Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Bulldogs Get the Goaltending to Win Close Game

For UMD, the season's first 20 games featured some solid goaltending, some not-as-good goaltending, and never a performance that was good enough to completely hold a team off the scoreboard.

Until now.

Freshman Matt McNeely was outstanding when called upon Friday, making 28 saves in a 1-0 win over Michigan Tech. The win keeps UMD very much in the thick of the WCHA's jumbled home ice race. After Friday's games, the Bulldogs sit a point behind sixth-place Minnesota State.

UMD controlled chunks of Friday's game, and when Michigan Tech had offensive zone possession, the Bulldogs took to blocking shots. The game's official stat sheet credited UMD with 20 blocked shots, though that number even seemed a tad low.

Freshman defenseman Andy Welinski returned earlier than expected from an upper body injury. While there were a few in the press box who thought Welinski would only play an occasional five-on-five shift, the plan was clear early. Welinski didn't appear to have any restrictions, and he played probably in the neighborhood of 26-28 minutes.

(It was probably a good thing Welinski wasn't being saved for special teams, as each team only had three power plays.)

Max Tardy got his first point of the season, thanks to a nice setup for Joe Basaraba on the game's only goal. Tardy found Basaraba streaking down the slot, and the big junior found a way to fish the puck underneath Tech goalie Pheonix Copley, who made 41 saves and looked at times like he was bigger than the goal he was protecting.

McNeely had his moments late in the game, making a succession of saves when Tech pulled Copley in the final 90 seconds.

There was a lot of neutral-zone play in this game, there was some sloppy play, and there was some tight defensive coverage, despite the high number of shots. UMD had its moments where there were too many turnovers and bad decisions with the puck, but players made better decisions than in Florida, where McNeely was hung out to dry way too much for anyone's liking.

As the drive for a top six spot continues, the next step for these Bulldogs is winning at home on a Saturday. The last league series -- in Anchorage -- ended up with UMD sweeping the Seawolves after a tightly-contested Saturday game. However, UMD is 0-3-1 on Saturdays at home, including relatively unacceptable performances against St. Cloud State and Bemidji State.

Turn that around this weekend, and things might again start to look in the right direction for UMD.


Controversy in Minneapolis Friday, as Minnesota got two late power-play goals to beat Alaska-Anchorage 4-3.

In the final five minutes, UAA's Tyler Currier was ejected for hitting Minnesota captain Zach Budish from behind. The ensuing power play gave the Gophers the chance to score two pivotal goals and win.

Currier's hit was one of those where the target -- Budish -- turned at the last second, long after Currier had committed himself to the check. The turn came so late that Currier didn't hit Budish clean in the numbers. Instead, the principal point of contact appeared to be more on the side than the back.

By the letter of the law, with the officials not given the benefit of video review on these calls, it's absolutely defensible. The NCAA Rules Committee has placed an emphasis on hits from behind that come along the boards, long mandating major penalties and ejections for offending players.

Of course, we all know better. Especially in the WCHA, major penalties have required a different threshold not outlined in the rulebook. Instead, there seems to be a premium placed on the need for a player to be injured.

Knowing this, Budish did what he's supposed to do. He sold the hit long enough to get the call.

Then he didn't miss a shift, as he was out to start the power play.

Just watch, everyone. There's been enough of this going on to create support for making players who draw these major penalties sit for at least a chunk of the power play that results from the call. Doesn't seem fair, but it's out there.


Wisconsin won again, beating Minnesota State in overtime 4-3 on a goal by captain John Ramage. MSU goalie Stephon Williams had to leave the game in the third period to serve a five-minute major penalty for face-masking. After the penalty expired, but before there was a stoppage in play so MSU could re-insert Williams, the Badgers scored on backup Phil Cook. Bizarre.

Colorado College got by North Dakota in overtime, 4-3. The Tigers were swept in Omaha last weekend, but pulled off a really big win in Grand Forks, keeping their hopes alive to make a run.

Also, Denver got a Zac Larraza hat trick to beat Omaha 7-4. DU goalie Juho Olkinuora made 42 saves to help the Pioneers win a game in which they were badly outplayed for a good chunk by the league-leading Mavericks.

No comments: