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.
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.