Saturday, February 01, 2014

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Bulldogs Keep Strong Play Going With Nice Farley-Less Road Win

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- For UMD, the road has been quite good, especially in 2014.

Friday night, the Bulldogs ran their record away from Amsoil Arena to 4-0-1 in 2014, and 8-4-1 this season, by beating Western Michigan 5-2. UMD pulled away with three goals in the third period, an emphatic response after WMU got a power play goal in the last 30 seconds of the second period to tie the score.

It was an intense game played with high emotions and a lot of post-whistle stuff. Give the officials credit, because they didn't hand out random power plays on the hijinks after the whistles. They were consistent in their handling of those situations, and no one benefited or suffered as a result.

Early on, it was clear that UMD would have to work to both solve the WMU defense and goalie Lukas Hafner. He made some nice saves throughout the game, especially in the second period when it was tied, and in the third when it was a 3-2 game. In the first period, UMD struggled to get scoring chances at even strength (seven of UMD's nine first-period shots were on the power play).

As the game wore on, the Bulldogs stuck with the game plan, stayed patient, and the scoring chances came. In droves.

Hafner played pretty well. He stymied UMD on numerous occasions to keep the game tied or close, but the persistent Bulldogs wouldn't be denied on this night.

We talked before the game about how WMU is somewhat similar in structure to Denver. What the Broncos are missing is the elite blue-line play Denver has. The Bulldogs made them pay dearly for that. As the game wore on, the visitors were able to establish a forecheck, and they did a great job defending the neutral zone. Western couldn't get any speed going to develop plays off the rush, and that allowed the Bulldogs to negate the speed WMU has up front in the name of Chase Balisy, Shane Berschbach, and others. It was something UMD was missing in the Dec. 13 loss to Western Michigan, especially in the second period.

Instead, UMD was the team using its speed to make plays. It helps when the guys on the top line combine for five goals. Kyle Osterberg and Justin Crandall were fantastic on Friday. Osterberg was always around the puck in the offensive zone. Tony Cameranesi had another strong game. Oh, and despite not getting on the scoreboard, freshman forward Alex Iafallo was one of UMD's best players. I don't care that he was minus-one. He had six shots, made plays in all three zones, and won race after race for loose pucks.

The reconfigured fourth line of Max Tardy, Austyn Young, and Sammy Spurrell had some good shifts in limited work (too much special teams hockey in this game). Tardy and Young set up Spurrell for a tremendous scoring chance in the first period, but Hafner made a nice save on it. Young played because Austin Farley sat out injured, and Cal Decowski took Farley's spot. Unfortunately, more on that to come.

Defensively, Andy Welinski continued his strong play as of late. I thought Carson Soucy was having an a'ight game before getting the boot for a hit from behind. Sophomore Willie Corrin had what might have been his best game. He had two third-period assists, seemed more poised on the power play, and played a better defensive game than I thought he did last weekend in the tournament.

UMD's puck possession in the second and third periods, and great work by the penalty kill, meant Aaron Crandall had time to do whatever he wanted in goal. Western scored on a short-handed breakaway in the first, and then a great one-timer from the left point with traffic on a late power play in the second. Outside of that, Crandall was seen apparently playing Words With Friends in the crease.

He made a fantastic save on Colton Hargrove during a Western power play, as Hargrove drove around the UMD defense and got the puck to the net, and he stopped Nolan LaPorte in tight, too. But Western didn't get a lot of great looks, and missed the net on a few of the looks they did manage to earn.

I expect Western to be tighter in Saturday's game. I think they'll be better up front. Sophomore center Josh Pitt -- a player I like a good amount -- missed 53 minutes Friday after getting ejected for contact to the head. His presence will make a difference. As much as I liked UMD's game Friday, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that UMD won't outshoot Western Michigan 37-19 again. This team wasn't unbeaten in six straight by accident, and while the Broncos didn't come out rusty off a bye, it was obvious UMD was the fresher team as the game wore on. That might not be the case -- at least not as emphatically -- in the second game of the series.

******

If you're sick of the Farley story, stop reading here and move on to the next section.

No, seriously, I'm begging you.

Now, if you are tempted to tweet something about moving on, I'm probably going to laugh at you.

We've been trying to move on. Literally, the entire week. No one on the UMD side wants to talk about this. Guaranteed. If it were up to us, it would have gone away a week ago, when Minnesota's Ben Marshall lit up UMD sophomore Farley with a clearly illegal hit that has no place in the game.



1. The penalty was for contact to the head. Watch the full-speed replay, ignore the slow motion, and tell me in no uncertain terms that you know there was no head contact without the benefit of replay. If you can honestly say that, you need to slap on some skates and become an official.

2. My initial reaction was that this was a minor for interference. Having had the opportunity to watch the replay about ten times in the last week, I've come around to the fact that this should probably have been a major for interference.

Problem: There is no option in the NCAA rulebook to call a major for interference. Fix this, please. Officials need to have options at their disposal. This is a blindside hit on a player who never had the puck. It needs to not be in our game. Right now, this hit can only be a minor penalty.

3. Marshall gets no sympathy from me. He delivers a rising blow-up hit on a shorter player, then tells the official Farley is fine. No, he isn't. But thanks for playing, Dr. Marshall.

Also can't let FSN's Tom Chorske off the hook. His commentary at the time was measured and intelligent if you watch the video. I don't have a major issue with anything he said. But he probably shouldn't have engaged anyone on Twitter.

I think this one's my favorite.



Yes, Farley had the flu on Monday, missed practice because of it, and is still sick this weekend. Sounds like our medical staff sucks.

Chorske went on to say that it's "unusual" Farley played with an injury suffered on the hit. Yeah, unusual. Just like it's unusual Mikko Koivu dished out two assists against Washington while playing with a broken ankle, and it's unusual Zach Parise played multiple games on a broken foot before finally shutting it down for a while.

You'd think a guy with the long and successful hockey career Chorske had would be able to understand that adrenaline can do funny things, including causing a player to think he's okay in the heat of the moment. It's something I tell my PeeWee kids all the time. Just because you get hit and think you're fine in the game doesn't mean you're fine. When the game is over and you go home, that adrenaline goes away and you might not be "fine" anymore.

I'm not breaking new ground here. These are concepts that have existed in sports for decades, and I'm shocked Chorske -- a knowledgeable guy who I have always respected as a player and broadcaster -- forgot these things.

I don't know specifically what Farley's injury is, but I do know it didn't happen on the bus trip home from St. Paul on Saturday. You guys are probably smart enough to deduce a few options.

But it would be really nice if Chorske and the rest of the Gopher media contingent would stop accusing a player who was injured on a hit of embellishment. I'm not saying players can't embellish when legitimately injured, but when you know damn well someone is actually hurt, it's a hell of an accusation to be throwing out there. Probably doesn't do much for people's opinion of you.

******

The Gophers just can't seem to escape controversy. Taken to a shootout by Michigan State (snicker) Friday night, here's the third round attempt from Sparty on UMTC netminder Adam Wilcox, as posted on YouTube by the great CJ Fogler (@cjzero).



What you are about to read is more discussion of a play that happened in a shootout than there ever should be.

It was called a goal on the ice. It was overturned after video review. I believe it to be correct, and here's why:

1. I do not believe it would have gone in the net had Wilcox not knocked it off. While the puck still crossed the line inside where the goalpost would have been if it hadn't moved, I don't see that as the issue. Instead, watch how far Wilcox's body moves to the right when his skate hits the right post and the leg doesn't stop. It isn't far, but it's probably far enough that his left skate doesn't hold the post.

2. With that in mind, you have to judge his intent. And if you feel you can do that, you're a better person than I. I don't think there's split-second intent by Wilcox to knock the net off because he's beat. I just don't. So you can't call it a goal or give the MSU player a do-over because you think Wilcox cheated the system. He tried to make a play he's probably done a hundred times in one-on-one situations in his career. The goalpost had a different idea.

3. Perhaps with shootouts not going away in college hockey, there's a protocol that needs to be written for situations like this. But don't ask me to do it.

******

UMD's win tied the Bulldogs for fifth in the NCHC. Thanks to St. Cloud State's 5-3 win at Nebraska Omaha Friday on a late Kevin Gravel game-winner, the winner of Saturday's UMD-WMU game will have a chance to move into a home-ice position in the NCHC standings.

(Real nice win for St. Cloud State. From the sounds of it, they were badly outshot in the first 20 minutes, but Ryan Faragher kept them going. Nice to see Joey Benik back. He scored a pair of goals for SCSU, and then Gravel got the late winner before a Brooks Bertsch empty-netter iced it. In news that isn't really news, Josh Archibald scored again for UNO. 18 goals in 23 games for him. Amazing.)

Omaha is fourth with 21 points. If St. Cloud beats UNO again Saturday -- be it in regulation, overtime, or a shootout -- the winner of Saturday's UMD-Western Michigan game -- be it in regulation, overtime, or a shootout -- moves into fourth place with ten league games to go.

The win kicked UMD into 12th in the PairWise. The Bulldogs claim the season series with a victory in Saturday's game. This weekend starts a stretch that sees UMD alternate between home and away series the rest of the regular season (at WMU, vs CC, at SCSU, vs UND, at Miami, vs UNO). As you can see, every weekend will be hugely significant, which is part of the reason UMD signed on to the new conference structure.

Coverage starts at 5:30 along the network. Go to 94xrocks.com if you need streaming info or if you want to download our free app so you can listen on phones or tablets.

1 comment:

Cory Claeson said...

I think you hit the nail on the head in every aspect of this post. The only disagreement I have and maybe I'm biased, but I don't think the gopher shootout goal should have been overturned due to it being called a goal on the ice.I cant know for sure Wilcox would have saved that although I think he might have. There is still that doubt and therefore I don't see how they could overturn it. Also, earlier in that game I believe the gophers got away with a kicked in goal to tie the game