Friday night at Amsoil Arena, the seniors got in on the scoring act. Center Jake Hendrickson scored twice, and Keegan Flaherty had the game-icing empty-net goal in a 4-2 win over Bemidji State.
Hendrickson's first goal opened the scoring, on a weird play where he almost scored off his glove, then bounced the puck in off the skate of BSU goalie Mathieu Dugas. His second goal was a very impressive net drive where he went forehand-to-backhand and got the puck by Dugas. It gave UMD a 2-1 lead in the third, and it would stand as the game's last lead change.
Joe Basaraba scored 1:21 later for a 3-1 lead, and Flaherty clinched the win in the final minute.
In head coach Scott Sandelin's 500th game behind the UMD bench, the Bulldogs picked up their 100th win since the start of the 2008-2009 season.
The Bulldogs moved into sole possession of eighth place with a win, climbed a game closer to .500, and hopefully got some good vibes going for their older guys.
This wasn't an easy win at all. Bemidji State plays a tough, tight game, and it makes scoring chances and shots hard to come by. The Bulldogs didn't play particularly well at times, but were tough defensively and found a way to win the game, something that was a real struggle in late October and most of November.
UMD's top players weren't all at their best. It looked like BSU did a very good job negating UMD's speed, and the Bulldogs didn't work hard enough to regain the advantage.
Enter Hendrickson. He's seen plenty of this grind-it-out hockey, and it doesn't phase him. He won faceoffs, drove the net, played physical, played an extremely intelligent game in all zones, and picked up his second career two-goal game (had two in the NCAA regional game against Maine in March).
Same goes for Flaherty and Danberg. They haven't scored much -- at all in Cody's case -- this season, but they were consistently effective Friday because of their work ethic and smarts.
Saturday is a chance to get others on board. It'll take a faster start, crisper passing, and players willing to work hard to make plays around the Bemidji net. The Bulldogs took nearly 55 shots in Friday's game, but 20 of them were blocked before Dugas had to do anything about them. A bunch of others missed the net. For UMD to succeed, the Bulldogs have to bear down in front of the BSU net and make more of the opportunities to make Dugas' life difficult.
I doubt any major changes will be made to the lineup. Matt McNeely gave up an ugly goal on a rebound, but he was pretty solid, and likely merits a second straight start in the series finale.
These are key points for UMD. It's important to keep climbing the ladder, building confidence, and racking up points.
Hermantown junior defenseman Neal Pionk announced via Twitter Friday that he has committed to UMD. Pionk is averaging two points per game this season over the Hawks' first three games, including a goal in Friday's win over Hopkins.
As a sophomore, Pionk -- listed at 5-11 -- contributed seven goals and 13 points to the Hermantown varsity. He will be more of a factor in the offense this season as he gets more power play time than a year ago.
I wouldn't expect to see Pionk in a UMD uniform before the 2015-16 season, though depending on his development arc, that might change.
I know there are diverse attitudes toward the recruiting of local players, but I've generally seen the presence of them on the UMD team as a good thing, both for the program and for local hockey. I don't care where the Bulldogs' players are from, as long as they are good and can help UMD win.
In other action Friday, we saw some fun officiating foibles in Madison, where Wisconsin got a third period power-play goal from Tyler Barnes in a 1-1 tie against Michigan Tech. The goal was set up by a holding call on Tech's Jujhar Khaira that could have merited more than a minor penalty. As you can see in these stills, Khaira appears to pull a Wisconsin player down by the facemask. From behind. Video might show this to not be so bad, but looking at the stills, and knowing the way the NCAA has been trying to hammer into officials to crack down on facemasking in hockey, I don't know how this isn't a major and a game DQ, as it was for Derik Johnson in Omaha a month or so ago. I know it won't get reviewed for supplemental discipline because the WCHA doesn't operate that way, but it should get a look, and the officials on the ice should get a phone call regarding this glaring miss.
In Colorado Springs, Minnesota got a third period goal from Tom Serratore to beat Colorado College 4-2. The Gophers led 2-0 before the Tigers got two late goals in the second period. Sam Warning scored a pair for the Gophers, who picked up a key road win.
Denver and North Dakota played to a 2-2 tie in Grand Forks. DU had a fast start to lead 1-0, outshooting UND 5-1 at one point. The No-Names came back, and ended up leading in shots 33-20 for the game, including 5-0 in overtime. Sophomore Juho Olkinuora made 31 saves for DU.
Omaha needed only 27 shots to rack up six goals and beat St. Cloud State 6-5 in a wild game in St. Cloud. Reigning National Player of the Month Ryan Walters continued to be on fire with four points in the game, while Matt White racked up three points for the Mavericks. St. Cloud State tried to rally from 3-1, 4-2, and 6-3 deficits, but never equalized. David Morley had a hat trick for the Huskies, including two in the third after Walters scored to make it 6-3.
Minnesota State charged back after giving up the first goal in a 3-1 home win over Alaska Anchorage. Matt Bailey tallied for the Seawolves in the first two minutes, but took a penalty later in the shift, allowing the Mavericks to score a power play goal to tie it up. Eriah Hayes, Jonny McInnis, and Brett Knowles had the goals in support of red-hot goalie Stephon Williams, who made 20 saves.