Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Exhibition Thoughts: Sloppy Start, Hot Goalie, Work Needed

Monday night was the first chance we've had to see the 2014-15 UMD men's hockey team in action.

It didn't start well.

42 seconds in, the visitors from Lakehead University had a 1-0 lead. The Thunderwolves went on to lead much of the game, bidding to become the sixth Canadian Interuniversity Sport team to beat an NCAA team this weekend.

(Waterloo beat Notre Dame; something called Acadia beat Quinnipiac and Northeastern; St. Francis Xavier shut out New Hampshire; and Ryerson did the same to Robert "Bob" Morris; later Monday, NAIT -- the Ooks -- beat Omaha 4-0.)

UMD started a little sloppy. OK, a lot sloppy. Afterward, Scott Sandelin said this to Rick Weegman:
“If we turn the puck over that many times against the team we’re playing Friday, it’s going to be 10-0,” Sandelin said. “We have to clean things up and bear down more offensively.”
In case you forgot, "the team we're playing Friday" is preseason No. 1 Minnesota. The pace, the intensity, the everything will be ramped up big-time from what we saw Monday.

A 4-2 UMD win was keyed by some nice special-teams play in the third period, but it certainly leaves UMD with work to do ahead of Friday's real opener against the Gophers in South Bend.

The Bulldogs coughed up the puck quite a bit, especially early in the game. Those turnovers didn't lead to a lot of scoring chances for Lakehead, largely because -- to be frank -- the Thunderwolves aren't blessed with a ton of Division I caliber players. They clogged things up effectively and did a pretty good job around their net.

UMD has to be better in front of the net offensively. The Lakehead goalie -- Jeff Bosch -- made a lot of saves but also left a ton of rebounds that Bulldog players just couldn't get to. As the game wore on and Lakehead's (generally) big defensemen wore down, UMD did a better job getting to Bosch, it seemed. That's how the three-goal rally was started.

A few bullet point notes and thoughts:
  • I have no word at this time on the status of sophomore forward Kyle Osterberg, who took a knee on knee hit in the third period. That penalty -- a major -- led to Austin Farley's power play goal. Osterberg did not return to the bench or the ice, but he did feel well enough to talk to Weegman after the game. While completely speculative, I hope that was a good sign. All I know is he has a lower-body injury, and they're likely going to evaluate further.
  • Sandelin told me a couple times he believes he has ten forwards set to go for Friday's game at Minnesota. I assume that number is nine for the moment until they know more about Osterberg, because he was one of the ten. If Osterberg is unavailable for the Gopher game, it opens up a spot for one of the five other forwards fighting for playing time.
  • Along those lines, if you assume some combination of Tony Cameranesi, Justin Crandall, Cal Decowski, Austin Farley, Alex Iafallo, Adam Krause, Karson Kuhlman, Charlie Sampair, and Dominic Toninato for the "top three" lines, that leaves the fourth line, and Sandelin has to pick three of his other five forwards. I don't have any doubt that Brett Boehm put his best foot forward Monday. He has to get stronger (noticeably lost a board battle in the second period) and his play away from the puck must improve, but his skill level is off the charts. Against a high-end team like Minnesota, it sure can't hurt to have that kid out there. I liked Jared Thomas' game Monday, and junior Austyn Young and sophomore Sammy Spurrell have to be in the mix, too. Freshman Blake Young is going to be a good player, but I think this team's strong depth on the left side (even without Osterberg, they're solid at left wing) is going to hurt him until he shows a little more versatility.
  • Defensively, I have no idea what they're going to do. Carson Soucy will play with Andy Welinski, and Derik Johnson -- who sat out Monday -- is going to play with Willie Raskob. Among the other four defensemen, all of whom played Monday, I'd say freshman Nick McCormack had a good night, and I believe sophomore Brenden Kotyk will get a chance to play. But if Sandelin wants to get another potential power play presence in the mix, look for him to turn to either Dan Molenaar or Willie Corrin.
  • Matt McNeely didn't have a great start, but I did think he improved. The second goal was a bleeder, but I thought it was tipped in front. That said, freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo had a strong 30 minutes with nine saves. He showed quick feet and good poise in the net, and he appears to be more aggressive in his positioning (he sets up more toward the top of the crease than McNeely does, it seems, though McNeely is more aggressive and probably more advanced when it comes to actually playing the puck). I don't pretend to know how this will shake out ahead of Friday afternoon. I wish it was as easy as "stick the freshman out there against the top-ranked team in the country," but we'll see how things play out this week. I can't imagine Sandelin will announce a starter for Friday immediately, as that just hasn't been his M-O over the years.

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