Never would have guessed "UMD by six" in the series opener, but that's exactly what we got.
The Bulldogs won going away 8-2, scoring the most goals in a game since November of 2009, when some guy named Justin Fontaine scored four in an 8-1 win over Michigan Tech.
11 UMD players had at least one point, while six had at least two. Kyle Osterberg and Justin Crandall each had three. Tony Cameranesi scored the first two goals inside of the game's first ten minutes. So, yeah, that line was going.
Meanwhile, UNO's stud line of Dominic Zombo, Josh Archibald, and Jake Guentzel were held to a fat goose-egg at even strength. Archibald's only contribution to the scoresheet was a cheap elbow to Cal Decowski's head that got him ejected from the game in the third period.
(To be fair, it looked like goalie Aaron Crandall was cheating toward Archibald, who was at the bottom of the left faceoff circle, when Michael Young snuck a shot by his glove for a second period PPG.)
Zombo scored a power play goal, and Guentzel assisted on both UNO goals, which were both on power plays. The guys responsible, primarily, were Dominic Toninato, Alex Iafallo, and Adam Krause. Toninato won draws all night, and they hounded the puck when they didn't have it, keeping scoring chances to a minimum for the befuddled Mavericks. Safe to say we'll see that matchup again Saturday, with the Zombo line challenged to play better and get Archibald open for some scoring chances.
UMD jumped UNO early, outshooting the visitors 18-5 in the first period. Only having a 2-1 lead could have been discouraging on a different night, but not this one. The Bulldogs kept putting on pressure, and goalie Ryan Massa was simply overwhelmed. Coach Dean Blais pulled Massa after the fifth UMD goal, a laser of a one-timer by Osterberg. Freshman Reed Peters offered little resistance, stopping six of eight shots, and UMD threw in an empty-netter when Blais went without a goalie during a chunk of four-on-four hockey midway through the third.
Osterberg, Cameranesi, and Justin Crandall combined for 14 shots on goal and five goals, with Cameranesi and Crandall getting two apiece.
UNO won't just go away. This team didn't score five or more five times over an 11-game span by accident. The Bulldogs sapped their will on Friday, thanks to physical play, a relentless forecheck, and great puck possession. It won't be this easy again on Saturday. Expect the Mavericks to push back, and the Bulldogs will have to play another smart game, take care of the puck, and hound it when they don't have it.
One negative: I thought UMD's defensive zone play got a little soft for a stretch of the third when it was 5-2. It didn't lead to anything, really, but it's the kind of thing that can burn the Bulldogs against a dangerous offensive team if they keep it up. Just a few lazy passes leading to turnovers. When you win by six, it can be glossed over, but Saturday will not be a six-goal game.
Plus/minus is dumb when taken in the context of a single game. But this is supposed to be fun, right? So let's have some fun with Friday's numbers.
Carson Soucy and Andy Welinski were each plus-four. Osterberg, Cameranesi, and Justin Crandall were all plus-three. UMD had only three skaters who weren't pluses. UNO had four skaters who weren't minuses. Nick Seeler was minus-five, while Tanner Lane was minus-four.
Among skaters, Soucy now has the team lead at plus-ten, while Osterberg is plus-eight and Crandall plus-seven for the season.
Elsewhere in the NCHC, results have rendered Saturday a meaningless game for UNO. The Mavericks are 28th in the Pairwise, and one win isn't going to lift them to even bubble team status. North Dakota's 2-0 win over Western Michigan clinched home ice for the Mavericks next weekend. Only question is whether they're seeded third or fourth.
In Grand Forks, Stephane Pattyn and Luke Johnson scored 18 seconds apart late in the second period to lift UND. Zane Gothberg was perfect on 18 shots for his second collegiate shutout and first at The Ralph. With a regulation win, North Dakota is in the driver's seat for the No. 1 seed in the NCHC playoffs and the right to host Miami in a best-of-three next weekend. UND needs to match what SCSU does in Saturday's season finale to hold on to the top seed. Western can no longer get home ice, no matter what happens Saturday.
St. Cloud State's top six forwards were unbelievable in a 7-4 win at Colorado College that kept the Huskies in line to potentially share the Penrose Cup. Joey Benik had two goals and three assists, Jonny Brodzinski picked up a hat trick, Kalle Kossila had four assists, and Jimmy Murray one goal and two assists. T'was more than enough for Ryan Faragher, who stopped 30 of 34.
At Magness Arena, Denver stayed alive for home ice by beating Miami 5-2. Emil Romig, Zac Larraza, Joey LaLeggia, and Nolan Zajac all had one goal and one assist each for Denver. Goalie Sam Brittain made 36 saves. Want a microcosm of Miami's season? Matt Marcinew was ejected for a hit from behind, and Miami had a long power play going into the third period with the score 3-2. The power play lasted all of two minutes before the RedHawks took a bench minor for too many men to negate the power play for two minutes. It's been that kind of year.
Now, what you all have probably been waiting for.
What has to happen Saturday for UMD to get home ice?
The Bulldogs clinch it themselves with a win in regulation or overtime. That actually would put UMD in third.
UMD also clinches home ice with a shootout win, which would lock the Bulldogs in fourth.
If Omaha wins a shootout, UMD would need Denver to go to a shootout with Miami, at the minimum. If UMD loses a shootout and Denver wins in regulation or overtime, the Bulldogs would finish fifth and hop a bird to Denver next weekend.
If UMD does not gain any points Saturday, it needs Denver to lose -- regulation, overtime, or shootout would work just fine.
Potential opponents are whittled to Western Michigan and Denver. UMD will not travel to Kalamazoo under any circumstances. If the teams meet, it will happen in Duluth. Denver is the only team UMD could play on the road. The Pioneers could also end up in Duluth.
Either way, a lot on the line Saturday night.