It got hairy for a few minutes.
But Saturday was something I felt UMD needed. An emphatic wire-to-wire victory.
(The Denver game was fun. But it was scoreless after a period and didn't really turn in UMD's favor until the second.)
The Bulldogs led throughout -- basically -- in a 7-2 win over Colorado College Saturday night. With the win, UMD moved back into a tie for first in the NCHC with Miami, which lost to Omaha Saturday. If North Dakota fails to sweep at Denver this weekend, Miami and UMD will remain tied for first into the new year.
Saturday was all UMD, outside of a sequence during the third period. Tony Cameranesi had scored on a Brenden Kotyk rebound to make it 4-0, but Colorado College scored twice on scramble plays to halve the lead. At 4-2, some in the crowd went from jubilantly chanting for ice cream to perhaps gnawing on their fingernails a bit.
UMD's older guys -- the leaders -- changed that. Andy Welinski and Derik Johnson helped set up a rebound goal for Justin Crandall that made it 5-2 (the ice cream goal, so to speak), then Adam Krause made it 6-2 before Austin Farley capped the scoring.
Just before the game, while visiting with family in the hallway, I commented to a loyal listener that I thought it was time for UMD to get this kind of win. No pulled goalie at the end, no rally from a deficit like Friday, no overtime heroics. UMD was the deeper, faster, and stronger team, and it showed on Saturday.
12 different players got on the scoresheet Saturday, including standouts Andy Welinski, Dominic Toninato, Alex Iafallo, Adam Krause, Austin Farley, Tony Cameranesi, Karson Kuhlman, and Cal Decowski, along with depth guys like Austyn Young, Brenden Kotyk, and Nick McCormack.
Krause and McCormack both returned from injury, and neither appeared to miss a beat. Krause was quickly reinserted on UMD's top line Friday and had a three-point weekend. McCormack helped set up a goal on Saturday and finished plus-three.
I've already written about UMD's depth shining. This weekend, it did so again, though in a different way.
Who do you want to shut down? Put your top checking line on the Toninato line, and Cameranesi's line runs wild. Shut down the top two lines, and you have to deal with guys like Decowski, Crandall, and Kyle Osterberg, who aren't even among the "top six forwards" at this time.
Oh, and after a rather unproductive year from the blue line, the defense is definitely contributing more this season. UMD's eight defensemen combined for five goals (all by Welinski) last year, totaling 48 assists and 53 points in 216 total man-games. The group has combined for 96 appearances so far this year, with 10 goals (six by Welinski) and 31 points. That's a 36-game pace of 70 points on 23 goals and 47 assists.
UMD needs to solve some things on the penalty kill, which hasn't been as good as it was in the first part of the season. It's weird, because as the PIM numbers have dropped appreciably*, the penalty kill percentage has, too.
(* - On that note, you don't hear anyone harping on UMD's lack of discipline anymore, do you? The Bulldogs have gone from being easily the most penalized team in the sport going into November to a team barely in the top ten in penalty minutes per game now.)
This weekend, UMD travels to Houghton for a two-game series against Michigan Tech. I'll have to check with the coaches, but I believe this is the last series against Michigan Tech in their current deal. Hopefully it's one that they find a way to continue. Tech is a strong team this season under Mel Pearson, and I'm expecting the MacInnes Student Ice Arena to be as loud as I've ever heard it for these games. It'll be a fun way to finish the 2014 portion of the schedule.