Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Here We Go Again

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The definition of insanity is usually described as something remotely resembling the following:

Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

With that in mind, UMD is teetering on the brink of insanity when it comes to Saturday games. Entering this weekend, UMD is 0-6-2 in such situations, with four losses (Ohio State, Notre Dame, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State) and a tie (Michigan Tech) coming when UMD could have swept a series.

(Yes, I know that one of UMD's series finales was on a Friday, and another on a Sunday. Just play along for the sake of simplicity.)

In order for the Bulldogs to make any serious headway up the WCHA table, it's a statistic that simply must turn around.

And you can bet that UMD will keep beating its proverbial head against the wall trying.

Its next attempt at a sweep comes on Saturday, as the Bulldogs routed Alaska Anchorage 5-1 Friday night.

Needless to say, Saturday's game will end up being tremendously more difficult to play than a good chunk of Friday was.

The Bulldogs had their way with the Seawolves from the opening faceoff, when the puck barely left the UAA zone over two shifts that lasted 86 seconds. It was then that Jake Hendrickson scored on a Keegan Flaherty rebound to give UMD a 1-0 lead.

UMD had little resistance for much of the game. UAA just didn't have pushback. They passed on some scoring chances early in favor of ill-fated passes, and the Seawolves went most of the second period without much of anything that resembled a scoring opportunity.

(There was a long shift in the UMD zone, but the Bulldogs blocked a ton of shots, and freshman goalie Matt McNeely only stopped one shot in the whole middle stanza.)

I've mentioned previously that there's part of me that thinks the Bulldogs tend to go as their all-senior line goes. Friday was a shining example of that.

Hendrickson, Flaherty, and captain Cody Danberg were a combined plus-seven, all three factored into the scoring, and the trio did a bang-up job on UAA's top line of Blake Tatchell, Alex Gellert, and Scott Allen. Those three totaled two shots on goal and were a minus-six in the game.

The team effort was notable. Three lines figured in the scoring, with Tony Cameranesi scoring twice, Caleb Herbert pitching in an assist, and the seniors doing what they did. Sophomore defenseman Chris Casto had a strong game with two goals and a plus-three, and UMD's fourth line of Austyn Young, Charlie Sampair, and Adam Krause contributed some strong shifts and five total shots on goal.

But now it's on to the next challenge. UMD has to figure out how to win on a Saturday. UAA wants to play in-your-face hockey, and you can bet that the Bulldogs will see the best of what the Seawolves have to offer in Saturday's game.

To put this game in perspective, the Bulldogs' edge of 38-17 in shots on goal marks the first time since Nov. 20, 2009, that UAA has been outshot by 20 or more in a home game. On that night, it was Minnesota State outshooting the Seawolves 39-16 in an 8-2 win. The next night, UAA outshot the Mavericks 25-22 and won 4-1.

One of the great things about this league is that teams have the opportunity to have a really crappy night, and bounce back 24 hours later.

When the puck drops tomorrow night, UMD better be ready, otherwise it could very well end up being another series split for the Bulldogs heading into finals week.


For the Bulldogs, there is likely little reason to make any lineup changes into Saturday. Young and Sampair played pretty well, I thought, with Young generating scoring chances a couple different times by working hard and/or winning faceoffs. Krause and Justin Crandall were beasts on the penalty kill, even though it wasn't Crandall's strongest offensive game of the season by any means.

UMD only has six defensemen on the trip, so Casto, Tim Smith, Willie Corrin, Wade Bergman, Drew Olson, and Andy Welinski will be back in the lineup on Saturday.

In goal, I was wrong last week when I said I thought McNeely would play again. I'm going to run the risk of being wrong again, because I think McNeely deserves to play again. He was sharp when he had to be, and the only goal came when a UAA player (Chris Crowell, I believe) got a puck to the net low, and McNeely couldn't control it. Tyler Currier was all alone in front, and had a pretty easy tap-in goal.

Not exactly the goalkeep's fault.

I won't complain if the coaching staff decides to mix in the three guys -- counting goalie Aaron Crandall -- who sat out Friday. But I don't see any real reason to tinker with things outside of "just because," so I'll predict the same lineup plays Saturday.

(By the way, there is a plan should a defenseman not be available. Krause worked there a bit this week, and would play on the blue line if it was absolutely necessary. Let's hope it isn't, because if it is and he plays well, we might never hear the end of it. Smiley)


In other WCHA action on Friday, Bemidji State got a third period goal from Aaron McLeod to draw Denver 1-1. Chris Knowlton scored for the Pioneers, who outshot BSU 34-21, but Andrew Walsh made 33 saves in his second straight strong performance in goal for the Beavers. DU is winless in seven, but is still in first place in the league standings.

Minnesota State's winning streak hit seven with a 6-3 win over Omaha. Jonny McInnis scored twice, and Teddy Blueger had three assists. Stephon Williams won again in goal, as MSU scored two insurance goals in the third period on only two shots. The Mavericks are tied for second place, one point behind Denver.

MSU is tied with St. Cloud State, which erupted for four third-period goals to beat Colorado College 5-3. David Morley scored twice, while Jonny Brodzinski, Drew LeBlanc, Nic Dowd, and Nick Jensen all registered two-point nights.

Also, North Dakota blew out Michigan Tech 6-1 in Houghton. Corban Knight had two goals and two assists for UND, while linemate Danny Kristo scored once and assisted on two others. Goalie Clarke Saunders made 34 saves, while Blake Pietila had MTU's only goal. North Dakota is now 6-2-3 in league play for a .682 win percentage. Even though UND is tied with Minnesota in fourth place in the standings with 15 points, that win percentage is the best in the league.

Wisconsin won a non-conference game over Alabama-Huntsville 4-1 to finish up a sweep. The Badgers had four different goal scorers in support of goalie Joel Rumpel.

Even more incredible is the fact that we got through all these games without any major officiating foibles or notable on-ice incidents of any kind. Well done, WCHA. Way to get in the holiday spirit!

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