Friday, February 28, 2014

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Entertaining Game Sees UMD End Losing Streak at Four

OXFORD, Ohio -- When Miami jumped to a 2-0 lead on UMD late in the first period Friday, I have to admit it started feeling a little bit like Groundhog Day. The Bulldogs only took ten shots in the first period, didn't generate much memorable offensive zone time, and lost some coverage on both RedHawk goals.

Not only that, but junior center Caleb Herbert took two more penalties, giving him 33, 15 more than anyone else on the team. He also almost lit my Twitter feed on fire, with some going so far as to question why he was even in the lineup.

Yes, people were openly lobbying for UMD to bench its leading scorer.


We scored two goals in 120 minutes last weekend (one by Herbert, by the way), and people want him benched. I get it. He's taking a lot of penalties. But he did exactly what he had to do to respond Friday.


And then score again.

Herbert went to the net and potted UMD's first at 1:06 of the second period on a rebound. After some back-and-forth that saw UMD eventually turn 2-0 into 3-3, Herbert was the beneficiary of great power play puck movement by the Bulldogs, and he waited out Miami goalie Jay Williams to give UMD a 4-3 lead.

The two-goal night was a big part of UMD's 5-4 win over Miami, a win that snapped a four-game losing streak. the Bulldogs improved to 2-10-2 when scored on first.

It was a nice character win for the Bulldogs. Miami came hard throughout the game, and UMD missed a golden chance to put the game away late. A Sean Kuraly major for a check from behind would have run the clock out with UMD on the power play, but Andy Welinski was called for a trip with 2:02 left. That allowed Miami to pull Williams and play the final 2:02 with five forwards on the ice and the puck in UMD's zone almost the whole time.

The other hairy sequence came late in the second and into the third period, when UMD had to kill off a major penalty on Willie Corrin for a hit from behind. Corrin may have been victimized by some embellishment by Austin Czarnik on the hit, but it wasn't a hit Corrin had to throw in that spot. Difficult position for him, and Czarnik -- who was called for embellishment earlier in the game -- won the call this time.

Miami scored with five seconds left in the second, but Adam Krause put home a short-handed goal to give UMD the lead for good 1:09 into the third.

Aaron Crandall made a huge save with 22 seconds left, and the Bulldogs blocked shots and played well positionally. Crandall wasn't necessarily sharp early in the game, but he stopped all nine he saw in the third and finished with 20 saves.

Miami has some very good players. Their top line of Czarnik, Blake Coleman, and Riley Barber is as dangerous as any line you're going to find, and Anthony Louis (two goals, one assist) had a big game Friday. But the RedHawks are leaky and not deep defensively, and Williams didn't have a particularly good night in the series opener.

It was an entertaining game. Had a lot of flow. Probably drove both coaches nuts with the defensive breakdowns and sometimes-leaky goaltending, too. I'm sure there's a lot for Enrico Blasi and Scott Sandelin to go over the their respectable teams. I'll put the over/under on total combined sleep Friday night at 9 1/2 hours.

Then after Krause's goal, the game's went away. Lots of icings and pucks out of play in the third period. But UMD played pretty well over the last 40 minutes, outshooting MU 27-17. With Crandall settling in, all four lines contributing good shifts and generating scoring chances, and the power play showing signs of life, the Bulldogs took some good steps forward on Friday.

No, it wasn't a virtuoso. It also wasn't a finger-painting.

It was a valuable three points, the end to a losing streak, and a nice night for the offense. The Bulldogs showed character, generally avoided the really stupid penalties on a night they were there to be taken, and won a road game in which they trailed 2-0.

We'll take it.


Elsewhere in the NCHC, North Dakota fell behind 1-0 at St. Cloud State, then outshot the Huskies 17-3 in hangind a five-spot in the second period. UND ended up winning 5-2 and can clinch the NCHC regular-season title with a win over the Huskies in regulation or overtime Saturday. Connor Gaarder had two of the goals, and Brendan O'Donnell had three apples. Zane Gothberg actually slept for part of the second period, and finished with 22 saves. St. Cloud State undoubtedly misses Andrew Prochno, but the big story in this game was the second period, where UND pretty much did whatever it wanted. Sound familiar at all, UMD fans? I'm interested to see if North Dakota can do it one more time Saturday. Have to think St. Cloud State will bring it, but we thought that with UMD last weekend and it didn't really materialize.

Denver scored three straight goals in the third period to break a 1-1 tie and beat Western Michigan 4-2. Zac Larrazza and Emil Romig had two points apiece for DU, while goalie Sam Brittain stopped 29 shots.

In Omaha, Nebraska Omaha stomped a mudhole in Colorado College, 6-0. Josh Archibald scored two more, giving him an eye-popping 28 on the season. Ryan Massa stopped all 20 he faced, and the Tigers remain winless outside of Colorado this season.

North Dakota leads SCSU by three points. UNO is three back of St. Cloud State. Denver sits in fourth, four points back of UNO. UMD and Western Michigan are tied for fifth, one point behind Denver.

The Bulldogs need either a win or a UNO loss to have a shot at third place heading into the final weekend. Second place is probably out of reach. Fourth place is extremely realistic, but UMD probably needs Western to beat Denver on Saturday, since the Pios close with Miami at home.

For now, forget the scenarios. If UMD keeps plugging along, good things will happen.

Game 31: UMD at Miami

OXFORD, Ohio -- Off and running from Ohio, where it was above freezing today. And there's a winter storm coming Sunday. Fantastic.

First time here. Cool little building. I'll tweet some pictures if I have time this weekend.



Osterberg - Cameranesi - Crandall (Justin)
Decowski - Herbert - Basaraba
Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Farley - Tardy - Spurrell

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
Corrin - Molenaar

Crandall (Aaron) - Fons

Coleman - Czarnik - Barber
Wideman - Kuraly - Gacek
Murphy - Cook - Louis
Doherty - Greenberg - Paulazzo

Caito - Joyaux (Chris)
Joyaux (Matt) - Paulides
Mooney - Hamilton

Williams - McKay - Jacaruso

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bulldogs Detour to Kentucky in Search of Winning Touch

OXFORD, Ohio -- The UMD men's hockey team is so determined to get back on the winning track, that it traveled to Kentucky Thursday in search of that extra spark.


You see, for those unaware, you actually don't fly into Cincinnati when the plane ticket says you do. The Cincinnati airport is actually located south and west of the main part of the city, and it's across the border in Kentucky.

I'm not going to say who, but a member of the UMD traveling party who may or may not be female didn't believe me when this little factoid started making its way around the bus. Perhaps Suz this person thought the Chick-Fil-A I had for lunch was negatively affecting my brain.

(For the record, the airport code is CVG, which signifies the location of Covington, Ky. It was the nearest "major" city when the airport -- which is actually in Hebron, Ky. -- was built. I wonder how the poor people of Covington and Hebron feel when people fly into that airport and think they're actually in Cincinnati.)

Anyway, about an hour away from Cincinnati Covington the damn airport sits Oxford, a town of around 22,000 people in southwestern Ohio. Oxford is the home city of Miami University, and this weekend marks UMD's first-ever visit here.

The teams' only prior meeting came in the 2009 NCAA West Regional championship game at Mariucci Arena, and we will discuss that no more.

This weekend is a key for UMD. Well, it's big for both teams, but especially UMD. Dreams of home ice in the NCHC playoffs and a potential NCAA at-large spot may have crumbled over the last two weekends, as the Bulldogs lost four straight games to fall to sixth in the league standings and 21st in the PairWise.

Not only that, but while UMD has now been swept three times this season (twice by St. Cloud State), the Bulldogs may have put out their worst 120-minute performance in losing twice last weekend to North Dakota.

"We got beat by a better team," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said this week. "Thought Friday's game was an opportunity for us to win, and we didn't do that."

Sandelin called Saturday "our worst game of the year." He expanded on that.

"They were a step quicker in everything right from the drop of the puck. They were willing to do the right things throughout the game. They really didn't do anything fancy. They just outworked us, and that really doesn't sit well with me ... in our building, after a Friday loss, to get outworked. I can live with losing a game if we gave them a battle, but I didn't think we gave them any sort of pushback at all. I think they dictated everything from the drop of the puck."

Anyone who attended Saturday's game probably knows this. It was crystal-clear. The evidence started early, when UND outshot UMD 7-0 on its way to the game's first goal. The shots in the first ended 22-10, and it might have been the least impressive I have ever seen a goalie look in making 21 saves. UMD sophomore Matt McNeely made some nice stops, but he was clearly fighting the puck, as evidenced by save after save where he looked behind him, and a sharp-angle shot from a UND player that he made enough of a meal of to almost put in his own net (it was close enough that the officials looked at it to be sure). When a goalie is turning the routine into an adventure, it's usually not a really good sign.

The roof fell in on Matt in the second period, when North Dakota scored three times on its first ten shots, and Aaron Crandall came on in relief. The third goal, scored by UND captain Dillon Simpson, was the most damning.

In McNeely's defense, I don't think that result is much different if Aaron Crandall starts. Or if the Bulldogs had found a way to sneak Jonathan Quick on the ice. Saturday was an ass-kicking, pretty much from the start. UND beat UMD to loose pucks, won battles, and forced a dizzying number of turnovers. No goalie was going to hold the No-Names off the board all night.

That said, he didn't play well, and it was not a good weekend for the good guys.

Now, it's time to get this thing turned around. There is no shortage of stuff to play for.

"If we're going to go in there and wallow around feeling sorry for ourselves, we're going to have the same result," Sandelin said. "We have to find ways to play better hockey and win."

Miami has every reason to wallow around and feel sorry for itself. Beaten down by injuries, a lack of depth on the blue line, and sophomore slumps from both primary goalies, the RedHawks are 2-9-1 since holiday break. One of those wins was last week, when Miami took down fourth-ranked St. Cloud State 4-3. The Huskies rebounded the next night for a split.

"I think we've had some situations in games where we've kind of blown up and haven't been able to recover," coach Enrico Blasi said this week. "Once that pendulum starts to go south, it affects everybody's confidence. We've lost a lot of one-goal games this year. It's a sign that guys aren't feeling as good as they need to be. It seems every time we make mistakes, it's in the back of our net."

The numbers back the veteran coach, who is the school's all-time leader in wins. Miami is 1-7 in one-goal games this season, 4-10 in games decided by one or two goals. Conversely, UMD is 8-9 in one- and two-goal games. That's not a great record, either, but it's more in line with "normal."

(There's a modicum of luck in this kind of thing. A .500 record can be expected, or at least something close to that. Anything heavily tilted in one direction or the other is a sign that either good or bad luck has been on a team's side. For example, our championship team was 19-7 in games decided by one or two goals. 13-8 the following year with many of the same players. The tilt dimished, even if only a little bit.)

(No, I'm not saying the 2011 team was merely lucky. Don't read into that. I'm pointing out that no one wins or loses a high percentage of close games without luck being involved.)

(Maybe I'll just use parentheses for the rest of the preview.)

(Maybe not.)

Miami's top line -- featuring captain Austin Czarnik, Riley Barber, and a recently back-from-injury Blake Coleman -- can go. They're good. Legit. Watching Friday's game against SCSU, they buzzed with and without the puck. Coleman had a particularly great shift in the second period, hounding SCSU star Nic Dowd into a neutral-zone turnover that would lead to a Miami goal on the ensuing rush. Czarnik isn't big, but he has wheels and a great shot, and he is a very competitive player.

Remind you of anyone? If you said "Rocco Grimaldi," you're on to something. Czarnik is a little bit bigger, but there are similarities when you watch them, both with and without the puck.

The RedHawks are not a terribly deep team. They have some complimentary forwards who at least flash some skill. I really like Sean Kuraly from watching the tape. Anthony Louis and Alex Wideman can go, too. In the back, Matthew Caito plays big minutes and he justifies the workload with his two-way play. He can move the puck and isn't afraid to get it to the net. But the blue line lacks depth and experience. In goal, both Ryan McKay and Jay Williams have been up and down after great freshman campaigns. As a result, the RedHawks' team save percentage has bottomed out at .897 this season after it was .933 a year ago. With the same guys in net.

"For whatever reason, our goaltenders have struggled," Blasi said. "They've played well in stretches, but not as consistently as we thought they would. They're no different than the rest of us."

For UMD, the formula for success is getting in Miami's faces, playing well with the puck, slowing down Czarnik's line, and scoring the first couple goals. Overall, MU is 2-11-1 when giving up the first goal. UMD provides company there, as it is a cover-your-eyes 1-10-2 when the other guys score first. So that first goal could be largely amplified this weekend.

Even more glaring for Miami: In four of the last five RedHawk defeats, the first goal allowed has been followed by a second within three minutes. When Blasi talks about the pendulum swings, this is the picture you should get in your head. Bad things turn into more bad things when confidence is low. UMD needs to attack that this weekend. Get on top of these guys and take their will away.

It sounds mean, because it is.

And Miami wants to do the same thing to us. Blasi is almost certainly taking time this week to convey that message. Score first, then score second, and they'll wilt. Take their will, and take the six points. Of course, he didn't say that to me.

"I like their depth up front," he said of UMD. "I like the way they play in the offensive zone. The four defensemen that play a ton get a lot of ice time and are very active. They attack well, are good in transition. We better be ready to play some good defense and manage the puck."

This is a great test for UMD this weekend. The Bulldogs have been good on the road, and until last week, had shown a keen ability to rebound and beat back adversity. Six points in Oxford would certainly make a lot of pain from the last two weeks disappear.


A few have asked, and since UMD's last two opponents are tied for first in the NCHC and meet this weekend, here are a few thoughts on the matchup between North Dakota and St. Cloud State.

North Dakota is playing incredibly well right now. I know Dave Hakstol insists health is the biggest factor, but you don't get to put up the kind of win percentage post-Christmas he has without getting some praise for the way the team is coached. It isn't a coincidence that this happens every year.

St. Cloud State, despite the loss last Friday, is also hitting on a lot of cylinders. However, the loss of defenseman Andrew Prochno might be tough to overcome. The junior is easily SCSU's best defenseman, and while Ethan Prow and Kevin Gravel are good players, neither of them is as good as Prochno. I don't wish injury on anyone, but the Huskies are in better position to be missing a forward than they are a top defenseman. The depth there is just better.

That forward depth will test UND, especially on that big ice that the Huskies use so well. But North Dakota's defense is a big reason the team is in this position. Every player in their top four is playing better now than he was when UMD played in Grand Forks in November. That includes Dillon Simpson, who played pretty well that weekend. Jordan Schmaltz, if he stays another year, will be one of the best players in the game next season. He's one of the best sophomores in the NCHC right now. Paul LaDue has come miles since November, and Nick Mattson is having a great season. That top four that Hakstol sports will help keep the Huskies at bay.

Zane Gothberg vs Ryan Faragher will be fascinating to watch in goal. Love how both are playing now, and Faragher was especially good against UMD. We had more than enough chances, especially in that Saturday game, and he was as good as any goalie has been against UMD this season. Gothberg was impressive last weekend, but I also left feeling we didn't test him as much as we did Faragher.

I thought UND had a slight edge, and that was before the Prochno injury was made public. We'll see if St. Cloud State can generate enough puck possession to get the chances it will need to win these games. It will be tough without Prochno in the back, but if there's a team with enough elite and highly-competitive forwards to overcome that, it's St. Cloud State.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Hit a Wall

Not much needs to be said. The score says it all.


Opportunistic North Dakota scored on three straight power plays, chased UMD goalie Matt McNeely, and stomped the lackluster Bulldogs Saturday at a sold-out Amsoil Arena.

The loss was a fourth straight for UMD, with all four coming to the two teams -- North Dakota and St. Cloud State -- that are tied for the lead and collide this weekend for first place in the NCHC.

Saturday did not start well. UND got the game's first seven shots on goal over the opening 3:38, and Mitch MacMillan found the back of the net with the seventh of those shots to make it 1-0. Consecutive goals by Kyle Osterberg and Caleb Herbert -- Osterberg's off a neutral-zone steal and Herbert's off the rush -- made it 2-1 UMD, but it was a hollow lead.

UMD was turning the puck over at an alarming rate, especially in its own zone. No one was immune, and those turnovers were giving UND -- already a strong puck possession team -- plenty of chances to make UMD chase the biscuit.

I can assure you no one on the UMD side was happy with the events of the weekend, events that led to zero points and a whole lot of quiet in the home building. However, it's been almost 40 hours as of this writing, and it's time to give credit where it's due.

North Dakota is good. Really good.

Watching UND dismantle Miami the previous weekend, the consensus -- even among some North Dakota people I talked to -- was that Miami just didn't play, especially on Saturday. Defense and goaltending were not at a requisite Division I level, and the RedHawks were not a worthy opponent that weekend.

However, that same Miami team bit St. Cloud State on Friday in a 4-3 upset win, and North Dakota shoving UMD aside with relative ease should show everyone that the story here is North Dakota.

Ran into UND coach Dave Hakstol after Saturday's game. Basically told him I was hoping to see them at Target Center. He acted like he was worried about his team getting there, and the thing is Hakstol is legitimately concerned about it. Like he said, anyone in this league can beat anyone else. It's usually a cliche meant to keep a team on its toes. But last-place Miami beat first-place St. Cloud State, and the seventh-place team in the league -- Colorado College -- has won three straight and just swept its longtime rival Denver, officially doubling their win total on the season to six.

Hakstol is right, and his attitude keeps his team going. UND hounds the puck, gets in opponents' faces, and Hakstol probably has three or four future NHL defensemen on his roster at the moment. With the progress Paul LaDue has made back there, and the continued growth of Jordan Schmaltz, UND seriously challenges what I said earlier in the season about Denver's blue line. UND might have the deepest group of defensemen in the league, not DU has I had previously asserted. They were that impressive.

That strength allows for a few things. Hakstol can forecheck harder with his forwards, knowing that it's hard to beat his defensemen on the rush. He can activate his defensemen in the offensive zone, because they're smart enough to sense the holes and crash down without hurting coverage if UND somehow loses the puck.

And if Zane Gothberg keeps playing at this level, UND might have all the pieces necessary for a long NCAA run.

A title is the only thing Hakstol has been missing since he took over at UND. Some fans of that program measure its success solely by national championships, and no number of regular-season wins will satisfy them. Until Hakstol wins a national title, he will probably be underappreciated by an extremely vocal section of UND fans. It's wrong, but it's also not going to change the way he approaches his business or coaches his kids.


So where does UMD go from here?

Back to work. It has to be that simple.

Miami awaits Friday and Saturday, and there won't be any sympathy for UMD in Oxford. The RedHawks have high-end skill up front, and their speed will test UMD's defense often this weekend.

UMD has no time to feel sorry for itself. None. Starting Monday, the Bulldogs have to find themselves and put the pieces together while this season can still be saved. And make no mistake: It can be saved.

Win three of four, improve playoff position and maybe get home ice, then take care of business in that first round. If that happens, UMD should be on track to make the NCAAs. And if it doesn't happen, let us not speak of the PWR until January 2015.

What's wrong?

I think UMD has been exposed in the back. The Bulldogs have been great about protecting goalies from rebound goals and scramble plays, but they have been beaten more consistently in front of the net over the last four games. It's not a good trend, because UND and St. Cloud State do have a lot of strength up front, but on one scramble play this past weekend, UMD wasn't beaten by strength or luck, but instead by Rocco Grimaldi, who is neither big nor strong. He's smart and skilled, and simply beat his man to the crease to jam home a loose puck.

Goaltending needs to improve, but I'd also like to see our defense get back to the way it had been playing earlier in the season. Combine the two, and things should turn around.

Puck possession is huge, though, and UMD just didn't have it enough to make a big impact on Saturday. I didn't think puck possession was in the 'Dogs' favor on Friday, either, even though shots were 33-21 UMD.

UMD has bounced back on multiple occasions this season, but this is easily the most adversity this team has faced. Friday is a huge night.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Game 30: North Dakota at UMD



Farley - Herbert - Crandall (Justin)
Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Osterberg - Cameranesi - Tardy
Young - Decowski - Spurrell

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
Corrin - Molenaar

Crandall (Aaron) - McNeely - Fons

Caggiula - MacMillan (Mark) - Parks
Pattyn - Grimaldi - Johnson
O'Donnell - Gaarder - Rodwell
MacMillan (Mitch) - Chyzyk - St. Clair

Mattson - LaDue
Simpson - Schmaltz
Thompson - Stecher

Gothberg - Saunders

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Ugh

Friday was not a good night for the home team.

Where have I said that before?

UMD fell to an unacceptable 4-6-3 at Amsoil Arena with a 3-0 loss to North Dakota Friday night. Bluntly, it wasn't much of a hockey game. Many of the announced 6,762 (I'll eat my headset if the in-house was within 1,000 of that) sat on their hands -- or, in the case of the students, stood with their hands in their pockets -- throughout the game.

It was such a blah game that even the North Dakota fans were largely quiet, and that never happens, especially at road venues.

I don't have an explanation for UMD's home woes. Strength of schedule comes to mind. The Bulldogs have only two home series against opponents currently under .500 (Colorado College and Michigan Tech). UMD is 2-0-2 there, which isn't world-beating, but also isn't bad in any way.

The other nine home games? 2-6-1. Swept by St. Cloud State, split with Notre Dame and Western Michigan, loss and tie against Denver, and Friday's loss to UND.

North Dakota won in faceoffs 28-21, had the majority of puck possession, won races and battles, and generally kept UMD's offense on the perimeter. Sophomore Zane Gothberg made 33 saves, but many of them came on outside shots with little traffic available. He was seeing the puck very well, which certainly made things tougher on the Bulldogs. And UND is a very hard-nosed team. Want to score on them? You have to get your hands dirty, so to speak. Wasn't enough of that, in my view, in the areas where it could help UMD score.

The faceoff bit seemed more harmful than it was in past games where UMD lost the faceoff battle. The Bulldogs are 55th in faceoff percentage out of 59 Division I teams, but it usually doesn't hurt them because they hound the puck, get it back, and end up being the ones with most of the possession in a game.

Not so much on Friday. UND was outshot badly, but had the puck a lot, especially in the second period. UMD's possession was limited more in this game, and it started with clean faceoff wins.

I doubt the forward lines will change a ton. We are what we are at this point. I don't want to see Dominic Toninato's line broken up, so maybe swap a few other guys, but that'd be about it. The magic bullet isn't in the press box with this team. The Bulldogs only have one extra forward available, and the blue line is still banged up.

One thing that could change, conceivably, is the starting goalie. Aaron Crandall has started 14 straight games, and he's earned that. Crandall kept UMD in a few games over that stretch, but I thought he was shaky in both games last weekend against St. Cloud State (less so on Saturday, when he had a little more control of his rebounds and I believe was more decisive with his positioning), and he looked a tick off to me on Friday. He uncharacteristically bobbled pucks he had been devouring earlier in his run, and he wasn't as aggressive.

It might be time for sophomore Matt McNeely to return to the cage. After he played the last 40 minutes of last Friday's loss to St. Cloud State, coach Scott Sandelin told me he was "proud" of McNeely, who had a strong week of practice. Sandelin praised McNeely's readiness again when I talked to him before the North Dakota series, and noted that the sophomore could very well get a start before the season ends. He hasn't started since Dec. 13.

It isn't an indictment of Crandall. We aren't in a position to make the NCAA Tournament without his contributions. It's probably more about the guys in front of him, who weren't necessarily as sharp in this game.

No telling if a goalie change would jolt improvement there, but we need something good to happen before it's too late.


Miami upset St. Cloud State 4-3, and Colorado College won 3-2 at Denver. So, yeah, just another normal night in the NCHC, where worst beats first and seventh place wins at fourth.

Nebraska Omaha hung three in the third to pull away from Western Michigan 5-1.

So first place is a tie between SCSU and UND, and UNO is three points back. Denver stays in fourth, now four out of third, and UMD and Western Michigan sit tied for fifth, one point behind DU.

Still crazy, but we could start seeing some separation at the top.

Of course, St. Cloud State hosts North Dakota next week, so that could change again, too.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Game 29: North Dakota at UMD

Sorry. Been one of those weeks. I'll make it up to you. Maybe.

(Alternative: You get what you're paying for. That's rude, though.)



Farley - Herbert - Basaraba
Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Osterberg - Cameranesi - Crandall (Justin)
Tardy - Decowski - Young

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
Corrin - Molenaar

Crandall (Aaron) - McNeely - Fons

Caggiula - MacMillan (Mark) - Parks
Pattyn - Grimaldi - Johnson
O'Donnell - Gaarder - Rodwell
MacMillan (Mitch) - Chyzyk - St. Clair

Mattson - LaDue
Simpson - Schmaltz
Thompson - Stecher

Gothberg - Saunders

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Game 28: UMD at St. Cloud State

ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- Go away, snow. Everyone wants a clean drive home.

OK. That's all.



Osterberg - Cameranesi - Crandall (Justin)
Farley - Herbert - Basaraba
Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Tardy - Decowski - Spurrell

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
Corrin - Smith

Crandall (Aaron) - McNeely

Murray - Dowd - Morley
Papa - Kossila - Brodzinski
Benik - Thorson - Tedesco
Oliver - Rehkamp - Bertsch

Prochno - Prow
Gravel - Daly
Storm - Rabey

Faragher - Lindgren - Reijola

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Loose Defensive Coverage, Lack of Big Saves Doom UMD

ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- Hockey games are 60 minutes long.

Sometimes, a failure to do the right things for 26 seconds can doom a team. Friday night was a good example of that.

At the start of Friday's UMD-St. Cloud State game, the Huskies won the draw and pushed the puck into the UMD zone. A couple Bulldog mishandles later, and Andy Welinski's free hand grabbed a hold of an SCSU forward. To the box went Welinski, and the Huskies would score on the power play for a 1-0 lead 2:03 in.

The Bulldogs weathered a bit of a storm after that, started generating some puck possession, but then were victimized by more poor play in the defensive zone. A turnover at the UMD blue line led to a Joey Benik rebound goal, then Kevin Gravel scored off the rush 33 seconds later for a 3-0 lead.

St. Cloud would make it 4-0 before the first period was over, and Aaron Crandall's night would end when the first 20 minutes had run out. On came Matt McNeely, who wasn't asked to do a ton, as the Bulldogs started playing better.

That said, defensive zone coverage was a bit of a theme for UMD throughout the game. And I don't mean that in a good way.

The Bulldogs were sloppy in their own end. After cutting the lead in half during the second period, the third started with UMD in its own zone, unable to get control of the puck and then losing coverage on two (!) SCSU players out front. McNeely made a nice save on Nic Dowd, who is about the last player on this St. Cloud team that you want to leave in front of your goalie all by himself, but he was clipped (I believe) by a UMD player as a scrum ensued, and he wasn't able to get back up in time to stop Jimmy Murray's rebound shot, since he got free, too.

SCSU also hit four pipes, including a couple in the first period that could have made that 4-0 score much worse.

On Murray's first goal, the fourth SCSU goal of the first, the puck was in the slot. Just laying there. Crandall froze, and so did all four UMD skaters. Murray only had to skate to it, grab it, and shoot. Mission accomplished.

The first goal might have been a nice shot by Dowd, but it was started by the poor shift from UMD to start the game. Eventually, Welinski takes the penalty behind the net, and the team is behind the 8-ball early on.

All that said, this game could have been a whole lot worse than the 5-3 final. In fact, had this game been played in November, I believe it would have been.

This Bulldog team has come a long way, especially from a character standpoint. The group's confidence is high enough right now that it believes it can overcome anything, including such a rotten start to a road game in a tough environment.

Getting that goofy-bounce goal from Welinski 22 seconds into the period was a nice start. And while Kyle Osterberg's tip for a power play goal halfway through the second cut the lead to 4-2, the Bulldogs missed a couple glorious opportunities to make a bigger dent. SCSU goalie Ryan Faragher was huge, making some big saves, most notably one on Caleb Herbert as UMD got loose for an odd-man opportunity.

Justin Crandall had five shots, as did Joe Basaraba and Alex Iafallo. Basaraba had UMD's best chance in the first period, but was stonewalled. The chances were there, but Faragher shut them down.

I believe three things sunk UMD in this game. The poor start, shaky defensive zone coverage throughout the first period and again to start the third, and the lack of big saves from its goalies when compared to St. Cloud's goalie.

That's not to indict Aaron Crandall. He of the .928 save percentage over 11 straight starts was clearly not his sharpest in this game. I didn't think he was great in the North Star College Cup, but his 'mates picked him up. Not on this night.

Crandall wasn't as good as he's been, but sloppy coverage and a bad start doomed this team. SCSU is so good on the power play that mistakes are magnified when you make them. On the first power play, UMD didn't do a great job getting out on Dowd, and he had enough time to tee up. On the second power play, the puck sat in the slot for what felt like a minute (I know it wasn't), and not one UMD player closed on the loose biscuit.

Could Crandall have stopped Dowd? Sure. Could Crandall have dove out and covered that loose puck? Probably.

But the point is that he wasn't getting much help in that first period. For that reason, I firmly believe UMD comes back with Crandall on Saturday. It isn't a knock on McNeely. He played just fine after going in, especially for a guy who hadn't played a game -- outside of the exhibition -- in more than two months.

Instead, it's a nod of thanks and some faith in the senior. After a .928 save percentage over 11 straight starts with a 7-1-3 record, Aaron Crandall has earned that. Give him the chance to respond to a tough start, while his teammates do the same.


Elsewhere in the NCHC Friday night, the good night for home teams continued. Josh Archibald's two goals included the game-winner in a 4-2 win over Denver for Nebraska Omaha. The Mavericks got 20 saves from freshman goalie Kirk Thompson in the victory.

In Grand Forks, North Dakota held on to beat Miami 3-2. Mark MacMillan scored twice as UND jumped to a 3-0 lead. The RedHawks tried to rally, getting within a goal with 30 seconds left, but were unable to get the equalizer by Clarke Saunders (31 saves).

Colorado College took a 3-0 lead over Western Michigan in Colorado Springs, but the Broncos eventually adjusted to the pond hockey-like sheet at the World Arena. WMU scored four in a row to take a 4-3 lead, but Alex Roos tied it in the third period for Colorado College. The game ended in a 4-4 draw, with Western Michigan winning the shootout 1-0 to tie UMD for fourth in the league standings.

St. Cloud State has 33 points, UND and UNO each 30, then UMD and WMU each have 28. Seven games left for everyone.

Yeah, this is fun.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Game 27: UMD at St. Cloud State

ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- If it feels like forever since you've seen that dateline, you're right.

Not counting times driving through on family trips to see people in Sioux Falls, this is my first time in St. Cloud since March of 2012, and the second time here since October 2009. That's a heck of a long time without regular meetings for two teams barely 140 miles apart (actually, Google Maps says it's 145 miles between the respective home arenas).

The Herb Brooks National Hockey Center is in the midst of a renovation. The facade and entryway look very nice, so it should be cool once the rest of the work is done.

I don't need to remind you how big a series this is. Large. Six points on the line.

Oh, and welcome back Austin Farley. Consider the lede sufficiently buried. Farley returns after a four-game absence, and he adds more potency to a lineup that has already shown a lot of it.



Osterberg - Cameranesi - Crandall (Justin)
Farley - Herbert - Basaraba
Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Tardy - Decowski - Young

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
Corrin - Smith

Crandall (Aaron) - McNeely

Murray - Dowd - Morley
Papa - Kossila - Brodzinski
Benik - Thorson - Bertsch
Oliver - Rehkamp - Tedesco

Prochno - Prow
Gravel - Daly
Rabey - Nevalainen

Faragher - Lindgren - Reijola

UMD Two Points From Top of NCHC as St. Cloud State Looms

The fact that we're even having this discussion is a testament to the character of the UMD room.

No one person gets all the credit for UMD being in a position to potentially take over first place in the NCHC with a good weekend.

Of course, that doesn't stop some from trying to hand out credit.

"I think it starts with (Aaron) Crandall," St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko says. Motzko openly praised Crandall's play in goal.

"You can't do it in our league without a goalie. They are a national contender. They needed that goaltending. It sure seems that's been the thing that's put them over the hump."

Now, Motzko isn't wrong. It is no coincidence that Crandall has a .928 save percentage over UMD's 7-1-3 spurt that has brought the Bulldogs to within two points of the NCHC lead entering this weekend's series at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

Like Motzko says, this is a confident group right now, and that starts with the play of Crandall in goal. But it doesn't end there.

"The guys just started clicking (since Christmas)," sophomore defenseman Willie Corrin said this week. "You can feel it in practice. Everyone's in a really good mood. The guys get together out of the rink more often. There's just an energy that we didn't have at the beginning of the year. There's just an energy that we didn't have at the beginning of the year.

"Winning's contagious."

St. Cloud hasn't been good to UMD over the years. The Bulldogs haven't won a regular season game there since 2004, and they haven't won any game there since 2007. That said, UMD hasn't played there in almost two whole years. The Bulldogs didn't play in St. Cloud in their 2010-11 national championship season, and they've only played two games there since October of 2009.

Point? This group of UMD players knows virtually nothing of the program's struggles in that building. This group has succeeded on the big sheet, and that's all this is: Two games on the big sheet.

Add in a little extra juice for a Bulldog team that hit its low point of the season the last time it played St. Cloud State, getting swept at home 4-2 and 5-1. The latter might have been the worst game UMD has played all season.

"It's not something I'm going to make a big deal of," coach Scott Sandelin said this week. "Players don't forget that. We don't need to harp on that."

"Friday night (the 4-2 loss), their goalie stole one from us, and we owe him for that," Corrin said. "Mostly, we're going to work on what we do."

No question, however, that the December losses to St. Cloud are in the back of many people's minds ahead of this weekend. It doesn't have to be front and center -- actually, it shouldn't be -- but there's nothing wrong with drawing a little additional motivation from the keister-kicking that was delivered two months ago.

SCSU has struggled a bit since sweeping UMD, but the Huskies have all the tools to turn things around. They get elite goaltending from Ryan Faragher, who sat out Saturday's win over Denver as a healthy scratch on planned rest, according to Motzko. They have a deep group of forwards led by the dynamic Nic Dowd and Jonny Brodzinski. Defensively, they aren't as deep, but get quality minutes from Andrew Prochno, Kevin Gravel, and the emerging Ethan Prow. They're good on the power play, and while the penalty kill struggles, SCSU averages around half the PIMs per game that UMD does. The Huskies might not be good on the kill, but they don't take enough penalties to truly pay for those struggles.

This is going to be a crazy final four weeks in the NCHC. No reason to think this is the last time the first and second place teams in the conference meet. North Dakota plays SCSU, Western Michigan, and UMD before the end of the season, UMD meets Omaha, etc. There's a lot that can still happen.

Not lost here is the race for NCAA positioning. The NCHC is a two-bid league at the moment, but if North Dakota keeps playing well, I expect UND to work its way in off the bubble. I also think UMD stands a very good chance of improving its position, even if it only plays .500 hockey down the stretch, thanks to a strong non-conference resume.

(Starting the weekend, St. Cloud State is eighth in the Pairwise, UMD 13th, North Dakota 18th, Western Michigan 22nd, and Denver 23rd. All are in position to make it above the cutoff line of -- probably -- 15th by playing well down the stretch.)

It's a great setup by the NCHC, and when I told Motzko I thought it was cool, he initially cracked back at that terminology before eventually buying in.

"This is exactly what we were talking about in the offseason, and everyone knew it was going to happen," he said. "There are six teams battling, and it's going to be survival every weekend. It's going to be difficult for anyone to get on a roll. The fans are going to be treated to some great hockey because so much is on the line.

"I'll go with your word, and I'm actually gonna use that. It's going to be cool."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Olympic Sheet Not Huge Adjustment for UMD

I'm sure Bob Motzko is tired of hearing about it, because I'm guessing he does. Constantly.

His St. Cloud State Huskies play home games at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, featuring an ice surface that is 200 feet by 100 feet. That's Olympic ice, in case you were unaware. Amsoil Arena and scores of other college hockey arenas are 200 feet by 85, the regulation surface in the NHL and other pro leagues.

Most of the time, when his team goes on the road, it's to play on a sheet of ice smaller than the one it plays its home games on.

"I think the teams that are on big and go small can make the adjustment fairly well," Motzko said this week. "We do practice on it (NHL surface)."

It probably helps to have to make this adjustment as often as the Huskies do in a normal season. They're a strong team on all surfaces because of their skill level, leadership, and ability to move the puck out of their own zone and establish speed up the rink.

Teams have shown that they can make the adjustment from the small sheet to the big sheet, too. Western Michigan went to St. Cloud last month and took five points from the Huskies.

"I think the big thing is a lot of teams make too much of the big ice," WMU coach Andy Murray told me recently. "They change their game to play on the big ice and try to play like a European team playing on big ice.

"All we did with our players was we measured between the dots, kind of like the 'Hoosiers' movie where they measured from the floor to the basket when they got to the big gym. It's the same distance between the dots. The extra room's on the outside."

UMD heads to St. Cloud Thursday, will get in a practice and a morning skate on the big sheet, and the Bulldogs open a two-game series against St. Cloud State Friday night. Until 2010, UMD played home games at the DECC, which was smaller than a standard NHL surface. But even then, Scott Sandelin's teams began to show a keen ability to adjust to the extra space.

In fact, since the start of the 2008-2009 season, UMD has played 52 games on big ice. For purposes of this discussion, rinks at Minnesota, Minnesota State, St. Cloud State, Alaska Anchorage, Northern Michigan, Colorado College, and Wisconsin count as big sheets.

(All those rinks are listed at 200 by 100, except Wisconsin is 200 by 97. And while CC is listed 200X100, it's actually about 300 feet by 150, or so it seems.)

While UMD is "only" 2-2 on the king-size surface this season, with splits at CC and Minnesota, Sandelin thinks it's good preparation -- in a way -- for this weekend.

"How we've played on those rinks is a good confidence builder for our guys," he said this week.

Why the success on the bigger surfaces?

"We're a team that can skate," Sandelin said. "We need to skate to be effective. We've got to get our feet moving and play the game with speed and put some pressure on them that way. When we're doing that, we can play on any rink and with anybody."

Motzko agrees.

"The thing with Duluth is they skate so well," he said. "I don't think it affects them very much. They've got great speed. They've got a lot of talent. They want the puck.

"It won't affect the Bulldogs at all."

Despite UMD's 1-10-2 record at the National Hockey Center since the start of the 2005-2006 season, there's plenty of reason to believe that Motzko and Sandelin are dead-on here.

There are styles that might not lend themselves to the big sheet, but UMD's isn't one of them. Honestly, more of a concern for UMD is probably the fact the Bulldogs take almost twice as many penalty minutes per game -- on average -- than the Huskies do. Getting short-handed constantly against St. Cloud State is a recipe for disaster, no matter how well UMD has been playing on the kill.

In order to succeed, UMD has to do what Sandelin says. Get the feet moving, use the big ice to its advantage, and get in the Huskies' faces. Be relentless in all zones, hound the puck, and good things will happen.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

High School Hockey Musings: Playoffs Approach

By this time in two weeks, we'll be on the verge of sending teams to the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament.

Yes, it happened that fast.

Here are my thoughts on the local sections ahead of the upcoming playoff seeding announcements.

Section 5A
Local teams: Proctor, Moose Lake Area
Top dogs: Chisago Lakes, Princeton, Spring Lake Park

While Proctor hasn't had a great season, the Rails are actually in position for a seed as high as fourth in this section. Wins over Mora/Hinckley-Finlayson and Legacy Christian might be enough to offset a 7-17 overall record and lift Proctor to fourth. Moose Lake Area has five wins after a terrible 2012-13, but I still expect the Rebels to bring up the rear in the seedings.

1. Chisago Lakes
2. Princeton
3. Spring Lake Park
4. Proctor
5. Mora/Hinckley-Finlayson
6. Legacy Christian
7. Providence Academy
8. Pine City/Rush City
9. North Branch
10. Moose Lake Area

Section 7A
Local teams: All
Top dogs: Hermantown, Duluth Marshall

This section could be one of the more entertaining in the state. Hermantown joins this year after the MSHSL re-drew the sections. Those responsible for staging the section tournament have to be thrilled with this. While the Hawks haven't lost a section game and stand as the favorite, they haven't played great down the stretch, with ties against Duluth Denfeld and a Superior team that they beat 8-2 last month.

Of course, the Hawks also haven't lost to a Class A team all season (losses to Grand Rapids, Wayzata, Eagan, and White Bear Lake). So bet against them (figuratively) at your own peril.

Defending champion Duluth Marshall is strong again, and the section has potential darkhorses in Virginia/MIB (9-1-1 in section), Duluth Denfeld (hot lately), and Hibbing (strong defense but must score more).

1. Hermantown
2. Duluth Marshall
3. Virginia/MIB
4. Duluth Denfeld
5. Hibbing
6. North Shore
7. Eveleth-Gilbert
8. Greenway
9. Ely

Section 7AA
Local teams: Duluth East, Grand Rapids, Cloquet/Esko/Carlton
Top dogs: Duluth East, Elk River, Grand Rapids, Forest Lake

We'll save the toughest section to figure out for last.

Duluth East appears to be a lock for No. 1, even though it lost to Elk River and Cloquet/Esko/Carlton, both at home.

The fact the Elks are 3-2 against a limited section schedule doesn't help them here. Grand Rapids has a case for a high seed thanks to a 5-1 section record, but the Thunderhawks haven't helped their cause with losses to Class A foes Denfeld, Marshall, and Virginia. But Grand Rapids beat Elk River.

Forest Lake is 14-6-4 and has some nice out-of-section wins (including Tuesday over White Bear Lake), but the Rangers lost to Rapids and got pasted at home by Duluth East. Andover has been hot lately, but the Huskies lost to East and Forest Lake and split with Elk River. They also have a loss to sub-.500 Robbinsdale Armstrong.

While I'm hesitant to make final decisions based on games played in November and December, there's also a body-of-work component to this bit.

Good luck with this.

1. Duluth East
2. Elk River
3. Grand Rapids
4. Forest Lake
5. Andover
6. St. Michael-Albertville
7. Cloquet/Esko/Carlton
8. St. Francis
9. Cambridge-Isanti

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

College Hockey Musings: Tournaments Approach

A few random quick hit thoughts from around college hockey ...

--> Is there a better league race than the NCHC? The first-year league has produced some serious drama heading into the final four weeks of the regular season, as the top six teams are separated by just four points. First-place St. Cloud State faces second-place UMD this weekend in St. Cloud after taking four points from Denver -- then tied for second -- last week.

And it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that this could very easily not be the last time the NCHC's top two teams meet in the final four weeks of the season. If UMD overtakes the Huskies and North Dakota has a good weekend against Miami, we could see it again next weekend, when UMD and UND meet in Duluth.

If UMD doesn't overtake St. Cloud State, it's conceivable that SCSU-UND in two weeks in St. Cloud could be a battle for first place. Final-weekend series featuring Nebraska Omaha at UMD and Western Michigan at North Dakota could also be 1/2 matchups, depending on how things play out.

The NCHC isn't the only good league title race going. The WCHA is still led by a Ferris State team that has games in hand on Minnesota State, but the Mavericks seem to be rounding into form, and the home-ice race with Michigan Tech, Alaska-Anchorage, Bowling Green, Alaska, Bemidji State, Northern Michigan, and Lake Superior State (keep in mind, one of these teams won't make the WCHA tournament) looks entertaining, too.

In Atlantic Hockey, the top five teams -- Mercyhurst, Bentley, Air Force, UConn, and Bob Morris -- are separated by a mere four points.

Then there's Hockey East, where, well, Boston College has pretty much clinched the thing already. Never mind.

League tournaments will be bonkers. But will anyone attend them?

The NCHC Frozen Faceoff will be at Target Center in Minneapolis. UMD and St. Cloud State look like they have at least a reasonable shot of being there, along with North Dakota. With SCSU's proximity, UND's nutso fans, and UMD's strong Twin Cities alumni base, there's no reason this can't be well-attended, especially with the affordability of tickets.

Hopefully, the NCHC folks took good notes at the Final Five. Even as that tournament stagnated a bit (at least in my opinion, it did), it was still a great event. Anything remotely close to the Final Five's worst years would be a great start for the NCHC's championship weekend.

--> I'm not sure there's anything that can happen over the final few weeks of the regular season that would prevent Johnny Gaudreau from being the prohibitive favorite for the Hobey Baker Award. Well, Gaudreau could be caught in a cheating scandal or something, but it seems unlikely. Outside of that or a collapse of historical proportions, this award goes to "Johnny Hockey," in my opinion.

Hard to argue with two points per game on the best team (potentially) in the country.

St. Lawrence forward Greg Carey deserves a nod, too, as does Nebraska Omaha's Josh Archibald. But this is Gaudreau's award to lose. Don't hold your breath waiting on that to happen.

--> There were a lot of negative comments Thursday night when BTN aired Minnesota-Wisconsin at a half-empty Kohl Center. But many missed the mark on this.

A national TV game on a Thursday is not a bad thing for a niche sport that relies on die-hard fans to tune in. Where are die-hard fans on Friday and Saturday? They're at games. Can't attend games when they're not being played. Why not throw a game on when it might actually attract a bigger audience than normal?

Despite the poor attendance, the game didn't look horrible on TV. Probably looked better than UMD-Western Michigan did at Amsoil in December, when the student section was largely empty while kids "studied for finals," and the lower bowl was full of empty yellow seats because people were out touring Bentleyville or whatever. That'll only help, especially when the Kohl was jammed for Friday's game, which was also on BTN.

Now, I thought the broadcast itself was clunky, but I like what BTN is doing here, and I wish others would try it. That doesn't mean we need to have a big-time college hockey game every Thursday, but the occasional showcase game wouldn't hurt anyone. In fact, it might give us a chance to grow the game a little bit. And that isn't bad for anyone.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Musings: Red-Hot Bulldogs Not Sharpest, Get Five Points Anyway

At no point over the weekend did it appear UMD was as sharp as it had been the previous week against Western Michigan.

Despite that, UMD got five points from Colorado College, a huge get for a team that is now knock-knock-knockin' on first place in the NCHC.

Yeah, six would have been nice, but that ship sailed Friday, when overtime produced no winner and the teams went to a shootout. From that point on, five was the maximum for UMD, and five is what UMD got.

This was not a great weekend for the Bulldogs. Yes, they outshot CC 52-22 Friday, but they settled for perimeter shots, didn't get enough traffic to the net, didn't work hard enough to get to rebounds, and were guilty of some questionable penalties in the offensive zone. Honestly, it was an achievement for UMD to get two points out of the game, because it was not a winning performance.

Saturday didn't start well. Colorado College led 8-1 in shots at one point in the first period. The Tigers were taking it to UMD in some respects, and the Bulldogs needed to get going. A five-on-three power play came up empty, but it did generate some momentum for the home team. A later major penalty on CC defenseman Aaron Harstad led to the game's first goal, as Kyle Osterberg -- in the slot -- deftly tipped in a shot-pass from Willie Raskob from the left side.

Cal Decowski gave UMD a 2-0 lead in the third before a Carson Soucy major for contact to the head gave the Tigers a power play and their only goal of the game.

CC outshot UMD, but Aaron Crandall was strong as an ox in net, and the Bulldogs moved up the NCHC ladder.

The top six teams are separated by just four points, so there is virtually zero margin for error. St. Cloud State leads the pack with 30 points. UMD has 28, then North Dakota and Nebraska Omaha are tied with 27, and Denver and Western Michigan each have 26.


UMD heads to St. Cloud Friday and Saturday. You probably know that it's been a struggle for the Bulldogs at the National Hockey Center, but the building has been renovated and now features Herb Brooks' name (it's the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center). Maybe the renovation exorcised some demons for the Bulldogs, who haven't played there since March 2012. Since the start of the 2005-2006 season, UMD is 1-10-2 in St. Cloud, and that win came during a playoff series in 2007.

Last regular season win in St. Cloud? Nov. 27, 2004. Almost a decade.

Of course, you might remember St. Cloud State sweeping UMD in Duluth in December. Since those impressive 4-2 and 5-1 wins, the Huskies have come back to Earth a bit, going 4-5-3. UMD has caught fire. The Bulldogs lost their opener the following weekend to Western Michigan, but have gone 7-1-3 since.

It should be a fantastic weekend of hockey.


One more note from the weekend: UMD has added another future goalie.

Hunter Miska of Stacy, Minn., has committed to UMD, likely to start in the 2015-16 season. Miska played two years for the U.S. National Team Development Program, and is currently with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL.

Miska is the second goalie to commit to UMD in the last month. Minnesota Wilderness (NAHL - Cloquet) goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo committed to UMD in January, and is expected to be a factor in the race for the starting job in the 2014-15 season.

Both goalies made NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings for North American goalies. Kaskisuo is 16th, while Miska is 32nd. Boston College's Thatcher Demko is No. 1.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Game 26: Colorado College at UMD

Welcome back, Tim Smith. The senior defenseman missed five games with an upper body injury, but is in the UMD lineup for the series finale against Colorado College. 



Osterberg - Cameranesi - Crandall (Justin)
Decowski - Herbert - Basaraba
Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Young - Tardy - Spurrell

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
Smith - Corrin

Crandall (Aaron) - McNeely - Fons

Krushelnyski - Rothstein - Roos
Wamsganz - Collett - Skalbeck
Heil - Bradley - Taft
Aman - DiGiando - Hanson

Stoykewich - Olofsson
Harstad - Slavin
Young - McDermott

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Two Points Nice, but UMD Must Improve

Aaron Crandall did the Bernie in celebration, but the UMD men's hockey team might not necessarily be in a partying mood.

The Bulldogs let a potentially valuable point slip away Friday, before Crandall kept Colorado College off the board in three rounds of the shootout. Caleb Herbert's goal in the second round gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 win in the skills competition, and a second point in the NCHC standings. The game ended in a 2-2 tie after Archie Skalbeck tied the score in the third period for the Tigers.

It wasn't a great performance for UMD. On the radio, Colin Anderson talked about the need to establish a presence at home. UMD is 9-4-1 away from Amsoil Arena, but only 3-5-3 at home after Friday night. It's one of the biggest differences in winning percentage between road and home that you'll see. Usually, it ends up being the other way around.

Whatever comfort zone UMD has found away from home needs to be found at home. Soon.

CC came out early and was taking the play to UMD to an extent. The Tigers never opened up any kind of gap in shots on goal, but UMD couldn't really get anything going. Then sloppy defense on a rush gave the Tigers the lead on a goal by Alexander Krushelnyski. UMD improved in the closing minutes of the first, but the second of three offensive zone penalties gave CC a chance for late momentum (they didn't get it).

The Bulldogs dominated puck possession and shots on goal in the second period, and scored twice. Andy Welinski tied the game on a nice snapshot on the power play, and a great effort play by Joe Basaraba led to Cal Decowski setting up Caleb Herbert for the go-ahead goal. CC goalie Josh Thorimbert stood tall, but UMD wasn't relentless about getting to the net, so the netminder had a lot of good looks at shots. He was good, but UMD could have made his life more difficult throughout the game.

I'm not sure CC was as strong defensively as UMD was when Omaha had 53 shots on Crandall in January, but the Bulldogs didn't get enough great chances or solid traffic on Thorimbert. The Bulldogs flubbed a couple odd-man rushes with passes that weren't quite on the mark, and not enough of the 86 shot attempts were of a high quality.

That said, UMD dominated puck possession, outside of about 6-8 minutes of the first, the same amount of time in the third, and about half the overtime. Shots didn't end 52-22 by accident, but the Bulldogs know they have to be better, and I'm confident they will be on Saturday.

We'll see if there are changes. I'm not sure sophomore Austin Farley is ready. I know he practiced during the week, but he was deemed not ready to go Friday. Senior defenseman Tim Smith took a pretty hard shot to the head when he fell into the boards against Denver three weeks ago. Like Farley, he's been practicing, but I don't know if the coaches are ready to put him in the lineup yet.

And, frankly, I'm not sure it's a good idea to break up any of the top three lines right now. I don't think Farley is a fourth line guy, so it'll be interesting to see what the lines look like if he does return. I'd guess things go back to the way they were for the North Star College Cup, but you never know.


Elsewhere in the NCHC, Western Michigan rebounded nicely from last week's sweep by UMD, beating Miami 5-2 in Oxford. Shane Berschbach scored twice for the Broncos, who can sweep the season series by winning Saturday.

Denver scored twice on the power play, including the equalizer by Trevor Moore late in the third, to get a 2-2 tie at St. Cloud State. Nic Dowd and Ethan Prow had the regulation goals for St. Cloud State, while Ty Loney had the other Pioneers goal. DU won the shootout 3-2 in five rounds to claim an extra point in the standings.

North Dakota moved into a tie with St. Cloud State for first by beating Nebraska Omaha 4-2. Michael Parks, Brendan O'Donnell, and Rocco Grimaldi scored in the third period for UND, with Grimaldi's goal finding the empty net in the final 30 seconds. UND won despite being outshot 33-22, as goalie Clarke Saunders was strong in net again with 31 saves.

St. Cloud State and North Dakota are tied for first, with Denver in third one point back. UMD is two points out in fourth place, followed by UNO in fifth and Western Michigan in sixth. The league actually tightened up Friday, and now the top six teams are separated by just four points.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Game 25: Colorado College at UMD

About ready to kick off UMD's second home series in eight weekends here, as the Bulldogs host Colorado College.

If you follow on Twitter (@BruceCiskie if you don't), you already know sophomore forward Austin Farley will miss a third straight game due to injury. He hasn't played much since getting hurt late in the second period of the North Star College Cup title game, and the only ice time he's seen was to finish off that game.

Farley made the trip to Kalamazoo last weekend, but did not play. I've gotten the indication this isn't a long-term injury, but it also seems that he benefits long-term if he can sit out now.

Remember, Farley is a guy who needs to be in people's faces to be effective. It's not a bad thing to get him as healthy as possible now.



Osterberg - Cameranesi - Crandall (Justin)
Decowski - Herbert - Basaraba
Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Young - Tardy - Spurrell

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
McManus - Corrin

Crandall (Aaron) - McNeely - Fons

Krushelnyski - Rothstein - Roos
Wamsganz - Collett - Skalbeck
Heil - Bradley - Taft
Aman - DiGiando - Gerdes

Stoykewich - Olofsson
Harstad - Slavin
Young - McDermott

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Bulldogs Need Sharp Focus to Defend Home Ice

UMD's surge continued last weekend, as the Bulldogs gained all six available points in a weekend sweep at Western Michigan.

"A great weekend, as we call it," coach Scott Sandelin said.

The Bulldogs invaded a hostile environment, played a hot team (unbeaten in six before last Friday), adapted to a difficult style of play, and outscored the foe 8-3 over 120 minutes. As a result, UMD is the hot team -- unbeaten in five -- entering Friday's series opener against Colorado College.

The hot streak has vaulted UMD into 12th place in the PairWise rankings, which mimic the NCAA Tournament selection process. Since one league leader -- Mercyhurst -- is outside the top 16, it's actually the top 15 who would get tournament bids if selections were held now.

The Western Michigan sweep might have been the most unexpected result of UMD's run. The Broncos were playing well (thought they did have a bye week before playing UMD), and the slower style they play is one that can be tough for UMD -- a group that wants to play the game with speed -- to adjust to.

"I thought it was a playoff type of intensity," Sandelin said of the WMU sweep. "I thought our guys showed me a lot. We had a high compete level, and the last 40 minutes (Friday) I thought we were a very good hockey team."

The Bulldogs were patient, limited the opponents' chances, and did a good job maximizing their own chances. Usually a good recipe for success no matter the opponent, but it's especially valuable when you're playing a team like Western Michigan that works so hard to keep teams to a minimal number of quality chances.

When WMU got desperate on Saturday, down by two goals for the second half of the game, the Bulldogs took the play to them. In fact, over the two third periods, UMD outscored the Broncos 3-0 and outshot them 29-11.

The NCHC standings (UMD is one point out of a three-way tie for second, and three points out of first) didn't show immediate return, bumping the Bulldogs up one spot to fifth. However, UMD has gained 13 spots in the PairWise in the last two weeks. That's put the Bulldogs in position to make the tournament.

There are five weeks left in the regular season. Unlike some leagues, the NCHC is done with non-conference play and done with weekend byes. It's going to be a five-week sprint to the finish to decide the first Penrose Cup champion.

"We have an opportunity this weekend to keep moving up, and that's what you try to do," Sandelin said. "It's the old cliche, but you have to focus on each weekend. Last weekend was last weekend. This weekend, we've got to do the same thing."

With the four teams ahead of UMD playing head-to-head this weekend (Denver at St. Cloud State and Nebraska Omaha at North Dakota), it's a great chance for the Bulldogs. But Colorado College is not your typical 3-17-4 team.

Well, in some respects, the Tigers fit the profile. They can't score, despite out-shooting their opposition on the season. They don't prevent goals very well (team save percentage of .888). They're generally awful on special teams (11 percent power play, under 80 percent penalty kill).

Not much there suggests this is a winning team.

But watch the Tigers play. They're not quitting. They're not laying down. Outside of a 20-minute stretch against Miami where they took too damn many penalties and gave up a bunch of power play goals, the Tigers generally outplayed the RedHawks two weeks ago. In the Friday game, they hung a three-spot in the first and did a very good job defensively after that, keeping Miami from peppering goalie Josh Thorimbert with too many chances.

In honesty, there are parts of this CC team that remind me of the 2007-2008 Bulldogs. That was a team that worked hard a lot of the time, but couldn't score goals. That UMD team scored 74 goals in 36 games (2.06/game). CC is under two goals per game right now.

The difference? That UMD team had Alex Stalock, and he gave his team a chance to win every game, no matter how few they put on the board. Thorimbert hasn't been as consistent, and the lack of scoring becomes more glaring when a team isn't getting sound enough defense and/or goaltending.

This is where UMD has to take advantage of the Tigers. Score on the power play, get to the net, and make Thorimbert's life difficult. Sound defensive hockey is also a must. CC is outshooting its opponents on the season, so the Tigers are getting pucks to the net. UMD doesn't care if teams get shots. Instead, it's about creating one-and-done situations for teams while limiting their Grade-A chances.

The Bulldogs can't rely on CC to lay down. The Tigers simply haven't done that this season. They've been blown out a few times, but there aren't weekends where they've been non-competitive the entire time. They'll compete, and if UMD isn't ready to play, the Tigers will steal points in this series, just like they did in St. Cloud a couple months ago.

Despite a sub-.500 record at Christmas, UMD can win this league. To do so, this series must be a win. Probably five or six points, but I think even four would be okay in the end. Easier said than done, but that can be said of any opponent.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

NCHC Honors Four UMD Players

It's been a good week for UMD.

Not only did the Bulldogs sweep Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, and somehow fly a commercial airline and still get back in Duluth ahead of schedule, but four UMD players have been honored by the NCHC this week.

On Monday, three guys received weekly recognition from the league. Here is that info.
Willie Corrin, Minnesota Duluth
Sophomore Defenseman
International Falls, Minn.

Corrin had arguably the best weekend of his career, helping the Bulldogs to a sweep at No. 20 Western Michigan. The sophomore dished out three assists in the series while posting a +3 rating and blocking two shots. In Friday’s 5-2 victory, he handed out a pair of helpers for his first career multi-point game with both coming in the third period, the first of which set up the game-winning goal. The next night, he had an assist on UMD’s final goal to help seal the 3-1 win, while logging a +2 rating. Corrin helped limit the Broncos to three goals all weekend while playing on a penalty kill that was 12-for-13 in the series, including 6-for-6 on Saturday. He blocked a shot in each game as well.

Kyle Osterberg, Minnesota Duluth
Freshman Forward
Lakeville, Minn.

Osterberg led UMD to a sweep at No. 20 Western Michigan behind a four-point weekend. All four of his points came in a 5-2 win Friday, marking a career high for points, as he had a hand in four of the Bulldogs’ five goals. Osterberg scored two goals for his first career multi-goal game, while adding a pair of assists. He scored his first goal on the power play to open the scoring and added his second in the third period to add to UMD’s lead. Both of his assists were primary helpers in the second and third periods, while he posted a +3 rating for the contest and was named the first star of the game. Saturday, he put two shots on goal in a 3-1 victory to complete the sweep. Osterberg totaled seven shots on goal and finished with a +3 rating in the series. He has now earned NCHC Rookie of the Week twice this season.

Aaron Crandall, Minnesota Duluth
Senior Goaltender
Lakeville, Minn.

Crandall continued his strong play of late, backstopping the Bulldogs to a sweep at No. 20 Western Michigan. In the series he recorded a 1.50 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage, allowing just three goals all weekend while totaling 49 saves to pick up both wins in net. In the series opener, Crandall made 17 saves while giving up two goals (only one even strength) in a 5-2 victory that snapped WMU’s six-game unbeaten streak. On Saturday, the senior collected his 10th win of the year by allowing just one goal while making 32 saves to earn first star of the game honors. In that contest, he stopped 13 shots in each of the first two periods and helped kill all six WMU power plays. Crandall anchored a UMD penalty kill that finished 12-for-13 on the weekend as he has now started a career-best nine straight games in goal. He has now earned NCHC Goaltender of the Week twice this year.

Not honored by the league for his strip-score against Western on Saturday, freshman forward Alex Iafallo had to wait a few days. He was recognized by the league for his exploits throughout January.
NCHC January Rookie of the Month
Alex Iafallo
Minnesota Duluth
Freshman Forward
Eden, N.Y.

Iafallo led all NCHC rookies with seven points in January, two more than any other freshman. He tied for the conference lead among rookies with both three goals and four assists during the month while his 1.00 points per game average in January was tops among NCHC freshmen. His three goals also tied for fourth nationally among rookies this past month. Iafallo, who is the second Bulldog to claim NCHC Rookie of the Month this season, notched all seven of his points in just three games with multiple points in each, including his second career multi-goal game. He played in all seven games during the month though, leading UMD to a 4-1-2 record in January.

Iafallo opened the month by handing out a pair of assists, his first career multi-assist game, in a win at Nebraska Omaha Jan. 10 to earn first star of the game honors, while the Bulldogs completed the road sweep the next night. On Jan. 18, the rookie scored both of UMD’s goals in a 2-2 overtime tie with Denver and scored in the shootout to again garner first star of the game. In his next game Jan. 24, Iafallo led the Bulldogs to a 5-4 win over Minnesota State in the North Star College Cup semifinals with a three-point outing, matching his career high. In that game, the six-foot winger again dished out two assists while also scoring the game-winning goal in overtime on the power play to grab first star of the game for the third time in January. He was also named NCHC Rookie of the Week for his efforts after UMD tied Minnesota in the NSCC championship game.

Iafallo finished January with a +2 rating, while putting 20 shots on goal and blocking six shots. On the season, he is tied for the team lead with both 19 points and 10 goals, while adding nine assists. Iafallo is now a candidate for Hockey Commissioners’ Association National Rookie of the Month, which will be announced Thursday. The other nominees for January NCHC Rookie of the Month were Nebraska Omaha forward Jake Guentzel, Miami forward Anthony Louis and Denver forward Trevor Moore.
UMD's Kyle Osterberg won the rookie honor in October.

The Bulldogs host Colorado College Friday and Saturday.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Game 24: UMD at Western Michigan

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Lawson Ice Arena is nice and quiet at the moment, outside of the Zamboni putting the finishing touches on the ice before warmups in about 75 minutes.

It won't stay that way.

UMD quieted the Lawson Lunatics Friday with a 5-2 win. They'll be at full throat, a huge part of what should be at least close to a sellout in this building, which seats 3,667.

Cool place, and one I would recommend UMD fans find a way to visit at some point.

Should be an intense game.



Osterberg - Cameranesi - Crandall (Justin)
Decowski - Herbert - Basaraba
Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Young - Tardy - Spurrell

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
Corrin - Molenaar

Crandall (Aaron) - McNeely

Novak - Rebry - Mellor
Hargrove - Pitt - Kovacs
Dries - Kessel - Cichy
Berschbach - Balisy - LaPorte

Dienes - Fleming
Oesterle - Brown
Nitsche - Morrison

Slubowski - Bloomberg - Hafner

(Again, Western Michigan does not list goalies in starting order, necessarily. Same order Friday, and Hafner started.)

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Bulldogs Keep Strong Play Going With Nice Farley-Less Road Win

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- For UMD, the road has been quite good, especially in 2014.

Friday night, the Bulldogs ran their record away from Amsoil Arena to 4-0-1 in 2014, and 8-4-1 this season, by beating Western Michigan 5-2. UMD pulled away with three goals in the third period, an emphatic response after WMU got a power play goal in the last 30 seconds of the second period to tie the score.

It was an intense game played with high emotions and a lot of post-whistle stuff. Give the officials credit, because they didn't hand out random power plays on the hijinks after the whistles. They were consistent in their handling of those situations, and no one benefited or suffered as a result.

Early on, it was clear that UMD would have to work to both solve the WMU defense and goalie Lukas Hafner. He made some nice saves throughout the game, especially in the second period when it was tied, and in the third when it was a 3-2 game. In the first period, UMD struggled to get scoring chances at even strength (seven of UMD's nine first-period shots were on the power play).

As the game wore on, the Bulldogs stuck with the game plan, stayed patient, and the scoring chances came. In droves.

Hafner played pretty well. He stymied UMD on numerous occasions to keep the game tied or close, but the persistent Bulldogs wouldn't be denied on this night.

We talked before the game about how WMU is somewhat similar in structure to Denver. What the Broncos are missing is the elite blue-line play Denver has. The Bulldogs made them pay dearly for that. As the game wore on, the visitors were able to establish a forecheck, and they did a great job defending the neutral zone. Western couldn't get any speed going to develop plays off the rush, and that allowed the Bulldogs to negate the speed WMU has up front in the name of Chase Balisy, Shane Berschbach, and others. It was something UMD was missing in the Dec. 13 loss to Western Michigan, especially in the second period.

Instead, UMD was the team using its speed to make plays. It helps when the guys on the top line combine for five goals. Kyle Osterberg and Justin Crandall were fantastic on Friday. Osterberg was always around the puck in the offensive zone. Tony Cameranesi had another strong game. Oh, and despite not getting on the scoreboard, freshman forward Alex Iafallo was one of UMD's best players. I don't care that he was minus-one. He had six shots, made plays in all three zones, and won race after race for loose pucks.

The reconfigured fourth line of Max Tardy, Austyn Young, and Sammy Spurrell had some good shifts in limited work (too much special teams hockey in this game). Tardy and Young set up Spurrell for a tremendous scoring chance in the first period, but Hafner made a nice save on it. Young played because Austin Farley sat out injured, and Cal Decowski took Farley's spot. Unfortunately, more on that to come.

Defensively, Andy Welinski continued his strong play as of late. I thought Carson Soucy was having an a'ight game before getting the boot for a hit from behind. Sophomore Willie Corrin had what might have been his best game. He had two third-period assists, seemed more poised on the power play, and played a better defensive game than I thought he did last weekend in the tournament.

UMD's puck possession in the second and third periods, and great work by the penalty kill, meant Aaron Crandall had time to do whatever he wanted in goal. Western scored on a short-handed breakaway in the first, and then a great one-timer from the left point with traffic on a late power play in the second. Outside of that, Crandall was seen apparently playing Words With Friends in the crease.

He made a fantastic save on Colton Hargrove during a Western power play, as Hargrove drove around the UMD defense and got the puck to the net, and he stopped Nolan LaPorte in tight, too. But Western didn't get a lot of great looks, and missed the net on a few of the looks they did manage to earn.

I expect Western to be tighter in Saturday's game. I think they'll be better up front. Sophomore center Josh Pitt -- a player I like a good amount -- missed 53 minutes Friday after getting ejected for contact to the head. His presence will make a difference. As much as I liked UMD's game Friday, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that UMD won't outshoot Western Michigan 37-19 again. This team wasn't unbeaten in six straight by accident, and while the Broncos didn't come out rusty off a bye, it was obvious UMD was the fresher team as the game wore on. That might not be the case -- at least not as emphatically -- in the second game of the series.


If you're sick of the Farley story, stop reading here and move on to the next section.

No, seriously, I'm begging you.

Now, if you are tempted to tweet something about moving on, I'm probably going to laugh at you.

We've been trying to move on. Literally, the entire week. No one on the UMD side wants to talk about this. Guaranteed. If it were up to us, it would have gone away a week ago, when Minnesota's Ben Marshall lit up UMD sophomore Farley with a clearly illegal hit that has no place in the game.

1. The penalty was for contact to the head. Watch the full-speed replay, ignore the slow motion, and tell me in no uncertain terms that you know there was no head contact without the benefit of replay. If you can honestly say that, you need to slap on some skates and become an official.

2. My initial reaction was that this was a minor for interference. Having had the opportunity to watch the replay about ten times in the last week, I've come around to the fact that this should probably have been a major for interference.

Problem: There is no option in the NCAA rulebook to call a major for interference. Fix this, please. Officials need to have options at their disposal. This is a blindside hit on a player who never had the puck. It needs to not be in our game. Right now, this hit can only be a minor penalty.

3. Marshall gets no sympathy from me. He delivers a rising blow-up hit on a shorter player, then tells the official Farley is fine. No, he isn't. But thanks for playing, Dr. Marshall.

Also can't let FSN's Tom Chorske off the hook. His commentary at the time was measured and intelligent if you watch the video. I don't have a major issue with anything he said. But he probably shouldn't have engaged anyone on Twitter.

I think this one's my favorite.

Yes, Farley had the flu on Monday, missed practice because of it, and is still sick this weekend. Sounds like our medical staff sucks.

Chorske went on to say that it's "unusual" Farley played with an injury suffered on the hit. Yeah, unusual. Just like it's unusual Mikko Koivu dished out two assists against Washington while playing with a broken ankle, and it's unusual Zach Parise played multiple games on a broken foot before finally shutting it down for a while.

You'd think a guy with the long and successful hockey career Chorske had would be able to understand that adrenaline can do funny things, including causing a player to think he's okay in the heat of the moment. It's something I tell my PeeWee kids all the time. Just because you get hit and think you're fine in the game doesn't mean you're fine. When the game is over and you go home, that adrenaline goes away and you might not be "fine" anymore.

I'm not breaking new ground here. These are concepts that have existed in sports for decades, and I'm shocked Chorske -- a knowledgeable guy who I have always respected as a player and broadcaster -- forgot these things.

I don't know specifically what Farley's injury is, but I do know it didn't happen on the bus trip home from St. Paul on Saturday. You guys are probably smart enough to deduce a few options.

But it would be really nice if Chorske and the rest of the Gopher media contingent would stop accusing a player who was injured on a hit of embellishment. I'm not saying players can't embellish when legitimately injured, but when you know damn well someone is actually hurt, it's a hell of an accusation to be throwing out there. Probably doesn't do much for people's opinion of you.


The Gophers just can't seem to escape controversy. Taken to a shootout by Michigan State (snicker) Friday night, here's the third round attempt from Sparty on UMTC netminder Adam Wilcox, as posted on YouTube by the great CJ Fogler (@cjzero).

What you are about to read is more discussion of a play that happened in a shootout than there ever should be.

It was called a goal on the ice. It was overturned after video review. I believe it to be correct, and here's why:

1. I do not believe it would have gone in the net had Wilcox not knocked it off. While the puck still crossed the line inside where the goalpost would have been if it hadn't moved, I don't see that as the issue. Instead, watch how far Wilcox's body moves to the right when his skate hits the right post and the leg doesn't stop. It isn't far, but it's probably far enough that his left skate doesn't hold the post.

2. With that in mind, you have to judge his intent. And if you feel you can do that, you're a better person than I. I don't think there's split-second intent by Wilcox to knock the net off because he's beat. I just don't. So you can't call it a goal or give the MSU player a do-over because you think Wilcox cheated the system. He tried to make a play he's probably done a hundred times in one-on-one situations in his career. The goalpost had a different idea.

3. Perhaps with shootouts not going away in college hockey, there's a protocol that needs to be written for situations like this. But don't ask me to do it.


UMD's win tied the Bulldogs for fifth in the NCHC. Thanks to St. Cloud State's 5-3 win at Nebraska Omaha Friday on a late Kevin Gravel game-winner, the winner of Saturday's UMD-WMU game will have a chance to move into a home-ice position in the NCHC standings.

(Real nice win for St. Cloud State. From the sounds of it, they were badly outshot in the first 20 minutes, but Ryan Faragher kept them going. Nice to see Joey Benik back. He scored a pair of goals for SCSU, and then Gravel got the late winner before a Brooks Bertsch empty-netter iced it. In news that isn't really news, Josh Archibald scored again for UNO. 18 goals in 23 games for him. Amazing.)

Omaha is fourth with 21 points. If St. Cloud beats UNO again Saturday -- be it in regulation, overtime, or a shootout -- the winner of Saturday's UMD-Western Michigan game -- be it in regulation, overtime, or a shootout -- moves into fourth place with ten league games to go.

The win kicked UMD into 12th in the PairWise. The Bulldogs claim the season series with a victory in Saturday's game. This weekend starts a stretch that sees UMD alternate between home and away series the rest of the regular season (at WMU, vs CC, at SCSU, vs UND, at Miami, vs UNO). As you can see, every weekend will be hugely significant, which is part of the reason UMD signed on to the new conference structure.

Coverage starts at 5:30 along the network. Go to if you need streaming info or if you want to download our free app so you can listen on phones or tablets.