Saturday, March 09, 2013

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Great Comeback Win Before Attention Turns to Seniors

Friday night was the kind of game UMD fans have been waiting for all season. In fact, it marked just the second time all year the Bulldogs won a home game after trailing at any point. Omaha started well, scoring twice in 40 seconds to take a 2-0 lead, then scoring a power-play goal less than a minute after UMD closed to within 2-1. A less-than-capacity crowd at Amsoil Arena was left to do a lot of hand-wringing and neck stretching (trying to find TVs around the building showing the Duluth East game).

In the second period, UMD brought the building to life with one of its most captivating 20 minutes of the season.

It didn't start all that great, as sophomore Justin Crandall -- a minus-2 after being on the ice for both UNO even-strength goals in the first period -- got the boot 32 seconds into the frame for a hit from behind on Maverick Josh Archibald. Without one of its best penalty killers, UMD did a magnificent job for five minutes, holding UNO to just two shots on goal and without a grade-A scoring chance during the entire power play.

Just 19 seconds after Austin Farley (served the major) got out of the box, UMD started to chip away. A Caleb Herbert right-wing shot was stopped by UNO goalie Ryan Massa, but big senior Dan DeLisle got to the net and banged home the rebound to make it 3-2. 90 seconds later, Tony Cameranesi found Joe Basaraba streaking down the slot and hit him with a perfect pass for what basically amounted to a tap-in goal to tie it up.

UMD's first power play came up empty, but its second and third did not. On the second, Herbert's blast from the center point was deflected in by Mike Seidel to give UMD the lead. Shortly after, UMD got another power play and converted just seven seconds into it on a Seidel backhander that beat John Faulkner, who relieved Massa after the fourth goal.

Omaha got one back in the third, but the Bulldogs ended up winning 5-4 after playing a very strong all-zone third period. The Mavericks struggled with zone entry down the stretch, and never seriously threatened to get a puck past UMD goalie Matt McNeely, who got his tenth win of the season.

UMD improved to 3-1-2 over the last six, and the Bulldogs continue to hold the appearance of a team that no one in the top six will want to play next weekend.

I think I've mentioned this on the air before, but the shot at home ice is long gone for UMD. Ship left sail, train left the station, so on and so forth. The best thing UMD fans can hope for now is that next weekend, we go somewhere and at least scare the (expletive) out of someone, if not beat someone and get this train back to St. Paul.

On Friday, UMD showed the kind of fire that had been lacking at times in January and early February. The Bulldogs showed they can climb out of a hole, even if the hole is dug with bad mistakes or bad shifts and not the great play of the opponent. They showed they can fill the net and make plays in the offensive zone. They showed they can get to the net, create traffic, and make the goalie's life difficult.

These are all the things necessary for playoff success, and the things Scott Sandelin has to hope his team builds on heading into Saturday's home finale.


Saturday's first intermission will be the formal farewell for seven UMD seniors. Wade Bergman, Cody Danberg, DeLisle, Keegan Flaherty, Jake Hendrickson, Drew Olson, and Mike Seidel will all pull on the white home jersey one last time. As of this writing, all seven are expected to play.

Amid all the chatter about this being a disappointing (or worse, depending on the terminology you prefer) season, it's really easy to forget that these seven players have all been a part of multiple NCAA Tournament teams, multiple Final Five runs, and the kind of winning this program hasn't typically experienced.

Oh, and that whole national championship thing, too.

This might not be the insanely successful senior class UMD waved goodbye to last year, but it's still been a good one.

At the risk of preaching, I'll say the same thing I've said in the past. The concession stands are nice, and the bathrooms are clean, but they aren't going anywhere. Plant your butt in your seat for the first intermission ceremony, and stand and cheer for this group when they are introduced. The popcorn can wait, and the players will appreciate the show of respect for them and the program.


Where is UMD headed next weekend? I have no earthly idea. And we won't know until Denver's game with Anchorage concludes Sunday afternoon.

A UMD win and Colorado College loss will move UMD to eighth. Most other scenarios involve UMD finishing in ninth. The Bulldogs will not move down from ninth.

But there are too many potential scenarios to count for seeds four through seven. Just hang out and watch what happens Saturday and Sunday, and we'll figure things out from there, I guess.

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