Friday, October 17, 2014

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Bulldogs Dig Another Hole, Climb Out, Fall Back In

This won't be as expansive as last week's. Hoping to maximize sleep, get some house-cleaning done, then it's a dress-and-drive to Mankato for Saturday's second game.

Anyway, tough loss on home ice for UMD.

This is not a recording.

The Bulldogs have to find a way to win these types of games at home. Discipline, goaltending, bounces, and execution all betrayed them at times on Friday, and Minnesota State took advantage of a somewhat controversial call in overtime to win 5-4.

We'll get to that. The officials get enough crap, frankly, and don't need it in writing here. Things tend to calm down after games, and rational thinking (usually) takes over.

And that rational thinking shows us that UMD did more than enough to lose this game without any outside assistance.

The Bulldogs nullified their first three power plays by taking penalties (happened 23 times last year, already five times in three games this year). Was one of those calls questionable? Yes. But I continue to contend that -- in a vacuum independent from any other calls made or not made -- that this call on Kyle Osterberg is, at the very least, defensible. It might be argued this is a good call, but I'm not into splitting hairs. I can't yell about it. You know they're calling ticky-tack stuff on you and nullifying power plays. Don't blow up a guy along the boards where you could subject yourself to a major if he turns at the last second.

The problem on those power plays was pretty much universal. UMD did a poor job managing the puck. Mistakes led to turnovers, which led to chasing, which led to stick fouls (or, in Osterberg's case, a blowup hit gone wrong). When Minnesota State took over on the power play after Osterberg's ejection, the Mavericks took advantage of some poor coverage by UMD to score twice and open a 4-1 lead.

UMD's comeback was very impressive, in large part because the power play stayed quite ineffective, outside of the final 54 seconds of the second period, where UMD racked up three shots and did a great job pressuring MSU goalie Stephon Williams. That was about it. The power play just couldn't possess the puck enough to do anything significant.

Junior goalie Matt McNeely struggled, I thought. Minnesota State did a very good job taking his eyes away, and UMD's defense had issues with coverage all night. Guys were open down low, winning battles, and making themselves available for tips. Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings says his team likes to "get up and down the rink," but MSU is more like North Dakota than it is like Minnesota. The Mavs have some guys who can get in your face. They go hard to the net and make life really difficult for defenders. Minnesota isn't a non-physical team by any stretch, but their forwards want to play with more pace than MSU does. Works for the Gophers, and this works for Hastings and Minnesota State.

McNeely let a couple tough ones get by him, but it just seemed he wasn't as sharp as Sunday against Notre Dame. He saw everything Sunday, not so much Friday. I'd imagine UMD comes back with freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo Saturday in Mankato, as the rotation continues.

Bottom line: UMD has a ways to go. That's fine, because the team that has it all figured out in October is probably lying. Or maybe it's Union. But it isn't us. A spirited comeback from 4-1 down showed again that this team has resolve, and that's great. But the poor start from the goalie out is what created the 4-1 deficit. 31 more penalty minutes shows a continued lack of discipline, and no team with average goaltending is going to survive giving a quality team ten power plays in a game.


We're not here to rag on the officials. They didn't have a good night. Neither did the home team.

I'm confident Scott Sandelin isn't going to cue up clips of questionable calls for his players to watch Saturday. Instead, I'm guessing Sandelin will show clips of defensive miscues, poor puck management, and missed opportunities.

That should be enough to get the players' attention.

Take care of those things, and the officials having a bad night -- if that's what you feel happened -- isn't a factor in the game.


Other scores around the NCHC Friday night:

Omaha 5, Western Michigan 2
North Dakota 3, Colorado College 1
Miami 5, Ohio State 1
Denver 3, RPI 0

Talk to you Saturday afternoon from Mankato.

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