Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Irish Eyes Smile After Non-Conference Win

Yes, I had to go there.

This will be a quick blog. I have errands this morning and a hockey practice to run this afternoon. But Friday was so interesting that I couldn't ignore it completely.

Not often that you see two ejections in a game, with neither of them being for a hit from behind nor contact to the head.

Instead, UMD junior Caleb Herbert was booted late in the first period after being found guilty of spearing Notre Dame center T.J. Tynan in his happy place. Officials used video review to confirm the guilty party on the call. That is within the confines of NCAA video replay protocol, which allows officials to call a penalty and then use video review to confirm the player who committed the infraction. In this case, a linesman made the call, and a referee looked quickly at the video to make sure they had the right player.

But the truly bizarre happened in the third period.

UMD junior co-captain Adam Krause was checked into the Notre Dame goal crease. On his way out of the crease, Irish goalie Steven Summerhays grabbed Krause by the facemask -- from behind -- and pulled him back. After the ensuing skirmish, the officials convened. They sent Andy Ryan of Notre Dame and a loudly protesting Krause to the box for matching roughing calls (conveniently missing the cross-check that sent Krause flying into the crease to start with). They then ejected Summerhays for facemasking.

You read that correctly. A goalie got ejected. Not for fighting or for a hit to the head. No, for facemasking.

Freshman Kevin Catunar came in, and he played pretty well. In my opinion, UMD didn't do enough to test the glove of the 6-5 youngster, and his pads cover a lot of space since he's 77 inches tall and everything.

But this wasn't a bad effort by UMD at all. I'm sure the Bulldogs would like to get a good chunk of the second period back, and they have to find a way to stay out of the box against these guys. But five on five, UMD proved it can play with one of the best teams in the land.

Notre Dame is legit, people. Among the skaters are eight seniors who have seen virtually everything there is to see -- last night proved you never have seen everything. And Jeff Jackson knows he can play those eight seniors in any situation he wants. Tynan (two assists) has a bit of "rat" to him. He's a smart, crafty, two-way player who might be better on the penalty kill than he is offensively. David Gerths, Bryan Rust, Shayne Taker, and many others have talent and loads of experience playing high-end Division I hockey.

What am I saying? Notre Dame has everything Notre Dame needs to make it to Philadelphia next April. And it's probably going to take an upset or a rash of injuries to prevent it.

That team that has everything got plenty of fits from a young UMD team that needs to grow on the blueline, and it needed some bounces to win 3-2 on Friday. It's a good sign for UMD, no question. The Bulldogs have some very talented pieces of their own.

Cal Decowski had a great night, I thought, after Herbert was ejected. Unlike the Tech home game where Dominic Toninato was ejected and it seemed it took the air out of everyone, it seemed that some guys tried to take advantage of the extra ice time available with Herbert out. Decowski and Krause were two examples of that. Andy Welinski struggled early, but got better with the puck in the last 40 minutes, and he threw a couple nice hits in the defensive zone. Freshman Carson Soucy continues to show himself as a heck of a find by the UMD coaching staff, but he had more struggles Friday than he had in the first four games.

For now, they have to solve the blue line. Notre Dame did a very good job of putting pressure on the defensemen, and doing so forced too many turnovers by the home team. UMD has to deal with those puck management problems on Saturday to avoid a sweep. I'd expect a little bit of jumbling of personnel, though nothing major with the lines or pairings. Remember, UMD only has 14 forwards and eight eligible defensemen (they have nine rostered, but St. Scholastica transfer Brenden Kotyk can't play this season per NCAA rules). It's a long season, and the guys who sat out last night have to be kept fresh so they're available in case of injury.


The NCHC went 2-4 in non-conference play Friday. St. Cloud State (at Colgate) and Denver (vs Niagara) both won, while Colorado College (at Clarkson), Miami (at Providence), Omaha (vs Cornell), and UMD all lost.

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