Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Everything on the Line for UMD

MADISON, Wisc. -- It has been a long time since this has happened, which means we're probably a little spoiled at this point.

Saturday night, UMD will play to preserve its season.

It's been five years, since the "Goals Somewhat At A Premium" 2007-08 season, that UMD has faced elimination this early.

Friday night, the Bulldogs couldn't generate any real consistent attack, couldn't slow down Mark Zengerle and Nic Kerdiles, and took a 3-1 loss across the street from my current location.

Zengerle had three points, including the game-icing empty-net goal. On that play, he shot the puck from 150 or so feet away, and it hit the net dead-center. I mean, it would have scored on one of those big wooden goalies with the small slot at the bottom that arenas use in between-periods competitions.

Wisconsin can clinch the series with one more win, while UMD needs to win to keep the dream alive, so to speak.

Junior forward Joe Basaraba (virus) skated Friday morning, but the decision was made to leave him out of the lineup. Without UMD's most physical forward on the ice, the Badgers pushed the Bulldogs around virtually all night. His presence helps a lot, but it isn't the cure-all for what went wrong here.

The Bulldogs, basically, have two choices heading into this game. Either they can figure out a way to make Wisconsin play at UMD's preferred pace, or they can figure out how to play more effectively and efficiently at Wisconsin's pace, which is slower than what UMD prefers.

Basaraba does help UMD in the "pushed around" aspect of things. He should be back with Tony Cameranesi and Austin Farley, who were non-factors five-on-five Friday. He also takes his spot, I'd assume, on the second power play unit, which had its worst game in weeks Friday.

But Basaraba doesn't help UMD's pace issue. That's a mindset.

Most bothersome? The guys who are usually most effective against slower-place teams -- Jake Hendrickson, Keegan Flaherty, and Cody Danberg -- were not so on Friday. Only two combined shots (both by Flaherty) and a lot of time spent chasing the puck in the defensive zone.

Now, on the bright side, that all-senior line usually doesn't have two bad games in a row. And Basaraba back with the kids should help make them more of a factor.

Oh, and Aaron Crandall played very well in goal. If he can do that again, and UMD can better handle the slower pace, there's still a chance we're back here on Sunday night.


I'm still irritated at the major penalty on North Dakota captain Andrew MacWilliam from Friday. Probably more irritated at that than I am at anything that happened here in our game.

This is a clean hit. Clean. There isn't a single argument for any violation of the rules that exist.

The penalty that was called was contact to the head. At no point in the video does any part of MacWilliam's body touch David Johnstone's head. There isn't even indirect or unintentional contact to the head on the follow through. Even though that kind of contact to the head is supposed to result in a minor penalty, one could easily defend the officials mistakenly calling a major had it happened. In this case, there was no such contact.

I'll prove it. Let's go to the videotape.

It's MacWilliam's third CTH major of the season. One more, and he's automatically suspended.

Here was the first one, also called by the crew Derek Shepherd and Marco Hunt, which worked Friday's game in Grand Forks:

No matter what you think of MacWilliam as a player, it's bunk that he is on the verge of a suspension because of overzealous officials. From the sounds of it, no one in the WCHA has the power to rescind those major penalty calls after the fact, even though they were both incorrect. And no official has the power to review a major penalty call to make sure he was correct in ejecting a player from a game.

Because we're in a two-year rules cycle in this sport, there will be no changes to this stuff until the spring of 2014. That gives us plenty of time to figure out what is best.

At this point, I'd argue that what is best includes the automatic video review of any major penalty before play resumes after the call. Is it going to slow the game down? Sure, but there are ways to mitigate that, even if only a little bit. Make sure that if it's a league that takes TV timeouts, there are rules to allow for a timeout to be taken a little earlier than scheduled if it's going to coincide with a video review. Remember, TV timeouts aren't meant for players to get rest. They exist to benefit television and only television (well, radio, too). If leagues are more flexible with their timing, it could help with the issues that come along with adding to the list of plays that can be reviewed.

And let's be honest. No matter what you think of Derek Shepherd and Marco Hunt, they aren't bumbling idiots. A video review of this hit by MacWilliam would have lasted about 15 seconds. The call would have been changed, and the game would have resumed.

(Yeah, the officials still would have had to find a minor penalty to assess. Roughing would be the most likely option. But if you're UND, would you rather have MacWilliam sit for two minutes, or for 52:30?)

North Dakota won 5-3, by the way. In fact, all six home teams won on Friday, two of them -- Minnesota and Minnesota State -- in overtime. Only St. Cloud State's 6-1 win over Alaska-Anchorage would qualify as a blowout. Everything else was close.

Last year, we only had one Sunday game. Same for the year before. We'll find out tonight how many teams have to lace them up again on Sunday this time around.

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