This could very well be it.
Facing elimination on home ice, there isn't much that can comfort UMD about Friday's 3-2 loss. The Bulldogs have to crank up the intensity from the opening bell, as Western Michigan proved very difficult to solve defensively, especially once having taken the lead.
Every facet of the Bulldogs' game has to be sharp. Net-front presence is a must. There are little battles you can watch in this game in front of the Western Michigan net. If UMD is losing battles for position and for loose pucks, it's a bad sign.
All four lines contributed good shifts and scoring chances Friday. However, all four can play better. Dominic Toninato won a lot of draws, and his line had a ton of zone time, but they didn't win many battles in front of the net, something that cut back a bit on scoring chances.
A sleepy second period was ignited by a great shift from the fourth line, led by Cal Decowski and Max Tardy, who were wonderful on Friday and ended up scoring UMD's only goals in the game's final 90 seconds. I'm not exaggerating by saying it might have been Tardy's best game in these colors.
(Perhaps a coincidence, but Western Michigan coach Andy Murray went out of his way to praise Tardy when I spoke to him this week. "He's had a good influence on them. I think he brings that senior leadership to their lineup.")
Bottom line: UMD hit three pipes and was somewhat unlucky against Lukas Hafner throughout the evening. But more bad luck will only lead to the end of the season, so there is no time to lament it now. Instead, the onus is on the Bulldogs to play a stronger, harder game, get to Hafner, and break down this solid WMU defense.
I don't have anything planned Sunday night. Might as well come back here one more time.
Make it so, boys.
Osterberg - Cameranesi - Crandall (Justin)
Farley - Herbert - Basaraba
Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Tardy - Decowski - Spurrell
Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
Smith - Molenaar
Crandall (Aaron) - McNeely - Fons
Dries - Kessel - Cichy
McKee - Mellor - Hadley
Berschbach - Balisy - Kovacs
Hargrove - Pitt - LaPorte
Nitsche - Morrison
Dienes - Fleming
Oesterle - Brown
Slubowski - Bloomberg - Hafner
(Note: Hafner is starting. WMU lists goalies in numerical order.)