Saturday, October 19, 2013

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: UMD Surges Late, Can't Beat Thorimbert in First Loss

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- You know it's a bad night when I leave my laptop cord in the broadcast booth.

Wasn't great on the ice, either, as UMD fell 3-1 to Colorado College in front of a sellout crowd at the World Arena.

The Bulldogs struggled from the outset Friday, unable to generate consistent offensive zone pressure or get a lot of pucks or bodies to the net. UMD had eight shots in each of the first two periods, but few memorable scoring chances.

The third period was better, but UMD entered it down 2-0 and couldn't equalize before a CC power play goal past the halfway mark of the period iced the game.

Early in the game, UMD didn't appear to be in any kind of synch. Austin Farley uncharacteristically passed up a couple great shooting chances in favor of ill-advised passes that led to UMD not getting shots at all in those particular sequences. Offensive zone rushes were killed by bad passes or bad puck decisions.

These things happen early in the season. Was a bit surprising to see the top line -- Tony Cameranesi, Joe Basaraba, and Austin Farley -- struggle with the puck a bit, since they were together last year. But I'm not at all shocked the second line is struggling with two freshmen and a guy in Caleb Herbert who played center last year.

UMD's third and fourth lines were generally non-factors in this game. Justin Crandall had his moments, but this group as a whole didn't get nearly enough offense going and just struggled to get pucks to the net. When it finally did, CC goalie Josh Thorimbert stood his ground nicely, making 14 of his 30 saves in the third period as the Bulldogs surged. It just wasn't enough.

The Bulldogs have done pretty well with puck possession, even in this game, where faceoffs were 36-29 the wrong way. That's a big reason I'm not concerned at this point in time.

Also, the team played very well in the third period Friday. They got pucks to the net, bodies to the net, and generated some consistent pressure. Were it not for the power play goal (Andy Welinski had to take the penalty he took), those last couple minutes would have been really interesting.

Scoring is an issue, but if puck possession isn't a huge issue, scoring will come around. As we saw last Saturday with Tech, if puck possession becomes a problem, it's next to impossible to score. Two games where goalies were great against UMD isn't anything meaningful. If it keeps up, we could have an issue.

But the fact that UMD isn't chasing the puck up and down the rink is a good thing. It's tougher to turn around puck possession issues than it is to turn around scoring issues. Coaches like to talk about "bearing down" in front of the net. UMD has to do that. Pucks are there to be banged into the net. It's simply a matter of someone taking advantage of the opportunities.

There is zero reason for panic at this point. For that reason, I don't expect huge lineup changes Saturday. UMD might tweak the bottom two lines to try to get a spark, and you might see a change on defense or in goal, where Aaron Crandall hasn't played yet. That isn't a shot at Matt McNeely, but it might benefit the sophomore to watch a game right now after playing three in a row. A .923 save percentage through three games is impressive, so I don't think that's the problem.

But don't look for much more change than that.

Now watch UMD throw the players' numbers into a hat and re-draw everything.


North Dakota won the first game in NCHC history, beating Miami 4-2. Four different players scored for UND, and goalie Zane Gothberg made 35 saves on 37 shots for the win. North Dakota led 3-0 in the second before the RedHawks scored twice in the middle stanza. Nick Mattson's goal with seven-plus minutes to play iced it for UND.

Nebraska Omaha won non-conference at Northern Michigan, 2-1. Ryan Walters and Brock Montpetit lit the lamp for the Mavericks, with Montpetit's third period tally proving to be the game-winner. Kirk Thompson stopped 28 of 29 Wildcat shots for UNO, which improved to 2-1.

At the Brice Alaska Goal Rush, Western Michigan broke its season-long shutout streak early and routed Alaska Anchorage 6-2. Shane Berschbach scored twice for the Broncos, while Josh Pitt had a goal and an assist. Frank Slubowski got the win in goal. Also, Denver blew a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 overtime loss to host Alaska. Cody Kunyk tied the game in the third for the Nanooks, then Garrick Perry scored in the final 30 seconds of overtime to win it. Denver had held opponents scoreless for the first 159 minutes and change this season before UAF scored in the last minute of the second period Friday to get on the board. Opponents flip-flop Saturday, with Denver battling UAA and Western Michigan playing Alaska.

Also, the Minnesota women scored three in the third to pull away from UMD 4-0 at Amsoil Arena. The Gophers have now won 54 games in a row.

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