Saturday, March 02, 2013

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: UMD Wins, But Where Was Everyone?

I don't want to poo-poo the actual game result. UMD won 4-2 over Alabama-Huntsville on Friday, in a game that probably should have been much more lopsided. The Bulldogs hit a season-high three goalposts, including three by Caleb Herbert on shots that clearly beat UAH goalie John Griggs. It was the wrong kind of hat trick for the sophomore.

Generally, UMD played all right. About the only notable complaint that could be had is the play of the team in two five on three power plays. Not enough quick movement, not feet and not the puck. Telegraphed passes and long shots with no traffic in front of Griggs.

The Bulldogs scored a couple power play goals, and both were keyed by the second unit, with Cal Decowski getting assists on both (one by Chris Casto and one by Justin Crandall). Decowski is really starting to get going, and could be a factor down the stretch in his freshman season.

Outside of a soft goal early in the third, freshman goalie Matt McNeely played well. McNeely has a .929 save percentage over his last four starts after sitting out a couple games. UMD is 1-1-2 in that stretch after losing six in a row before then.

The Bulldogs need to keep winning, including in Saturday's finale. It's not about playoff position at this point. Instead, it's about making sure that everyone is as sharp and confident as possible before the first-round road trip.

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There are three home games left. Can we pick up the attendance and atmosphere for them?

Friday's game was played before an announced crowd of 5,792. That's the smallest of the season, and smallest home crowd for UMD since a date with Minnesota State last year on the night of the Christmas City of the North Parade, when no one not involved in the parade wants to be within five miles of Canal Park.

A Saturday afternoon exhibition against the Under 18 Team drew better.

Last year's games against Huntsville drew well over 13,000 combined, including a sellout on Saturday night.

What gives?

Well, it's clear this team hasn't performed at the same level of the recent past. Obviously, that's a factor. Plus, this time of year, fans' attention is diverted to the prep playoffs. I don't doubt that makes a difference.

But the last time I checked, this was the only Division I team within a two-hour drive of Duluth. There is little excuse for not being able to fill the building for these games, and there is even less excuse for the constant lack of atmosphere -- no matter the score -- at home games.

It was a problem at the DECC, too, so you can't blame it on the new building. Plus, there was a ton of atmosphere at the high school games this week ... in the same arena. It isn't Amsoil Arena's fault.

The student section -- outside of a first-period Harlem Shake bit that was clearly orchestrated -- was nonexistent on Friday, and has been for a good chunk of the season. Never did I think I'd see a day where the student section at Mariucci was more noticeable than ours. It's happened.

Come on, Twin Ports. Three home games left. Make something good happen.

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In other WCHA games Friday, Brendan Woods scored late to give Wisconsin a 4-3 win in Omaha. The Badgers rebounded nicely from Monday's overtime loss to Penn State (giggle) in Madison. Denver got third period goals from Shawn Ostrow and Ty Loney (empty net) to back Jussi Olkinuora's shutout in a 2-0 win at Minnesota. St. Cloud State held on to beat Michigan Tech 5-3. North Dakota topped Bemidji State 4-2. Also, Colorado College upset Minnesota State 4-1 in Colorado Springs. In non-conference play, Alaska-Fairbanks took care of Alaska-Anchorage 2-1 in overtime to open their annual Governor's Cup series.

Standings-wise, it all means SCSU clinches the No. 1 seed in the WCHA playoffs with a win over Michigan Tech Saturday, provided North Dakota (three points behind) doesn't beat Bemidji State. The Huskies clinch the MacNaughton for themselves with a win, a UND loss, and a Minnesota loss or tie.

UMD looks almost locked into ninth at this point, and Omaha is still on its seed line. But that could change dramatically, as Minnesota, UNO, Denver, and Minnesota State are all separated by just two total points.

2 comments:

tUMD15 said...

As for the scant crowd and lack of atmoshere, you really can't compare UMD playing UAH to a high school section playoff game to go to state. Plus Dogs have failed miserably down the stretch after the series at CC. Why should fans be fired up after watching them lose four in a row at home and losing a home ice spot chance? Season ticket holders are attending these final games with the same excitement of another family get together at "step 9" Uncle Frank's house.

Bruce Ciskie said...

No, Division I games should be BETTER attended than high school games. 40 Division I players on the ice vs. maybe 10? Seriously?

As for the team having a rough season, yeah it hasn't been as good as the last few. So what about all the games last year where the building was quiet? Did that team lack intensity? How about the championship team?