For the second straight year, the UMD Bulldogs played generally fantastic hockey in Grand Forks over a weekend. This time, they didn't leave North Dakota without a victory in their back pocket.
Friday's 4-2 loss was somewhat disappointing. Before Saturday's game, talk of the loss was largely nitpicking little things UMD could have done better to prevent the loss.
* Don't lose the faceoff after Adam Krause's power play goal tied the score 2-2.
* Play with more poise in the defensive zone in that ensuing shift, increasing the chance that someone would clear the zone and relieve the pressure.
* Don't put yourself in a position to go a man down after a 90-plus second defensive zone shift, leading to an eventual power play goal.
* Don't commit two more stick infractions later in the third period, hurting momentum and taking precious time off the clock.
* Get to the net and stay there in the offensive zone, instead of turning away after driving to the front.
When you can talk about little plays here and there over the course of 60 minutes, that's a good thing, even in a loss. There have been wins this season where UMD didn't play as well over the course of a whole game as it did on Friday.
Saturday, those little things were largely cleaned up, and UMD ended up scoring its most goals (six) and winning by the biggest margin (three) it has ever won by at the new Ralph, taking a 6-3 victory and three NCHC points back across Highway 2.
The Bulldogs have to be pleased with the effort, as Krause scored twice, Tony Cameranesi and Willie Raskob had three assists apiece, and Austin Farley scored for the first time in a while.
UMD chased UND starting goalie Clarke Saunders with three goals on 13 shots in the first, then got a key five-on-three kill (1:20 worth) in the second period after UND had cut a 3-1 lead in half. That kill got the Bulldogs going again, and freshman Sammy Spurrell restored the two-goal cushion with a late second-period snipe.
UMD threw up another crooked number in the third to finish it off.
Many, many Bulldogs played well on Saturday. It was really good to see Farley get back on the scoreboard. Cameranesi had a great night, and Raskob is playing incredibly well right now. I'm excited to see what he can do with the puck on the big sheet this week. Krause got to the net for a goal on Friday, then showed he has quite a shot with his two goals on Saturday. The Bulldogs blocked shots, played with snarl, and showed off some incredible skill and higher potential over the weekend.
While we'd all like to see this team win Friday games, it's good that they've been able to rally three times this season from Friday losses to earn series splits. The next step is not just playing well both nights, as the 'Dogs did in Grand Forks, but making that lead to wins both nights.
The next chance to do that is this weekend, when UMD battles No. 1 Minnesota at Mariucci Arena. Games are 7pm Friday and 4pm Sunday. The Gophers will test UMD across all four lines and three defensive pairings. They're the best team in the country right now, and playing them in their barn will be a great challenge.