simple chip play out of the defensive zone to relieve pressure. A couple of times, UND scored as a result (this was more a factor on the first goal than the second). UMD also got out-numbered down low on both of the other North Dakota goals (Danny Kristo's second that came off the rush and tied it in the second, and Rocco Grimaldi's goal in the third). Simply put, UMD has to protect the net better.

But this was a 65-minute effort. Had plenty of reason for optimism about this UMD group, even if the winless streak did indeed hit six.

Of course, now UMD has to take the next step. After stringing together perhaps its best effort of the season to this point, UMD has to find a way to win. Follow a solid road point up with a two-point effort. Do that, and perhaps the vultures will circle someone else's team next week.


I wouldn't be surprised if the lineup was tweaked a bit for Saturday's game. I don't know of any injuries on the UMD side, but I did think the top line of Caleb Herbert, Justin Crandall, and Joe Basaraba struggled for the most part. They were a collective minus-six, and didn't play much late in the game as a result. When a coach goes to three lines, and the top line (as listed on the chart, at least) isn't one of them, it's a sign of trouble.

No real clue what the remedy is. I just don't know that coach Scott Sandelin can put those three out as a group again. Freshman Cal Decowski didn't make the trip, and while I know the coaches think they can put freshman Austyn Young (scratched Friday) in the middle, I haven't seen enough of him to know if he's the answer or not.

Junior Max Tardy is the "convenient" answer, but he's been scratched as much as he has this season for a reason, and it's hard to imagine he's suddenly ready to center a top-six line.

That said, if there is a change made, that's going to be it.

I'd expect freshman Matt McNeely to start this game. It isn't that Aaron Crandall played poorly Friday, but he also didn't jump off the page as having earned the chance to start the second game. That competition will continue for a while, I think.


There were only three other games on Friday, but all three were crazy for their own reasons.

We'll start in Minneapolis, where Wisconsin somehow got a 2-2 tie with Minnesota, despite the Badgers having to kill two major penalties and deal with two forward ejections. Ballsy effort from Mike Eaves' team, no question.

The hits? Courtesy of CJ Fogler (@cjzero on the Twitters), here is Joseph LaBate's brutal check from behind on Minnesota's Erik Haula, who may never play again after such a vicious shot.

Note sarcasm.

Brutal call. Yeah, I know the rule. But 1) Haula spun right before the contact; 2) it actually looked like LaBate tried to pull up, but there wasn't nearly enough time to do that after Haula turned around; 3) WCHA officials (and others in college hockey) routinely usurp the "automatic major" rule for hits where there is clearly no follow-through or real intent. You know, like this one.

Here is Tyler Barnes' hit on Tom Serratore of the Gophers.

I don't have a real issue with this call. It's clearly a bang-bang play, but Barnes looks to lead the contact to Serratore's head/neck area.

Here is the NCAA Rules Committee directive on contact to the head, taken from the rulebook:

To make this rule clearer, any time a player targets the head or neck area of an opponent, it must be a major penalty and a game misconduct penalty at a minimum. This rule is not intended to cover incidental contact or contact with the head that occurs that should be a minor penalty (e.g., unintentional high stick, body check where the contact is initiated at the shoulder or torso, but the follow through makes some contact with the head). Clear direction is being provided here to assist officials, coaches and players with this rule.

Barnes should have been ejected, by the letter of the law, and I believe the officials got it right.

To contrast direct and indirect contact with the head, look at the Barnes hit, and then look at this hit by UND's Andrew MacWilliam on Bulldog freshman Cameranesi from Friday.

MacWilliam might make some head contact here, but the direct contact is with the shoulder, not the head and neck. It's not a dirty hit, and while you could argue that the stick made contact with Cameranesi's head on the follow-through of the hit, that is not a major penalty. It's also not easy to see something like that as quickly as it unfolds for those without the benefit of slow-motion.

(Case in point: I argued on the air that this was a penalty. Upon further review, my cap is tipped to referees Todd Anderson and Brad Shepherd for not making this call. They got it right.)

Anyway, nice tie for the Badgers Friday. Neither LaBate nor Barnes were DQed, so they can play Saturday.


Who can't play Saturday? Colorado College senior Rylan Schwartz, who was DQed for contact to the head at 20:00 of the third period in CC's crazy 6-5 loss to Denver in Colorado Springs. I'm still seeking video of the end-of-game scrum, one that reportedly included Denver goalie Juho Olkinuora fighting CC's Alexander Krushelnyski. Olkinuora got a five and a DQ for fighting, while Krushelnyski is not listed on the online game sheet with any penalties.

If video surfaces, I'll post. Also, if there is any further discipline levied by the WCHA, I'll let you know about it.

As for the game, Denver led 2-0, then CC tied it. Denver scored four straight to take a 6-2 lead, but CC roared back with three in a row, and nearly tied it in the closing seconds before all hell broke loose.

Denver had six different goal scorers. Paul Phillips (0-2), David Makowski (1-1), and Joey LaLeggia (1-1) were the only players with two points.

Schwartz had two goals and an assist, Mike Boivin scored twice, William Rapuzzi had three assists, and Krushelnyski had two.


No fights in Bemidji on Friday, but Michigan Tech might have saved its season. In danger of falling to 1-6 in league play, Tech trailed Bemidji State 4-1 in the second period. Blake Pietila scored late in the second period, and then Jujhar Khaira netted a pair of power-play goals in the third period to draw the Huskies even.

Alex Petan then scored the overtime winner to give MTU a 5-4 win. Huge win for the Huskies, and a crushing home loss for Bemidji State.

Michigan Tech scored three goals in five power-play chances, which was the difference in the game.


Other local college hockey from Friday:

In men's Division III, UW-Stout beat UWS 4-1 in Menomonie. The loss snaps the Yellowjackets' five-game winning streak. The teams meet Saturday in Superior.

The UMD women beat St. Cloud State 4-1. All the game's scoring happened in the second period, and UMD scored a season-high for goals.

The UWS women beat Concordia of Wisconsin 4-0 at Wessman Arena. Both the UMD and UWS women close out their respective series with Saturday afternoon games.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Game 9: UMD at North Dakota

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Greetings from Grand Forks, where UMD enters the proverbial house of horrors to try to snap a five-game winless streak.

UMD is 3-12-2 all-time at Ralph Engelstad Arena, and has been outscored by more than two goals per game over that stretch.

UND has given UMD plenty of fits over the years in Duluth, too, but the numbers aren't quite as pronounced, and the games are usually more competitive.

It's been a strange season so far, so it wouldn't be a shock at all to see UMD get points out of this series.



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

Olson - Welinski
Bergman - Johnson
Smith - Casto

Crandall (Aaron) - McNeely

Kristo - Knight - Rowney
O'Donnell -  MacMillan - Gaarder
Caggiula - Grimaldi - Parks
Pattyn - St. Clair - Rodwell

MacWilliam - Mattson
Forbort - Schmaltz
Simpson - Gleason

Saunders - Gothberg - Maris

Thursday, November 15, 2012

UMD Returns to Grand Forks, Trying to Stop Slide

Over the years, UMD has seen some droughts when it comes to trips to WCHA buildings.

Even knowing that, it's really strange to think that the Bulldogs haven't visited Ralph Engelstad Arena in over two years.

It was Nov. 5-6, 2010. UMD fell 4-2 in the series opener before beating UND in overtime 3-2 on a Justin Fontaine winner.

Because it's been so long -- and UMD has struggled so much in that building -- the Bulldogs only have five players who have scored points in Grand Forks. All five are seniors. Jake Hendrickson has a goal, while Wade Bergman, Cody Danberg, Keegan Flaherty, and Drew Olson all have assists.

"I was actually talking to Matt McNeely in class about what it's like to play there (in Grand Forks)," sophomore defenseman Derik Johnson said this week. He then noted that it was a little strange to be asking a younger player what it was like in an opponent's arena, which it kind of is if you think about it.

(McNeely played there while with the U.S. Under 18 Team. He made 38 saves on 40 shots in a 2-1 loss to North Dakota in December 2010.)

Friday and Saturday, UMD returns to The Ralph, looking for a points to end a slump and get the mojo going again. While points have been hard to come by in that building for the Bulldogs, they are 5-6-1 against UND in the last 12 meetings. It's not like UMD can't beat this team, and the opportunities to do so at Ralph Engelstad Arena have been few and far between lately.

It'll change next year, when both teams move into the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. With a 24-game league schedule, teams will have two opponents they don't play four games against in a single season. It increases the frequency of trips to every city in the league, and eliminates goofy droughts like this with schools that are only a four-hour drive apart.


For the Bulldogs, it's a quick turnaround, but that might not be a bad thing. While UMD appeared to wear down with limited available depth in Sunday's loss to Omaha, four days is enough to get ready for another two-game series. This time around, there is no 2pm game. Both games are at night, and it might help settle UMD into a sense of normalcy.

Combine that with the sense of urgency that comes with a five-game winless streak, and it might be a recipe for good things.

Personally, I thought UMD played a strong 50-55 minutes in Saturday's 3-2 loss to Omaha. They forechecked, took the body, and had the better of the scoring chances.

Head coach Scott Sandelin said as much on Sunday. No one was going to let the Bulldogs off the hook for the awful start that saw them fall behind 2-0. But UMD outplayed Omaha badly in the second period after scoring the last two goals of the first.

The weight of nearly eight minutes of shorthanded time brought on by two major penalties that were accompanied by two player ejections.

(One of those, Johnson, was still not pleased when I found him this week. He said he "wasn't trying to do anything too bad, just grab a guy after the whistle." But Matt White's facemask came away from his helmet, and the officials felt they had little choice but to call a major. Sandelin thought the major on Adam Krause was marginal, and I don't disagree, but there's little that can be done about either.)

Discipline is an issue, but in the eight years I've worked with Sandelin, UMD has always walked the line a bit when it comes to penalties. The coaching staff has never wanted to discourage its players from playing hard and playing physical. Along with that comes the potential for a penalty here and there. What Sandelin doesn't want are guys committing unnecessary major penalties or other aggressive penalties, lazy penalties (a list that generally includes hooking, holding, tripping, etc.), or misconducts. UMD has seen two of those, and a ten-minute misconduct isn't good for anyone.

The team traveled to Grand Forks Thursday, will skate Friday morning, and play Friday night. It's the first road trip that follows the "normal" routine, and while no one will use it as an excuse for poor play, I guarantee it won't hurt the group at all.


As for North Dakota, it's not the same type of team we saw last season in Duluth. TAFKATFS (The Artists Formerly Known As The Fighting Sioux) have speed to burn all over the lineup, along with more depth, big and physical defensemen, and quality goaltending.

And if you think head coach Dave Hakstol feels sorry for UMD's little dry spell, or isn't taking this weekend seriously as a result, you're nuts.

"They're young in some areas, but they've got some great leadership up front," Hakstol said this week. "And some of the young skill and talent they have is outstanding.

"I'm basing them on performance now, not their record."

UND can move. On the first goal of Friday's 3-0 win over St. Cloud, the puck went from the North Dakota blue line to the back of St. Cloud State's net in around four seconds. Their transition game is explosive, making it important for UMD to take care of the puck and find ways to negate their speed through the neutral zone.

Duluth native Derek Forbort, a junior defenseman, has really come into his own as of late. Hakstol said Forbort has to adjust to the bigger minutes he's getting, but the coach seems to like what he's seeing out of the former Duluth East Greyhound.

"He's been a key player for us," Hakstol said. "Derek has really shown a lot of growth as a player. Now he needs to continue to grow into a spotlight and prime-time role with our team."

It's not a must-sweep or anything, but UMD needs to start building some positives. The league hasn't been won yet, but "one point in two league weekends" makes for a tough hill to climb for the Bulldogs. They probably can't afford to fall any further behind.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Video: Frank Serratore Clairvoyant After Win

This is a couple days old, but still worth the time to post.

After Friday's 5-1 win over Penn State, Air Force men's hockey coach Frank Serratore sat down for a press conference with the assembled media. What followed -- even for a Serratore, which sets a pretty high standard -- was absolute gold.

Serratore's money shot came around 35 seconds in, when he declared that if his Falcons were to play that way in Saturday's series finale, the score would be reversed.

Penn State ended up winning Saturday's game ... 5-1.

Contained in this video is exactly why the college hockey media loves the Serratore brothers (Tom is the head coach at Bemidji State). They're absolutely fantastic when near a microphone.

Of course, when you turn off the microphone, they're even better, because the language has a tendency to get a little colorful.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Game 8: UMD at Nebraska Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. -- Things to watch for in this game are plentiful. They include UMD's discipline, five-on-five scoring, physical play (which goes back to the discipline issue, because you can't be afraid to take penalties and not hit as a result), and defensive zone coverage, which can -- and must -- continue to improve.

Also, watch the first couple shifts. See which team -- if either -- gets a big hit or a big play to get some energy going. I'm not expecting a big crowd, so the energy will probably have to come from within. Coaches and players call it "creating your own atmosphere."

You can also watch Charlie Sampair, who makes his UMD debut in this game. 



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

Olson - Welinski
Bergman - Corrin
Smith - Sampair

McNeely - Crandall (Aaron)

Searfoss - Montpetit - Raubenheimer
Walters - Zombo - Archibald
Gwidt - Pearce - White
Polk - Lane - Schmit

Megna - Sustr
Seeler - Aneloski
Young - O'Rourke

Faulkner - Stolarz - Belfour

Undisciplined and Unlucky: UMD Must Shed Labels

OMAHA, Neb. -- It's hard to win hockey games when you're undisciplined. Killing off a ton of penalties is a good way to wear down your best players -- most of whom will kill penalties. It's not a good way to be successful.

When you're snakebit, life becomes even more difficult.

UMD enters Sunday's game averaging over 20 penalty minutes per game, and with just five goals over a four-game winless streak, its longest such streak since late in the 2008-09 season.

Saturday's 3-2 Omaha win was contentious, with both teams engaging in some chippy play. However, UMD was the only of the two teams to commit a major penalty, and the Bulldogs had two of them.

As a result, UMD piled up 38 penalty minutes in the game, and the Bulldogs had to kill off nearly seven minutes of major penalty-triggered UNO power play time in the third period. It was too much to ask, as Michael Young netted the game-winning goal in the third period after Adam Krause was ejected for a hit from behind.

Earlier, defenseman Derik Johnson was ejected for pulling the facemask of a UNO player. The public address announcer described the penalty as a game disqualification, meaning Johnson is out for the rest of the series. Subsequent stat sheet updates in the press box labeled the penalty as a misconduct, which would allow Johnson to return to the lineup Sunday. The official stats -- viewable here -- have a DQ listed.

(Coaches Scott Sandelin and Jason Herter were in the hotel lobby working on a game plan, and I didn't feel like interrupting them. I've been given no reason to think the official stats linked above are wrong, but I can tell you that the communication of this decision to the UMD bench Saturday night could not have been good.)

Either way, it's another in a series of undisciplined penalties on a team that is having enough trouble scoring without filling its foot with bullet holes.

UMD outplayed UNO five-on-five, but UNO had the only even-strength goal. The Bulldogs have to figure out a way to score at even strength. They are the only WCHA team that has gotten half or more of their total goals so far with the man advantage. If that trend continues, UMD won't realize its full potential.

Of course, the Bulldogs seem to be battling Murphy's Law right now. Lots of goofy bounces, bad breaks, and other such issues that aren't completely in their control.

"You make your own luck" is a farcical statement. It's a loser's lament and a winner's apology. It diminishes the meaning of luck and the influence it can have on the outcome of games. I have abhorred its use for some time, but it doesn't stop the words from coming out of coaches' mouths.

You don't make your own luck. Hell, that sentence is contradictory. Luck can't be created (unless it's Andrew). Luck happens. And just because you admit to being lucky (or unlucky) doesn't mean it's the only reason for your team's success (or lack thereof).

Examples? Sure. I have one that hits close to home.

The 2011 national championship game.

Am I saying -- or implying -- that UMD won because of luck? Hell, no. UMD earned that baby.

However, it's rare to see a 9-4 split in power plays in a closely-contested game that has so much on the line. It's hard to dispute many of the calls or non-calls in the game, but the fact of the matter is that most officiating crews wouldn't have the stones to call a national championship game the way that crew did on that night. It didn't help UMD win, because the Bulldogs ran into a very good penalty kill, but had the split not been as large, it would have changed the way the game was played. That could have made it tougher for the better team to win.

Going the other way, last year's Final Five saw UMD run into a white-hot Sam Brittain in the semifinals. By losing that game, the Bulldogs were shipped to the Northeast Regional, and ran into a clearly-superior Boston College team. If UMD had found a way to beat Brittain one more time on those 70 shots on goal, the regional destination could have changed, and so may have UMD's fortunes.

It's a fine line, but right now it's clear UMD is working hard, generally playing very hard, and not getting a lot of reward for the effort. Teams go through runs like this, where it seems every mistake or bad bounce ends up in the back of their net. It's happened to UMD before. The key here is how the Bulldogs respond.

Perhaps a quick turnaround helps. No time to sit around and think ... only time to recharge the body and get back on the ice.

In a matter of hours, we'll see if UMD can start to turn things back in its favor, or if the slump will extend to Grand Forks on Friday.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Game 7: UMD at Nebraska Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. -- Time to get this series rolling ... finally.

Expecting a 5,000-ish crowd here for the opener, which doesn't directly compete against Nebraska football, but comes close enough (that game should be over before this one starts). Might be fewer people than that for Sunday.



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

Olson - Johnson
Bergman - Welinski
McManus - Corrin

McNeely - Crandall (Aaron)

Searfoss - Montpetit - Raubenheimer
Walters - Zombo - Archibald
Gwidt - Pearce - White
Polk - Lane - Schmit

Megna - Sustr
Seeler - Aneloski
Turgeon - Young

Faulkner - Stolarz - Belfour

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Bulldogs Face Challenge in Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. -- This is a tough stretch of games for UMD to try to climb back over .500. Six games that could send things south in a hurry if they don't go well, even if I think it's unrealistic to expect such a thing to happen.

The Bulldogs had a bye last week, a chance to correct the little errors that have helped cause a 2-3-1 start to the 2012-13 season. It's too early to panic, but there is definitely room for improvement.

Nebraska Omaha is the opponent this weekend. The Mavericks are 4-3-1 after sweeping Michigan Tech in Houghton last weekend. While UNO isn't blessed with great scoring depth, Dean Blais has some really hard-working kids up front on his third and fourth lines, and there are some trees in the back.

UMD coach Scott Sandelin has talked a lot to me about wanting his team to be hard to play against this year. If last weekend's series is any indication, he has no better example to show the kids than the Mavericks.

UNO was ready from the outset against Michigan Tech, and one of the things that jumps off the page is the fact that this was a really hard team for Tech to play against. Not much time and space. They were hard on pucks. They mixed in a little 1-3-1 at times, which seemed to frustrate Tech. Friday was really a perfect road game for UNO, as it took the crowd out of things early, and took advantage of opportunities.

Zach Raubenheimer had both goals in that Friday win, including a beauty of a short-handed goal. Dude has some hands, as he showed on his short-handed game winner in the final moments of the third period.

It's not surprising that a Blais-coached team would be tough to play against, nor that a team coached by one of Blais' students would want to be that way.

What's mildly surprising is that -- outside of a spurt here or a spurt there -- it hasn't really clicked yet for UMD. The Bulldogs were far too easy to play against in the Friday loss to Wisconsin, as well as for a chunk of the series against Notre Dame. The trend reversed for the first 40 minutes of the Saturday game against the Badgers, but the Bulldogs weren't sharp in the first part of the third period and paid for it.

It has to be a more consistent UMD team this weekend, and moving beyond. UNO, North Dakota, and St. Cloud State are the next three opponents, and they'll be ready to pounce if the Bulldogs are uneven in their effort and/or execution.


One thing I'll try to watch closely is how Blais tries to match lines up against UMD, and how Sandelin counters. As the home team, Blais' Mavericks get the last change, which should theoretically allow him to get his top forwards -- guys like Raubenheimer, Josh Archibald, Brock Montpetit, Matt White, etc. -- away from UMD's all-senior group of Jake Hendrickson, Cody Danberg, and Keegan Flaherty.

However, if the game has flow to it and few whistles, Sandelin could have some opportunities to get his defensively-responsible trio on the ice against a top UNO line.

Another point to watch for is the play of UMD's top players. A huge part of the Bulldogs' challenge this weekend is getting more opportunities for sophomore Caleb Herbert to make things happen in the offensive zone. Herbert has just nine shots on goal in eight games, with three of them coming in the last game, the first of six this season where Herbert played on a wing instead of center five-on-five. Even if he moves back into the middle, I hope he is heading in the right direction.

He still hasn't scored this season, but we saw glimpses of what made him so dangerous as a freshman in that tie against Wisconsin. Makes me think a breakout game isn't all that far away. If it happens this weekend, this will be a perfectly enjoyable road trip.

I don't know what to expect with the rest of the lineup. Without knowing, I'd guess that much of it stays the same, with some tweaks possible on defense as Sandelin and his staff try to find the right combination of players there (doesn't help that sophomore Chris Casto is banged up and won't play, though it opens the door for others to show their stuff). I finally got the goaltending situation right last time UMD played, and I'm guessing we'll see freshman Matt McNeely start Saturday, with Sunday determined by how things go Saturday.

But that's just a guess. Stay tuned.


Everyone else in the WCHA who is playing this weekend got things going on Friday. Being in Omaha and unwilling to pay to watch any of the games, I didn't see them. Here's what happened.

In Mankato, Denver took a 3-0 lead, watched Minnesota State creep closer, but held on late for a 4-3 win. Daniel Doremus scored on DU's only shot of the third period, and it stood as the game-winner after a furious Maverick rally fell short. MSU led in shots 36-20, including 30-11 over the final 40 minutes. Doremus and Nolan Zajac -- yeah, he's related -- each had a goal and an assist.

Clarke Saunders pitched a 32-save shutout as North Dakota won at St. Cloud State 3-0. It marks UND's first Friday win at St. Cloud since 1998, which was long enough ago that I was still single when it happened. Brendan O'Donnell scored at :48 of the first period, with Carter Rowney and Mark MacMillan (short-handed) adding the rest of the North Dakota offense.

Rylan Schwartz had two goals, including the game-winner late in the second period, as Colorado College beat Bemidji State at home 3-2. Jordan George and Danny Mattson had the BSU goals. At one point, the live stats humorously said that George scored twice, both at the 6:24 mark of the first period. He's fast, but he isn't that fast.

Late Friday, Minnesota scored twice in each of the first two periods in a 4-0 whitewashing of Alaska Anchorage. The Gophers shredded the UAA penalty kill, scoring all four goals over six power play chances. Kyle Rau had two goals, while Erik Haula and Nate Schmidt each had two assists. Adam Wilcox only had to make 14 saves for the shutout.

In local Division III hockey, UWS got a Michael Orosey overtime goal to beat UW-Stevens Point 3-2. The Yellowjackets are 4-1 after a fourth straight win. UW-Eau Claire stayed unbeaten by knocking off St. Scholastica 5-1.


Saturday's game starts at 7pm here, with Sunday's game at 2pm. I talked to senior defenseman Drew Olson during the week, and one thing that's worth watching is how the teams start out on Sunday. There won't be much of an atmosphere in the building, as UNO hasn't drawn particularly well this season, and their Sunday home games over the years have been played in front of very sparse crowds (last year's against St. Cloud State drew an announced 5,800 or so, but witnesses placed the actual number far below that).

Both games are live on 94X and the Bulldog Sports Radio Network. Download the FREE Red Rock Radio app to listen live on your iPhone or Droid, or check for streaming info.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Bulldogs Hope Bye Week Cures Struggles

OMAHA, Neb. -- For the UMD Bulldogs, there's good and bad to last week's bye.

The good? Any time a team is struggling, the coach will take the bye. UMD, winless in three and with three goals scored over those three games, certainly isn't in a position to turn down a bye.

The bad? Well, in an ideal world, you can heal some injuries during a bye week. UMD was and is a pretty healthy team, so in that regard, the timing might be a little off.

Either way, the schedule says take the week off, and the Bulldogs did that. It gave them a chance to work on a few things.

"I think for us it was a little awkward," senior defenseman and assistant captain Drew Olson said. "I think it's maybe something we needed to do right away. We were kind of up and down a little bit. I think we needed a little break to look back and see what we were doing good and what we were doing bad."

Olson said youth plays a role in the team's inconsistency, but that's something that has to solve itself.

A good example of the inconsistency was found in the third period of the team's last game, a 2-2 tie with struggling Wisconsin. It was a game UMD led 2-0 through two periods, and the Bulldogs appeared to be in complete control. A turnover created by Luke McManus falling down on his own in the defensive zone led to a Mark Zengerle goal early in the period, and the Badgers had life.

"I think we were a little too tentative (starting the third period)," Olson said. "Once they scored that first goal, it kind of put us back on our heels, and they took it to us a bit."

Wisconsin tied it with around five minutes to go, and Olson noted that UMD picked its game up after that, taking things to the Badgers for most of the rest of regulation and overtime, outside of the time needed to successfully kill off a penalty that carried into the extra session.

It's easy to look at 2-3-1 and think UMD is in for a tough season. However, such negativity should be slowed down by a few things.
  • 2-3-1 was UMD's record through six games last season. The second win and the tie came in a series at Providence, and were the first two games of UMD's 17-game unbeaten streak that carried into the new year before it ended in, you guessed it, Omaha.
  • There is plenty of talent on the offensive side, but while some guys appear to be doing a decent job scoring goals, Mike Seidel hasn't scored since opening weekend, and Caleb Herbert -- arguably this group's best offensive player -- hasn't scored at all.
  • Thought to be a strength going into the season, the defensive corps hasn't rounded into form ... yet. Sophomore Chris Casto -- thought by many to be a solid prospect to turn pro after the season -- had such a hard time with the puck against Notre Dame Oct. 19 that he got benched for more than half the game. Senior Wade Bergman hasn't quite been himself. He's been positionally sound, but I continue to think he's struggling with the puck a little bit. Even the best defensemen fight the puck every now and then, so I think it's just a matter of time before Bergman gets it going again. Olson has been fantastic, and you can see the potential of freshman Andy Welinski, too, even though he's yet to really put together a three-period game since the season opener.
The point here? There's no need to open the plastic lid that protects the "PANIC" button, not after six games, because there are plenty of positives.
  • While the power play was empty against UW, it's been moving the puck, and I thought the man-advantage effort in the Saturday tie was very good at times, even though the unit didn't score. Half of UMD's 14 goals so far have come with an extra body on the ice compared to the other team.
  • Some of these freshmen look like they're going to be very good. Welinski will be a power play quarterback to be reckoned with by mid-season. Tony Cameranesi and Cal Decowski have impressed at center, which is a tough position to play in to start a Division I career. They're clearly improving on faceoffs, and you can see their overall confidence growing in virtually every shift they take. 
  • Junior Joe Basaraba might "only" have two goals so far, but he's been a beast physically. He was cited by multiple people as one of the few bright spots in that 2-0 loss to Wisconsin that no one wants to talk about. He was active in all zones, used his body effectively, and was able to get a couple chances at the net as a result of his strong play.
  • How about that goaltending? Freshman Matt McNeely may already have the ins on the No. 1 job, and it isn't a thing that junior Aaron Crandall has done wrong. McNeely's confidence grew throughout his first start, a win at Notre Dame, and he looked very good in his first back-to-back against Wisconsin. If the lanky, athletic youngster keeps this up, there's a chance he could be a 25-28 game (or more) starter for this team, and no coach is going to turn that down from a freshman. "He's been playing well," Olson said of McNeely. "He's confident in the net, and he makes the big key saves when you need him to. That's what you need as a team, to have that confidence in the goaltender ... so you can take a few more chances."
I know I'm biased, but there's no need to panic here.

UMD has a very tough stretch of games coming up -- with this weekend's set in Omaha followed by a trip to North Dakota and a visit from St. Cloud State. If the Bulldogs can play .500 hockey in the next six games, there's a chance to accumulate some points before the Christmas break.

Given the opposition, it might be a lofty goal for a young team that hasn't quite found its groove yet. But if UMD can be hovering around .500 the week after Thanksgiving, it'll be big down the road. As this team improves, it'll need some quality performances in the coming weeks to keep the ol' power rankings from forgetting about UMD.

(Yes, I just brought up the power rankings. In early November. In my defense, Duluth News Tribune ace Kevin Pates brought the power rankings up in a conversation we had outside Amsoil Arena Tuesday. And if he brings it up, I'm perfectly justified in doing so.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Random Rabble: Election Day

Get out and vote. Seriously. You probably don't need me to remind you, but there it is, anyway.

You'll notice that I haven't spent much time dissecting the issues on this blog. I figure you're here to read about sports -- chiefly UMD hockey -- so you don't need me polluting the feed with my views on things. I do enough of that on Twitter, and if you follow me there (thanks, by the way), you can probably figure out how I'm voting on the two major amendment issues in Minnesota, as well as the presidential race. That'll be all of that.

UMD hockey returns from its off week to play at Nebraska Omaha this weekend. Games are 7pm Saturday and 2pm Sunday, due to Creighton basketball occupying the Century Link Center Omaha on Friday night.

(I've heard good things about the atmosphere in that building for hoops, so I'm going to try to go to that game and check it out for myself.)

As for UMD, this will be the first road trip in WCHA play, which means a number of healthy players will be left at home. These are never easy decisions for the coaching staff, but they're usually more troublesome this early in the season. Without having asked, I'd expect the lineup to greatly resemble what was on the ice for the Saturday night draw against Wisconsin. Yes, there was a blown lead and a lost point in that game, but I thought the team played very well and did many more good things than bad.

The UMD volleyball team plays Concordia-St. Paul Tuesday night in St. Paul. UMD has won eight straight since dropping a match to Augustana in five sets last month. Concordia has won 12 straight since UMD beat the Golden Bears in Duluth in late September. In addition, CSP hasn't lost a set at home in 13 straight matches. Incredible run.

There are tremendous implications to this match, even though it's non-conference (the match in Duluth was an NSIC match, but this one does not count in the league standings ... instead, the coaches have agreed to play each other twice this season, and I'd say it's a hell of a good move). UMD could sweep a season series from the five-time national champs, something that would only help in the all-important Central Region rankings. The Bulldogs are fifth in the rankings that came out last week, while Concordia was in first. The top eight teams make the NCAAs, and there really isn't any reason to think UMD won't make it, no matter what happens Tuesday. But the Bulldogs could do wonderful things for their seeding with a victory.

Speaking of rankings, the UMD football team is perilously close to not making the Division II playoffs. A win last Saturday over Mary -- along with a loss by Emporia State -- lifted UMD back into the top six of Super Region Three. That's huge, since six teams will make the playoffs when the field is announced Sunday. The 9-1 Bulldogs can virtually cement their spot in the tournament with a win over Northern State (6-4) Saturday. UMD hasn't missed the playoffs since 2007, and I doubt this team plans on changing that trend. Once the playoffs begin, a two-time national champion with the amount of experience the Bulldogs sport becomes dangerous no matter its seed.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Dangerous, Controversial Hits Take Headlines

(Yeah, I took a week and didn't update the blog. Sue me.)

Off weekends aren't the best, because we all enjoy what we do, and an off weekend means we don't get to cover the team that we normally cover.

What does it mean? In the case of Friday night, I'll park my expanding posterior on the couch and watch hockey on television.

There were some very good games on, too. Minnesota State-Minnesota was on Fox Sports North, Colorado College-Wisconsin on Fox Sports Wisconsin and Altitude, and Boston University-North Dakota was beamed on Fox College Sports and NESN.

Unfortunately, two of the three games featured hits that were -- at the least -- a tad controversial.

We'll start in Grand Forks, where North Dakota got a Connor Gaarder hat trick to topple Boston U. 4-2.

Gaarder's hat trick came only after he took a hit from behind by a BU player that was called a cross-check. I don't have this particular hit on video, but it was a borderline hit, the kind that could go either way. The best argument for a five-minute major -- outside of the fact that Gaarder was in a vulnerable spot near the boards -- is the idea that most officials will clamp down on these hits in the early part of the season.

The controversy came in the second period, when North Dakota captain Andrew MacWilliam was ejected from the game. Via the indefatigable CJ Fogler (@cjzero on Twitter), here is that hit.

Referees Derek Shepherd and Marco Hunt assessed a major penalty for contact to the head.

Given that Danny O'Regan's hit on Gaarder was only a minor, I'm not a huge fan of this call from a consistency standpoint. I don't think there is flagrant head contact. MacWilliam didn't go for the head of the BU player.

Instead, what bothers me is that the BU player held his head after he got hit, stayed on the ice for quite some time, and then was back in the game 90 seconds into the ensuing power play.

We're supposed to be cracking down on concussions, and we're supposed to be vigilant about head injuries. With that in mind, I don't think it's wise -- as a sport -- to allow players to return to a game less than two minutes after leaving the ice with a head injury.

I'm not about to accuse BU's Ahti Oksanen of embellishment. I couldn't pick him out of a police lineup if he was standing with four UMD players. I don't know his playing style or tendencies, so it wouldn't be fair.

But it sends a very poor message to players if they think they can take an apparent shot to the head and come back to score during the power play that the hit led to. We joke all the time for guys to stay down and sell potential major penalties, but this sport is not helped by players doing that.


In Minneapolis, a bizarre sequence came towards the end of Minnesota's 3-2 win over Minnesota State. With the MSU net empty, Mavericks captain Eriah Hayes hit Minnesota forward Kyle Rau from behind, allowing for an opportunity for Minnesota to pull its goalie ahead of a penalty call. For a short time, both nets were empty.

Here's that hit, also courtesy of Fogler.

I don't like this one bit.

Hayes never sees anything but the back of Rau's jersey. In that situation, with Rau in relatively close proximity to the boards, no contact should be considered permissible. In the middle of the game, it's hard to imagine Don Adam and Timm Walsh letting Hayes get away with a paltry two-minute minor for charging.

Yet, with nine seconds left, that's what they called.


I get that there is no rule or precedent for Hayes being required to sit on Saturday. But this is something we've brought up in discussions both on the air and on Twitter before. Why isn't there a mechanism to penalize players for dangerous and illegal hits late in games -- hits that don't necessarily rise to the level of a game disqualification?

Last Friday, we saw Wisconsin captain John Ramage slew-foot UMD freshman Tony Camaranesi in the waning seconds of the game. With no real recourse, Adam and Walsh chose not to call a major penalty at 20:00 of the third period.

This week, virtually the same thing happens with Hayes.

I don't know where to draw the line, or how to enforce it. But if the trend of flagrant penalties late in games continues, I'd expect to have some sort of an idea by January.

For now, I know I don't like seeing these kinds of hits. Hayes' hit on Rau was on a vulnerable player in a dangerous position. If Rau were three or four inches taller, it could very easily have led to an injury.

It was fitting that MSU's lack of discipline ended any chance at a comeback. It was that problem that led to all three Gopher goals, which came on power play chances. The Maverick penalty kill is struggling. They missed on a number of clearing chances, got simply out-worked most of the night by the Gophers, and eventually succumbed to UMTC's superior skill.

On the bright side, Teddy Blueger is going to be a player, Maverick fans. Actually, MSU has a lot of young forwards with a ton of potential.


In Madison, Colorado College trailed 2-0, but rallied and eventually beat Wisconsin 5-4 in overtime. Alexander Krushelnyski scored the winner less than 30 seconds into the extra session.

Zach Raubenheimer scored short-handed in the waning moments of Friday's 2-1 win for Nebraska Omaha over Michigan Tech. The Huskies are clearly an improved team, but a killer early schedule has them off to a 1-4 start in WCHA play.

In Denver, St. Cloud State scored two in the first and ended up beating the host Pioneers 3-0. Ryan Faragher pitched a 27-save shutout. SCSU won without forward Ben Hanowski, out with an upper-body injury. Nic Dowd -- a potential star in the making -- scored two goals in the win.

Bemidji State and Alaska Anchorage joined UMD on the sidelines this weekend.