Saturday, November 24, 2012

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.

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