Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Another Good Effort Leads to Another UMD Loss

MINNEAPOLIS -- When the losing continues, a team can either stay positive and keep working to move in the right direction, or it can give up and wilt away in the shroud of negativity.

So far, UMD seems to have decided to keep working.

And so far, the losing has continued.

Friday night, one of UMD's better efforts of the season -- especially over the first 40 minutes -- was wasted in a seventh loss over eight winless games, 5-3 at Minnesota.

The Bulldogs were quite good over the first two periods, and if it hadn't been for the three posts/crossbars UMD hit in the second, this could have been a different game. Of course, that's been a familiar lament as of late.

It's a good sign, though, that UMD fell behind 2-0 and 3-2 in the second period and didn't stop working. It's also a good sign that the Bulldogs revived what had been a dormant power play (three goals over 34 chances in seven games). Doing it against a kill as good as Minnesota's has to be considered a positive.

For the third game in a row, there were a lot of positives for UMD to claim.

But for the eighth game in a row, one of those positives was not a win.

Does there come a point where this team is just crushed under all the weight of losing, especially losing close games? Maybe, but I'd like to think there is enough spirit in the room to prevent that. So far, the Bulldogs haven't shown a lot of organized quit, certainly not over the last three games.

Minnesota is a really good team. Might be the most balanced and most talented team in the WCHA. And UMD played a hell of a game Friday, proving that it isn't overwhelmed by all that talentness. There is nothing for this group to hang the heads about.

The penalty kill leaned heavily on Matt McNeely in goal, especially in an early third period power play that I really think turned the game in Minnesota's favor. Quality shots and chances, and the crowd started to buzz. The Gophers were able to use that power play -- despite not scoring -- to get going, and UMD couldn't respond. Puck possession became Minnesota's friend, and the Gophers eventually got the Kyle Rau winner late in the third.

The Bulldogs will have a day at some point. It might not happen this weekend, but it won't be for a lack of effort. As long as that effort continues, there is no reason to think UMD can't find a way out of this funk. Hopefully, it happens before the start of the playoffs.



That was Andy Welinski's plus/minus rating Friday.

The freshman could play hockey until he's 40 at a high level and never do that again. In fact, I'd be willing to bet he doesn't have a night like Friday at any point in his competitive hockey future.

No. 7 wasn't at his best on Friday. He struggled at times with the puck, plays that he normally makes. I still think he's not quite ready for the gobs of ice time he often gets in games like this, but there's been progress this season.

One issue I think he might be having is most prevalent on the power play. Sometimes, it seems he struggles to move laterally and get himself in shooting position. He has a lethal shot, but he has to hit the puck strong and find lanes to get it through traffic.

The short-handed goal wasn't necessarily his fault, but it was a communication breakdown, it seemed, between Caleb Herbert and Mike Seidel coming back. Erik Haula -- who is going to be a really good pro, I believe, despite "only" being a late-round pick of the Wild -- got between them in the slot and was basically wide open for a pass from Zach Budish, who beat Welinski to a loose puck.

Seriously, minus-5 might never happen for him -- or anyone in a UMD uniform -- in the foreseeable future.

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