Monday, October 13, 2014

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Split the Weekend in South Bend, Goalie Derby, Toninato Line Starts Hot

Typical "Monday after a road trip during hockey season" in the office. Lots to catch up on, but wanted to throw a few thoughts on here from Sunday's UMD win at Notre Dame and the weekend as a whole.

First off, a tip of the cap to UMD athletic director Josh Berlo, who had to be thrilled to return to a place he spent a long time at. Berlo spearheaded this trip, and it's safe to say everyone on it really enjoyed themselves.

Now, on to the games. We covered Minnesota in this post here, so I won't belabor much. Obviously, UMD was looking for a better start. The Bulldogs got that better start, as they picked up the game's first seven shots. UMD wasn't necessarily peppering Notre Dame freshman goalie Cal Petersen, but it was generating offense.

Tony Cameranesi buried a rebound off a goalmouth scramble for a power-play goal to get UMD on the board less than eight minutes in. Notre Dame got a bunch of shots on a two-man advantage, but eventually UMD sophomore Dominic Toninato -- who was a beast all weekend -- took the puck up along the right wing boards, cleared the defensive zone, and drew a holding penalty in the neutral zone to negate the two-man advantage and what was left of ND's power play time.

(Ticky-tack call, probably, but so was the hook that put UMD down two men. Sunday's game was more tightly-officiated than the Minnesota game was on Friday, but it was relatively consistent, so that's okay. And Toninato earned that call by controlling the puck, moving his feet, and using his strength to force the puck to center ice.)

Junior goalie Matt McNeely wasn't eye-popping, but he was solid. He got out to the top of the crease and stayed aggressive throughout the game. When a 6-3 goalie is playing as smart and aggressively as Matt was Sunday, he's very difficult to beat, especially when you have a solid team defense in front of him.

Once UMD led 2-0, Notre Dame got desperate. The Bulldogs started getting odd-man rushes (including a four-on-one), and the Irish were forced to defend more than they wanted to. UMD did a good job avoiding mistakes that cost it puck possession and just played a solid game once it got the lead.

Nice win over a ranked team on the road, and a ranked team that had to be desperate after losing both an exhibition and its home opener (3-2 Friday to RPI).

As mentioned, Toninato had a great weekend (three goals, one assist). Linemate Alex Iafallo (one goal, two assists) made a great play to set up Toninato's second goal against Minnesota, and he exploded by the Notre Dame defense for a ridiculous goal Sunday. Andy Welinski (one goal, one assist) was a rock.

Toninato and Iafallo showed tremendous chemistry last year. Now that they are stronger, faster, and more experienced, look for that chemistry to pay off even more. If you can find the highlights, watch Toninato in front of the net on the third goal. Notre Dame is hopeless to defend him. Granted, the Irish dressed nine freshmen, but they had experienced players on the ice when Dom scored. And they had no chance.

The goalie battle will continue indefinitely. McNeely definitely put his best foot forward, but there was more to like about Kasimir Kaskisuo's debut (four goals on 22 shots) than the stats indicate. "Kaz" bounced back after a rough start to the game, playing with a lot of poise and maturity in the second half of the game. He responded well, and that will be duly noted by the UMD staff as it weighs options for this weekend's home and home with No. 12 Minnesota State.

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