Friday, October 31, 2014

Game 7: Miami at UMD

Greetings, and Happy Halloween. If you're staying away from the rink so the kids can collect gobs of candy that they probably won't eat anyway (at least, if they're like my 12-year-old, who would still have candy from about six Halloweens ago if we didn't make him throw it away), please join us on 94X (94.1 FM in the Twin Ports, 104.3 FM surrounding area) and the Bulldog Sports Radio Network.

(Listen live at or stream via mobile on the Red Rock Radio app, which works on most phones and tablets.)

My take on Adam Krause's absence can be found here, and a look at this weekend set is here.



Farley - Toninato - Iafallo
Decowski - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Osterberg - Thomas - Crandall
Sampair - Spurrell - Young (Austyn)

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
McCormack - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Fons

Lemirande - Doherty - Schmit
Murphy - Coleman - Greenberg
Louis - Kuraly - Gacek
Wideman - Czarnik - Barber

Belpedio - Caito
Joyaux - Paulides
Dornbrock - Richart

Williams - McKay

Rivalry With Miami Only Getting Started

UMD and Miami.

These are two programs with plenty of history, yet only three meetings in history.

The teams met at the 2009 NCAA Regional in Minneapolis, a game "won" by Miami 2-1 on its way to the Frozen Four for the first time in the recorded history of history.

(Yeah, still bitter. The disallowed power play goal, the cheapshot on Jack Connolly, the general nature of that game just sucked, and is probably my most negative memory in my years covering this program. Either that or the goalless drought in 2007-2008 that darn near killed me.)

Last year, the NCHC rivals met late in the season in Oxford, Ohio. UMD won by scores of 5-4 and 1-0, riding a four-goal second period to a rally from 2-0 down Friday and getting a shutout from Aaron Crandall Saturday.

The end of Saturday's game featured a pretty big skirmish, with Derik Johnson and Blake Coleman getting into it at the horn. Players from both teams were sent to their respective penalty boxes as officials broke up the fracas.

(We rip officials a lot around here, but I thought the crew in that game did a great job. While they probably didn't assess enough penalties, it was 20:00 of the third period, and those penalties do nothing but pad statistics anyway. What they did right was separate players and get them off the ice where nothing else was going to start.)

Does that mean anything heading into this weekend?

"Oh, absolutely it does," Johnson, a senior defenseman, said this week. "Nothing against Blake Coleman or anyone over there, it's an emotional game. Stuff happened, but it's part of playing an emotional game."

"They were very good games, tight games," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. "To go into their building, they were healthier team when we played them, I'm sure they remember that, too."

You can only assume Coleman, captain Austin Czarnik, Riley Barber, and others remember the way UMD ruined their Senior Night festivities last year, and they'll be looking to get six points this weekend in Duluth.

The RedHawks are a very aggressive team. They are plenty physical, led by Coleman, and they have high-end skill with players like Czarnik and Barber. Miami is very aggressive defensively, with guys jumping up in the play all the time. It almost looks reckless at times, but Enrico Blasi isn't a dummy. There's a method to it, and while I think UMD can take advantage of this -- St. Lawrence sure did last weekend -- it also has to be careful. The Bulldogs can't get too aggressive and risk giving up numbers in transition. Pick spots wisely and it could be a good weekend.

Miami's goaltending has been spotty so far, allowing six goals on 27 shots last weekend (five on 16 Friday), but it's not all goaltending. Part of it is giving up odd-man rushes after turnovers in the 75 feet or so between the red line and the top of the offensive zone faceoff circles. Even the best goalies aren't going to help when they're looking at wrong-colored jerseys constantly coming at them with speed.


Despite last year's hijinks at the horn, Blasi says his team has a lot of respect for UMD.

"This is a really good hockey team from what I see on film," Blasi said this week. "The level of skill, and the way they come up the ice, is very dangerous. We're going to have to play really good team defense."

Blasi calls this a "good test" for his group, and he feels he'll have a better idea where the RedHawks are at after playing "a real good (UMD) team."

Sandelin echoes that respect.

"They pressure on the forecheck. They finish checks."

He says the Miami defensemen -- a group led by Matthew Caito, Ben Paulides, freshman and Wild draft pick Louie Belpedio, and the brothers Joyaux -- are "a big part of rushes, a big part of their play in the offensive zone."

It should be a fast-paced, entertaining series. These are two teams that like to get up and down the rink and play very aggressive styles. If Johnson is right and the Miami players have carried memories of last year into this weekend, it'll be physical and possibly testy, too.

And if Kasimir Kaskisuo and his defense play well, this could be a very good weekend for the home team.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Adam Krause's Absence Means Opportunity for Austin Farley, Others

Next man up.

That's the old saying. It isn't meant to diminish the importance of injured players in any sport. Instead, the basic gist is "No one's going to feel sorry for us, so the next guy on the depth chart better damn sure be ready."

For UMD, the loss of forward Adam Krause to a broken wrist is significant.

For starters, Krause is the captain, and a really good one. He represents this program -- on the ice, on campus, and in the community -- about as well as anyone could possibly envision when awarding a team captaincy to a player.

Oh, and he was playing really well, too.

"Anytime you lose your captain, your leader, and the kind of player he is, and the way he was playing, " head coach Scott Sandelin said. "What he was doing as a part of that line, we're going to miss him."

Next man up: Austin Farley.

The junior played a bit on that line after Krause went down on Saturday, and he just kept going with what he had done throughout the weekend. Farley posted a practically unheard-of 19 shots on goal over the two games against Denver, scoring twice and earning NCHC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

"By far his best weekend," Sandelin said. "He kind of played that ratty hockey he needs to play. He was chirpy, he really wanted the puck. I don't know the last time a guy had 19 shots on a weekend. He was very noticeable and I thought he was our best forward all weekend."

Farley probably won't be the only player who sees an uptick in ice time or a change in role with Krause's absence. We saw sophomore Sammy Spurrell get increased time Saturday, and he had a two-point game. Cal Decowski moves into Farley's place on the Tony Cameranesi line, and he had a two-point Saturday, including a greasy, go-hard-to-the-net goal.

Senior Justin Crandall is back, and he will help eat some of Krause's minutes on the penalty kill after sitting out last weekend. Sandelin indicated that Crandall probably should have sat out against Minnesota State with his undisclosed injury, but he tried to play through it. He has looked good in practice this week.

It should be an interesting series against a Miami team that UMD swept in Oxford last February. In the second game of that series, things got quite a bit testy after the final horn, something we'll discuss a bit in the series preview that will post Thursday night or Friday morning.

Talk to you then.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Split Again, Thanks to Emphatic Saturday Win

For UMD, Friday night was not its crispest performance. Then, things weren't necessarily looking good in the first few minutes Saturday. Denver outshot UMD to start the affair 6-0, and at one point analyst extraordinaire Kraig Karakas panned that they should throw a second puck on the ice so UMD could play with one, too.

The first media timeout of the game, which came with a shade over 14 minutes to go in the first, helped turn the tide a bit. UMD started controlling the puck more, began making smarter decisions in traffic and playing with more poise. Shots the rest of the first? 18-6, UMD. Nothing got by Denver goalie Evan Cowley, but Karakas was prophetic, mentioning that UMD needed to shoot lower because his glove was strong. It didn't work right away, but it eventually did, and UMD started chipping away at Denver's strong foundation.

Karson Kuhlman, who has emerged quickly as a force offensively as well as on the UMD penalty kill, started it with a slick backhander on a short-handed breakaway. It's UMD's fourth short-handed goal this season, good for the NCAA lead (tied with North Dakota). The penalty kill has continued to transition from a decent unit that was not any sort of serious offensive threat (one short-handed goal in each of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons) to one that is more cohesive and a much bigger threat to turn mistakes into goals.

Last year, guys like Dominic Toninato and Alex Iafallo were a big part of that threat. Now, it's Kuhlman joining the fray. Toninato and Iafallo kill penalties still, but the presence of guys like Kuhlman will take pressure off of them. In games where special teams take up a big chunk of the 60 minutes, the coaching staff might be able to rest Toninato and Iafallo on the kill. Guys like Kuhlman, Adam Krause (once healthy), Justin Crandall (once healthy), Cal Decowski, and even some others have experience and/or the ability to kill penalties.

After Kuhlman gave UMD the lead, it became an avalanche. Austyn Young scored his first career home goal -- with help from some heavy traffic provided by freshman Jared Thomas -- to make it 2-0. More traffic and a huge scramble in front led to Cal Decowski's power-play goal late in the period that made it 3-0.

That power play? It was Joey LaLeggia's hit from behind on Toninato. Getting one of the best blue-liners in the nation kicked out of the game didn't hurt UMD's chances. The Bulldogs, however, still had to execute on the man advantage, which isn't an easy task against an elite PK like Denver.

Decowski scored, UMD picked up three power play goals in the game, and went on to a 6-1 victory.

A 4-0 differential in special teams scoring helps, but UMD earned this win. There were adjustments, and the Bulldogs did a much better job in their own zone. There were still a couple instances where forwards got too far up the rink before the puck was cleared from the defensive zone, something Scott Sandelin and staff harped on after Friday. But I thought that Willie Raskob rebounded very nicely after a tough night Friday. Brenden Kotyk probably played his best game, and the top pair of Carson Soucy and Andy Welinski were once again solid. It was a nice step against a good opponent.

A few more thoughts:
  • Young got tossed in the third period for facemasking. It's the fourth straight game UMD has seen a player ejected. In all, though, I thought UMD did a good job with discipline, especially on Saturday. Denver took some penalties out of frustration, and UMD avoided taking retaliatory stuff like teams in the past might have.
  • Krause left in the first period. Undisclosed injury that was unrelated to his brief absence on Friday. Not sure on the prognosis at this point, but with Crandall (lower) already injured, the forward depth took a hit this weekend. Sandelin said Friday that he expected Crandall to be available for the Miami series. We'll see how those injuries play out this week. 
  • Can't really say enough good things about Kotyk. Think about it this way: From February 23, 2013, until October 10, 2014, he played in zero real games. 594 days. From his first shift against Minnesota at the Ice Breaker in South Bend, all Kotyk has done is get better. He's also one of the first to step in and stick up for teammates when scrums ensue. Despite his constant presence in physical battles, Kotyk has taken only one minor penalty over six games. And let's not make any mistakes here. The more Kotyk gets involved, the less likely teams will be to try to push around UMD's skill guys.
  • Nice to see Austin Farley, Decowski, and Sammy Spurrell all get on the board this weekend. UMD has 23 goals through six games, and despite Toninato having six of those, 13 different players have goals. 18 different skaters and 19 players have points.
  • Even nicer to see a breakout at home. UMD had lost five straight on home ice and scored just 11 goals. In two of three games at Amsoil Arena this season, UMD has played with intensity and toughness. Hopefully it's a good sign after last year's 5-10-3 nightmare at home.
  • Hard not to feel bad for Blake Young. The big kid out of Battleford got his first taste of a real game on Saturday, and when Krause went down, he quickly fell out of the rotation. Young (no relation to Austyn, who's from the Cities) hardly got off the bench in the second period before getting a few more chances to show what he could do in the third period. When he was out there, he seemed to do fine, but he wasn't out there enough to get a strong assessment. I'll watch him more closely in practice this week, and we'll see if injuries and the general unwillingness of coaches to change the lineup after a win combine to get Blake Young out there again Friday against Miami.
  • Miami comes in off a crazy 2-1 overtime win over St. Lawrence. Doesn't sound crazy, but the RedHawks outshot the Saints 53-11, including 15-0 in the second period and 8-1 in overtime. Let that sink in. Miami had eight shots on goal in only 3:25 of overtime. Outshot the Saints 95-27 on the weekend, but only mustered a split after SLU won 5-4 Friday. Sean Kuraly and Blake Coleman lead the offensive charge with seven points each. Freshman and Wild draft pick Louie Belpedio has two goals and three points in six games.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Game 6: Denver at UMD

For UMD, this is a very significant game. I hate to beat a dead horse, but the five-game home losing streak has to end, and there's no better time than now. Plus, falling to 0-2 in such a difficult league is not a really good idea.

Points are a must. Preferably without a postgame skills competition.



Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Osterberg - Thomas - Spurrell
Young (Blake) - Decowski - Young (Austyn)

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
McCormack - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Fons

Moore - Doremus - Loney
Larraza - Shore - Heinen
Romig - Levin - Marcinew
Jacobson - Janssen - Arnold

LaLeggia - Zajac
Butcher - Didier
Plant - Hammond

Cowley - Jaillet

Friday, October 24, 2014

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Pioneers Pounce on UMD Mistakes

For UMD, there's been a lot of talk about starting games better.

"Every coach talks about it," head coach Scott Sandelin said earlier this week. "The first four, five shifts, five or ten minutes of a game, is critical. It's not like it hasn't been discussed. I don't have the answer. The guys have to do it. They have to prepare mentally for a tough start.

"I don't know how you can't be ready to play."

Friday night, UMD started its top line, centered by Dominic Toninato, along with the defensive pairing of Derik Johnson and Willie Raskob. A lost faceoff, two UMD defensive zone turnovers, and a wired Ty Loney shot later, UMD trailed 1-0 at the 33 second mark of the game.


There were more bad plays in the defensive zone before the night was done. Unfortunately, struggles in the back were just the beginning for a scattershot -- at best -- offensive effort as Denver won 3-1 in both teams' NCHC opener.

A few things:
  • UMD has now lost five straight home games going back to last season: The finale to Omaha, two playoff games to Western Michigan, last Friday to Minnesota State, and Friday to Denver. UMD has scored 11 goals in those five games. UMD was 5-10-3 at home last year, 0-2 this year.
  • Speaking of not winning at home, there have been five NCHC games so far this season. The road team is 5-0. Combined score? 21-6. Average score? 4.2-1.2. UMD has its own issues at home, but so far the NCHC has been owned by away teams. It's an insanely small sample, and I have no other explanation for it at this point. 
  • Then again, I've been watching UMD struggle at Amsoil Arena for a while now, and I still can't figure that out. It's easy to blame empty seats or a general malaise that sets in too easily with our crowd. That's been the case since we were at the DECC. And UMD has won plenty of road games in front of large gobs of empty seats (Omaha comes to mind because of that huge arena they play in for one more year, and there were tons of empty seats at the Ice Breaker). I know those empty gold seats down in front are an eyesore, but they aren't a viable excuse for the Bulldogs' struggles at home.
  • For a third straight game, a UMD player got ejected. This time, it was Sammy Spurrell for a highly questionable checking from behind call. Questionable or not, this is how reputations are developed. And they aren't good reputations. Through the early part of the season, only Bentley (26.5) is averaging more penalty minutes per game than UMD (23).
  • UMD's power play cashed in for the fifth straight game to start the season. That's great, but the other four power plays were more like power outages. The last one -- a five-minute power play that ran until 11 seconds were left in the game -- produced five shots on goal, but Denver blocked a bunch, and the first half of that major power play was ugly at times, as UMD flubbed passes, failed to support the puck, and struggled to set anything of note up.
The blue line was a focal point for UMD. It was badly outplayed by DU's group, led by the elite senior Joey LaLeggia, along with Nolan Zajac and Will Butcher. We knew the Bulldogs weren't elite on defense, but they have to be better than they were on Friday.

Raskob and Willie Corrin struggled, I thought. Raskob had issues making plays all over the ice, especially in his own zone. More than once, he panicked and threw the puck up the boards, only to have it intercepted with ease at the point. Corrin made mistakes with the puck, too. They weren't the only ones. UMD's puck management in general was very poor on Friday, with silly turnovers playing right into Denver's hands, because the Pioneers just don't make many of those mistakes. When UMD established a forecheck, it was effective. But the lack of crisp passing and solid puck management made it really difficult to keep that forecheck going.

Earlier this week, Sandelin said freshman Blake Young would make his UMD debut this weekend, so I'd expect at least one forward to come out to allow for that Saturday. On defense, freshman Nick McCormack should play, but I'm not sure who comes out.

No reason for a change in goal. Kasimir Kaskisuo had a pretty solid effort, and he made a couple significant stops in the second to keep his team in the game when they just couldn't generate any sustained attack.

If UMD can get more going offensively, it should mean more pressure on whoever plays goal for Denver Saturday (we'd heard this week that Tanner Jaillet would get a game, but can Jim Montgomery take Evan Cowley out after another strong performance from him?).

The good news is that Denver didn't run UMD out of the building. But the Bulldogs showed that there is still plenty to work on.

It starts with the start.


The NCHC didn't have a great night. Union pounced on St. Cloud State early, putting up three in the first half of the first period on its way to a 5-1 win. The defending national champions held SCSU off the scoreboard until the final seconds of the game.

In another matchup of ranked teams, North Dakota beat Providence 6-1 at The Ralph. Drake Caggiula had a goal and three assists, while the Brothers Schmaltz combined for five assists (Jordan had three).

In other games, Boston College beat Colorado College 6-2, Alaska-Fairbanks got a third-period power play goal to upend Western Michigan 1-0, and St. Lawrence jumped to a 5-1 lead and held on to beat Miami 5-4.


Game 5: Denver at UMD

You know, it's almost too nice outside.


We're here and ready to open the NCHC season with a two-game series against Denver.

What's that picture? Well, it's something covered by a black curtain. That's what it is.

Oh, you want a more specific answer?

I haven't been told, but my senses indicate it's the banner that will commemorate Bill Watson's jersey retirement in the first intermission of this Friday night tilt. Something tells me I don't have to be told, because it seems somewhat obvious.

Watson will join us in the Glass Case of Emotion after the second period for what should be an interesting conversation. I'm not sure I've ever had a boring conversation with Bill.

Anyway, Denver brings another member of the Shore family (junior center Quentin), one of the top defensemen in the country (Joey LaLeggia), and a goalie carrying a .976 save percentage (no, not Sam Brittain, it's Evan Cowley).

Same ol' Pioneers.



Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Osterberg - Thomas - Boehm
Sampair - Decowski - Spurrell

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Fons

Moore - Doremus - Loney
Larraza - Shore - Heinen
Romig - Levin - Marcinew
Jacobson - Tabrum - Arnold

LaLeggia - Zajac
Butcher - Didier
Plant - VanVoorhis

Cowley - Jaillet

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Parade of Ranked Opponents Continues for UMD

Opening weekend, it was No. 1 Minnesota and No. 12 Notre Dame on the road.

(I guess, technically, Minnesota was a neutral site, but you get the point.)

Last week, a home-and-home with No. 12 Minnesota State.

Now, the UMD Bulldogs continue to run the gauntlet in their early-season schedule. A visit from No. 11/No. 13 Denver looms for the 19th ranked (votes but no ranking in USA Today poll) Bulldogs.

Assistant coach Derek Plante referenced the schedule when we spoke this week, talking about how it compares to a 2013-14 schedule that was ranked as one of the toughest in the nation.

We're doing it again.

After Denver, UMD entertains ranked Miami next weekend before heading down Highway 23 to take on ranked St. Cloud State in two weeks. After that, a non-conference home and home series against current (almost-undisputed) No. 1 Minnesota.

The Bulldogs are off a split against MSU which followed a split (loss to Minnesota and win over Notre Dame) at the Ice Breaker. Once again last weekend, Plante says they only felt they got "four out of six periods" out of the team.

"We spotted them three goals," head coach Scott Sandelin said this week when referencing last Friday's 5-4 overtime loss to Minnesota State. "Yeah, we tied it, but you can get away with it once in a while.

"We can't keep doing that. It's a lot more fun to play like we did against Notre Dame, and in Mankato."

In Saturday's win over the Mavericks, "they kind of stormed us a little bit," Sandelin said of the first period. But he never felt they were going the wrong direction because they weathered that storm and started taking the play to MSU in the second period.

Finding that consistency will be the next challenge.

"Every coach talks about it," Sandelin says. "The first four, five shifts, five or ten minutes of a game, is critical. It's not like it hasn't been discussed. I don't have the answer. The guys have to do it. They have to prepare mentally for a tough start.

"I don't know how you can't be ready to play. I don't think guys aren't ready, but sometimes that stuff happens."

The Pioneers are formidable. Denver is led by its backline, primarily senior Joey LaLeggia, who might be the best defenseman in college hockey. He's the kind of player who has always been dangerous with the puck, but he's really developed his skills without it. LaLeggia isn't a big guy, so he'll never be a thumper, but he uses his stick really well, understands leverage, and knows how to play his position.

He isn't the only dangerous defenseman for second-year coach Jim Montgomery. He also has Nolan Zajac and Will Butcher at his disposal, and all three can wreak havoc offensively. The Pioneers have been known to use three defensemen on the power play, with Zajac working down low as a forward-type. That's how dangerous these players are in the offensive zone.

If that's not enough, Montgomery has some nice pieces up front. The 48th Shore family member to play hockey for DU, Quentin, is one of the Pioneers' centers. You'll notice guys like Ty Loney, Zac Larazza (probably best-known for scoring the winner in the 2012 Final Five double-overtime semi against UMD), and Trevor Moore.

In goal, Montgomery started both Evan Cowley and Tanner Jaillet last week, but the latter was upended by Zach Schroeder of RPI less than 2:30 into Saturday's game and left with an injury, so Cowley ended up playing over 117 minutes on the weekend. Stepping in for the graduated Sam Brittain, the two only combined to stop 42 of 43 RPI shots in a weekend sweep.

Montgomery has indicated that both will play this weekend, as he tries to sort through what he has at the position.

Sandelin is still trying to do the same thing at all positions, but he was happy with freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo on Saturday. Expect him to start Friday's game.

As for other positions, when asked about the tough decisions he has to make about the lineup for every game, Sandelin said "It sucks, actually. But it's nice to have a depth problem.

"Our guys were kindly reminded by me that it doesn't matter who you are. If you're not playing the way we think you can play, we have other guys who can step in. We have some guys who are chomping at the bit to play more. We don't have time to wait."

That quote from earlier this week is in line with what Sandelin told me Saturday, when he added that he is "not a patient person."

While he generally liked what he saw in Saturday's game, look for a few changes throughout the weekend. Most notably, Sandelin said freshman left winger Blake Young will make his debut this weekend, though he wouldn't say which night. Young is the only skater yet to appear in a game. We've discussed the logjam at left wing before, and he's been firmly caught up in it.


Don't forget that former UMD star Bill Watson's No. 14 will be retired after the first period of Friday's game. Sandelin calls it an "awesome honor" for a "good friend." Bill will join our broadcast after the second period Friday.

Also want to welcome Matt Wellens to the UMD hockey beat. Matt is the Duluth News Tribune's new UMD men's hockey dude. He's an all-around nice guy, a Packers fan, and a dog owner. He worked in Marquette prior, and put in a good amount of time analyzing Walt Kyle's mock turtlenecks while covering Northern Michigan hockey.

His Twitter is @mattwellens, and he will be blogging on the team here. Give him a follow and check out the blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

UMD Hockey: Where Are They Now?

Haven't done this in a few years, but we'll give a whirl and try to update it somewhat regularly.

I've tried -- using Google, Hockey DB, and social media -- to compile a list of former UMD Bulldogs playing professional hockey anywhere in the world.

Find the Google doc here.

If you have info on a player not listed but who is playing pro hockey this year, please comment, email me, or tweet me and I'll make sure I get the relevant details.

I know a few guys who have been playing pro are missing, so hopefully someone can help clue us in.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Go Bananas in Third, Split with Mavericks

For UMD, Saturday brought a few welcome sights.

To start, it was clear very early in the game that freshman goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo was seeing the puck very well. The lanky Finn was victimized on the first two shots he faced in his debut against Minnesota, but since then he has stopped 54 of the 58 shots sent his way (.931 save percentage).

He made a couple athletic stops Saturday in Mankato, but Kaskisuo was basically asked to play a solid game. He controlled his rebounds very well, showed poise and some aggressiveness when covering pucks a couple times, and played the puck for really the first time, as he didn't do it much (if at all) against Minnesota. You can see his puck-playing needs work, but he took positive steps in every area on Saturday.

UMD started slowly on Saturday. While MSU only led 1-0 after one, it could have been worse. The Mavericks had the puck a lot, and UMD just didn't do much positive when it had possession. The Bulldogs began to assert themselves more offensively in the second period. It was nice to see Kyle Osterberg and Justin Crandall get on the scoresheet as UMD took a 2-1 lead.

But when the third period started 2-2, the Bulldogs leaned on the guys they've leaned on all season to this point. And sophomores Dominic Toninato and Alex Iafallo didn't disappoint. Iafallo set up Toninato in front for a short-handed goal early in the third. It's Dom's fifth goal, second short-handed goal, and Iafallo's fourth assist of the season. The two combined to set up Hermantown's Jared Thomas for a power-play goal about halfway through the third to make it 4-2. That was Thomas' first collegiate point.

Through four games, Toninato has five goals and seven points, Iafallo one goal and six points. Tony Cameranesi and Carson Soucy each have two goals and five points.


I said before the season there would be real competition for spots in the lineup, especially at forward.

Scott Sandelin has to be pleased with the idea of two home weekends before he has to leave players at home for an NCHC road trip (Nov. 7-8 at St. Cloud State). There will be a very difficult decision to be made if things keep going as they are now.

Thomas has already placed himself in a position to play more than he had been. He's smart, responsible, and clearly has some real skill. His ascension has caused sophomore Sammy Spurrell to sit three of the first four games this season. It's nothing Spurrell has necessarily done wrong, but Thomas gives UMD even more depth in the middle than it already had.

Also, freshman left wing Blake Young hasn't made it in the lineup yet, but largely because he's a left wing on a team that goes four-deep there (Iafallo, Austin Farley, Osterberg, and Charlie Sampair). He isn't redshirting, so he will play at some point.

On the blue line, Willie Raskob is off to a slow start and was a surprise scratch Saturday. He's healthy, so clearly the coaches are trying to send a message. The blue line as a whole didn't have a great weekend. Too many turnovers and generally some questionable puck management, especially on the power play. The group did a better job Saturday keeping MSU players from the front of the net and giving Kaskisuo a chance to see the puck on virtually every one of those 38 shots he faced.

I think the competition there is much less defined at this point, which is another reason to be pleased that this team is at home for four straight games and can make any lineup change it wants from one game to the next.

(When they board the bus for St. Cloud sometime during the afternoon on Nov. 6, they will be limited to 22 players. Typically, you'll see them take 13 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goalies.)


Lots of comments over the weekend about discipline. Now, I'm going to tread carefully, but I do have some thoughts.

I thought UMD did a much better job playing with a composed edge on Saturday than it did Friday. This team is talented. Guys can't afford to get mad because someone lost the puck on the power play. That chop from behind on the puck carrier -- when you're on a power play, no less -- is probably getting called 95-98 times out of 100.

That doesn't mean that a player shouldn't compete for that puck. But guys have to compete within the rules.

"No matter what point of the game, you're up or you're down, you get an opportunity on the power play, you can't give that up 30 or 40 seconds in," Sandelin said.

"You have to keep your composure. Things aren't going to go your way and you're going to miss opportunities. You keep your composure. We can't take penalties behind the play. Whether they were or not (penalties) is not to be argued. Don't put yourself in those positions."

Everything was fine Saturday, outside of what I thought was a silly and unnecessary kneeing penalty on Derik Johnson that led to his early shower. Johnson had a huge issue with bad penalties as a sophomore, but he did a great job cleaning up his game last year. With that came more playing time as he gained the coaches' trust.

I have not seen a replay of Saturday's hit, but I did not think it was a good one. Not sure I'd say it's worthy of supplemental from the NCHC, but I didn't like it because we were up three goals and cruising to a win. Just didn't need to happen.

No matter your feelings about that hit, UMD's discipline continues to be an issue and it has to get better. As it improves, it has to last more than a couple weeks. The occasional blowup is going to happen to even a team full of choir boys, but the Bulldogs have to avoid the penalty bug and stick to what works.

Then again, with the way this team is scoring short-handed all of a sudden, maybe it should take more penalties.

I'm kidding.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Game 4: UMD at Minnesota State

MANKATO, Minn. -- Salutations from Mankato, where UMD is going to try to salvage the second game of this non-conference series, after Minnesota State used a Zeb Knutson power-play goal in overtime to win 5-4 in Duluth Friday.

Simply put, UMD has to put that one behind them and continue to work toward being a more consistent and cohesive unit. Not enough experienced players are hitting on the necessary cylinders at the moment, and that's something that must be fixed.

It's only three games, but Austin Farley, Kyle Osterberg, Justin Crandall, and Cal Decowski have combined for as many points as I have. This isn't to call those individuals out as if they're all playing poorly, but UMD won't win without its older players carrying the water. The Bulldogs also need consistent production from more than just Dominic Toninato's line, which added two more goals Friday and has now combined for six of the Bulldogs' ten goals this season. In addition, the line was on the ice for Andy Welinski's goal against Minnesota.

So you can see the need for more production from the other lines. Tony Cameranesi, Farley, and freshman Karson Kuhlman were going on Friday, so hopefully that's a good sign for "Bug" and he'll get on the board soon.

Saturday night would work for all of us.



Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Osterberg - Thomas - Crandall
Sampair - Decowski - Boehm

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Corrin
McCormack - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Franklin - Leitner - Gervais
Stepan - Blueger - Knutson
LaFontaine - Margonari - McClure
Grant - Nelson (Jordan) - Gaede

Palmquist - Foguth
Stern - Thompson
Flanagan - Nelson (Casey)

Huggins - Williams - Nelson (Aaron)

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.

Game 3: Minnesota State at UMD

This game is on FSN PLUS.

This game is on FSN PLUS.

This game is on FSN PLUS.

This game is on FSN PLUS.

This game is on FSN PLUS.

This game is on FSN PLUS.

This game is on FSN PLUS.

This game is on FSN PLUS.

This game is on FSN PLUS.



Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Osterberg - Decowski - Crandall
Sampair - Thomas - Young (Austyn)

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

McNeely - Kaskisuo - Fons

Franklin - Leitner - Gervais
Stepan - Blueger - Knutson
LaFontaine - Margonari - McClure
Grant - Nelson - Gaede

Palmquist - Schmeisser
Stern - Foguth
Flanagan - Nelson

Williams - Huggins

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bulldogs, Mavericks Both Rely on Experience, Good Leadership

As we work our way to Friday's home opener, it's interesting to look at how similar UMD is to this week's opponent, Minnesota State.

There are differences. Mike Hastings has led MSU to the NCAA Tournament in each of his two years at the helm in Mankato. The Mavericks have gotten there, in part, thanks to quality goaltending. Stephon Williams led MSU to a .910 team save percentage in 2012-13, and Cole Huggins helped MSU post a .908 save percentage last season. Both years, the Mavericks dwarfed UMD's team save percentage, which was .896 in each season.

Not surprisingly, Hastings is impressed by his team's opponent this weekend.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect (for UMD)," he told me this week, noting UMD did a great job against a Notre Dame team we all knew would come out desperate on Sunday. "I think we mirror each other a little bit. Strengths up front, you look at (Dominic) Toninato, (Alex) Iafallo, (Tony) Cameranesi, (Austin) Farley I could keep going there. They've got different guys that can beat you up front. And the guys on the back end are guys who can play offense, defense, play 200 feet.

"I think you're going to see two styles that are comparable. Both teams like to get up and down the rink. It should be very challenging for both teams, but very entertaining for the people that are coming through the turnstiles."

Want similarities? MSU has nine players -- Zach Palmquist, J.P. LaFontaine, Matt Leitner, Chase Grant, Brett Stern, Bryce Gervais, Max Gaede, Dylan Margonari, and Teddy Blueger -- who have combined to play 820 games for the Mavs. Those nine have combined for 521 career points (188 goals). Guys like Palmquist, LaFontaine, and Leitner have been consistent scoring threats, but all nine have been significant players.

UMD has six players -- Justin Crandall, Adam Krause, Andy Welinski, Tony Cameranesi, Derik Johnson, and Austin Farley -- who have combined for 504 career games. Those six have a total of 236 points between them (92 goals).

The key difference? As Krause notes, he, Crandall, and Johnson weren't expected to step in and play major minutes in their freshman seasons (the 2011-12 season). UMD had enough significant players back that they didn't need the freshmen to step in as top-line players. They could learn their way a little bit.

"That was the situation when I came in as a freshman," Krause said. "I wasn't really looked at to contribute. I think the last couple years we relied a lot on our freshmen.

"I think it hurt us in some spots for sure."

This is where it benefits UMD, however. That junior class -- even the sophomores -- bring a lot of experience to the table, and it's up to them to carry the water.

Over the weekend, sophomores Toninato and Iafallo did that. So did juniors Welinski and Cameranesi. And seniors Krause, Crandall, and Johnson.

Freshmen had their moments, but this is a team that will lean on its experience, not its lack thereof.

So will Minnesota State.

See? Similarities.

"When you start looking at teams that are there in the end, very seldom do you see teams that are freshman- and sophomore-oriented," Hastings says. "I think that leadership is something that needs to be earned over time. The more experience you have, the better decisions you're going to make."

MSU's head coach also spoke glowingly of -- arguably -- his top three players: LaFontaine, Leitner, and Palmquist.

"Palmquist could have left after last year, and decided that it was important for him to come back and develop as a player, and to get his degree. We're leaning on these guys right now.

"Leitner and LaFontaine are two guys that just love playing. And I love their commitment level this time of year."

Hastings gave those three players a ton of the credit for the team's turnaround from a 5-3 loss last Friday in Omaha to a 4-2 win Saturday. In the Saturday game, MSU rallied from an early 2-0 hole by out-shooting UNO 31-9 over the last 40 minutes and scoring four times in the second period.

When UMD is on, it's playing like it was on Sunday. Still wasn't perfect (never is), but the Bulldogs had an edge, an intensity to their game, that was really impressive. It's the way this team has to play all the time, but it won't happen immediately. But Sunday was a very good step. In all, Scott Sandelin and his staff are probably happy with 75-90 of the 120 minutes UMD played in South Bend, depending on their level of pickiness.

It was a good first step, but look at this schedule:

No. 12 Minnesota State (home and home)
No. 16 Denver (home)
No. 11 Miami (home)
No. 8 St. Cloud State (away)
No. 1 Minnesota (home and home)

Then it gets easier, as we head to Omaha the weekend before Thanksgiving.

(Note sarcasm. Nothing's easy about UNO.)

UMD has to ramp things up every week, win some games, and get through what will again this year be one of the top schedules in the nation. If the Bulldogs can do that, they'll be a factor in the end, for certain.

Monday, October 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Game 2: UMD vs Notre Dame (Ice Breaker)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Off and running with the Ice Breaker championship game between Minnesota and RPI. As is custom in tournaments, the third place game will follow.

Such is life when you're the host.

Notre Dame was upset by RPI 3-2 Friday, while UMD fell to No. 1 Minnesota 4-3.

Obviously an important game for both teams, but also both teams need to get more players in the lineup. So changes for both that we might not have seen otherwise.



Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Osterberg - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Farley - Decowski - Crandall
Sampair - Spurrell - Young (Austyn)

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
McCormack - Kotyk

McNeely - Kaskisuo - Fons

DiPauli - Fogarty - Schneider
Lucia - Hinostroza - Herr
Bjork - Hurley - Evans
Thomas - Cook - Wuthrich

Billitier - Russo
Ripley - Ryan
Johnson - Gross

Katunar - Stasack - Petersen

Friday, October 10, 2014

Saturday (or Friday, I Guess) Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Poor Start Leads to Encouraging Signs for UMD

If you're new to the blog, this is a piece that will appear virtually every Saturday during the UMD season. Exceptions are only made when your humble correspondent is unable to write due to other commitments. "I don't feel like writing because UMD lost" is not an excuse.


SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Now, about starting the game.

Before Friday's game, I talked about the importance of everyone being on board and helping create a good atmosphere on the bench and on the ice. Sometimes, a boisterous crowd can help a team get into a game.

Friday's crowd in South Bend? Not boisterous. Or large. Or small. It was smaller than that.

One of the curses of playing an afternoon game at a neutral site that sits 568 miles from Amsoil Arena and 506 miles from Mariucci Arena: Not a lot of locals are interested. Especially when you throw in a crowded campus that's getting riled up for Notre Dame football Saturday.

(And "crowded" is an understatement. You should have seen the traffic coming into campus as we were escaping after the game.)

A sluggish start for UMD proved costly on this day, as the Bulldogs were unable to complete a comeback and fell 4-3 to No. 1 Minnesota at Compton Family Ice Arena.

UMD fell behind just 30 seconds into the game when Sam Warning blocked an Andy Welinski shot, then sneaked past the Bulldogs and was sprung for a breakaway by Gophers captain Kyle Rau. It was a smart play by Warning, who recognized Rau was going to get the puck and took off. It wasn't a smart play by UMD, as no one picked up Warning's break before it was too late. In defense, it's not like Welinski or Carson Soucy have the wheels to chase down a guy like that in open ice.

Five minutes later, another UMD breakdown led to a Minnesota short-handed marker, this time from Rau on a partial breakaway. Both goals beat UMD freshman goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo five-hole. The kid they call "Kaz" would give up one more five-hole goal on a Hudson Fasching deflection in the second period, and he allowed four goals on 22 shots overall in his college debut.

While the five-hole goals looked bad, there is no reason to panic about Kaskisuo's play. He looked stronger and more confident as the game wore on, and while UMD showed a lot of faith in his abilities by starting him Friday, the reality is Kaskisuo is a 20-year-old freshman who had never played a game in this environment before. Surely, there were nerves. Like I said before the game, I was nervous for him, and I don't know him yet!

"Here, kid, stop Sam Warning and Kyle Rau on breakaways and face no other shots for the first six-plus minutes of the game. Have fun with that."

Reality is UMD has to play better than that in front of Kaskisuo. Or Matt McNeely. Or Alex Fons. Or anyone who slaps on the pads. The Bulldogs did play better as Friday wore on, and in that regard the game was quite similar to Monday's exhibition. But the caliber of opponent was much greater this time, and UMD just didn't have enough to finish off the rally.

After Hudson Fasching scored on a tipped shot and Minnesota took a 4-1 lead late in the second period, it would have been easy to call it a day. UMD did not do that. Andy Welinski scored 25 seconds into the third, and Dominic Toninato added his second of the game less than four minutes later. UMD couldn't get the equalizer, but there were opportunities in there. Kyle Osterberg missed the net on a breakaway, and Austin Farley had a couple good chances in the game.

Minnesota held on for the win, but UMD again showed it can skate with one of the best teams in the country. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs didn't start the game well enough to make a strong finish matter.

Luckily, it's just the first game of what we hope is a long journey for this group. Sure, there was a lot to learn, but clearly the players and coaches made adjustments and played a much stronger game in the final 30 minutes than they did in the first 30.

Now, about starting the game. Hopefully in Sunday's third place game (vs. tournament host Notre Dame at 2:30pm), UMD can start stronger and avoid getting gashed defensively in the early going. With any luck, whoever UMD starts in goal gets a chance to get in a rhythm without having to deal with a breakaway 30 seconds into the game.


UMD's Osterberg and Adam Krause each got calls when the referees decided they were guilty of embellishment. In Osterberg's case, it was a standalone "diving" call that wiped out two minutes of a Brady Skjei double-minor. Krause's call came as part of coincidentals with Travis Boyd of Minnesota, who got a tripping minor.

Longtime listeners/followers know this is a pet peeve of mine. And it's an establishment thing, not confined to select officials. Everyone calls it like this.

A high percentage of the time, what is now a coincidental call for something (most often tripping, hooking, or holding) and diving should be one or the other. In a less common instance, a player tries so hard to "sell" a call that he should probably get a minor along with the original infraction, which was also egregious enough to warrant a call.

While I disagreed with the call on Osterberg, I will say this:

The only way college hockey -- or any level of the sport, honestly -- is going to curtail diving is to encourage officials to call it as a standalone penalty. Once you see teams giving up power play goals because someone decided to take a dive to try to draw a call, coaches will be forced to work on eliminating the practice.

(This also needs to be said: It's a really hard line for officials to draw. That's a big part of the reason it hasn't been drawn well, in my opinion. Seeing the difference between a legitimate stick foul and embellishment in a split-second sequence with no benefit of replay has to be one of the hardest jobs for a hockey official.)


The bad news didn't stop for UMD on the ice.

(Likely) 2015 commit Jared Bethune, a forward playing high school hockey at Warroad, signed a deal with the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League. That's major junior, so Bethune relinquished college eligibility by joining the team.

Bethune scored 31 goals for Warroad as a junior, but the Warriors couldn't get by eventual state champion East Grand Forks in the Section 8A final. Bethune had announced he would play for USHL Lincoln before and after the high school season, but he was committed to his senior year at Warroad before the Cougars came calling.

(That's a bad mental image if you have a dirty mind, but I'm sticking with the verbiage.)

SBN College Hockey notes Bethune had a "falling out" in Lincoln. I'm not quite sure what that means, but he showed plenty of excitement over getting to Lincoln on his feed, and he played for the Stars as recently as Sunday.

This stinks, but there is a silver lining. Unlike some instances where signed recruits bail in the summer/early fall before joining a college (Sonny Milano, John Moore, and JT Miller come to mind as examples), Bethune wasn't signed to UMD, and he wasn't going to join the program until next year. His departure now gives the Bulldogs coaching staff, which has done a very good job recruiting in recent years, an opportunity to find someone to take that spot in 2015. It'll involve either bumping a 2016 recruit up one year, or finding an uncommitted late bloomer who could make an impact in college hockey.

It's a loss, because Bethune projected to be a very good college hockey player, but the timing of this move is hardly disastrous.

For those questioning Bethune's character, I'd ask that you stop. I don't know him at all, so maybe he deserves it. But one of the primary flaws in the college/major junior "war" is that we're expecting 16- and 17-year-old kids to make adult decisions while getting all sorts of pressure from all sorts of adults around them.

(Oh, and the "major junior" side of this adult decision can't be taken back once it's made. Don't forget that.)

I'm not saying Bethune didn't handle this wrong because I don't know that. I'm saying it's highly unlikely he changed his mind on his destination with no influence or pressure whatsoever from the side he eventually chose.

Bethune is the second player UMD has lost to major junior in the last six months or so, as defenseman Blake Heinrich bailed on his commitment to join the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.


In other non-conference games involving the NCHC, well, the league didn't get off to a good start.

Nothing was more shocking than Bemidji State going into The Ralph and throttling North Dakota, 5-1. It was 5-0 after two, with BSU leading in shots 29-16.


Colgate beat St. Cloud State 3-1 in a battle of preseason top ten teams. Bowling Green held off Miami 3-2. Canisius beat Western Michigan 4-2.


Omaha did topple Minnesota State 5-3 at CenturyLink Center, and Colorado College beat Alabama-Huntsville 3-2.

It's only one night, but the NCHC didn't do itself any favors. The detractors were out in full force on Twitter, having a great time. Hopefully Saturday and Sunday bring better results.

Game 1: UMD vs Minnesota (Ice-Breaker)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Here we go from the shadow of Touchdown Jesus, as the Bulldogs kick off the 2014-15 campaign. It's a season full of promise for UMD, and it starts with a hell of a challenge against No. 1 Minnesota.

The Gophers are atop the rankings for a reason, and it isn't just the program's near-sterling reputation in college hockey. It's because Minnesota has nearly everyone back from a team that played for the national championship. They're favored in this game, and they're favored to go a long way this season. It's all for good reason, too.

Of course, that doesn't help anyone win games on the ice. UMD gave Minnesota fits last season, outside of about ten minutes of the first meeting where the wheels done fell right off. If that trend continues, this will be a great way to kick off the season.



Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Osterberg - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Farley - Decowski - Crandall
Sampair - Thomas - Boehm

Soucy - Welinski
Johnson - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Fons

Warning - Rau - Fasching
Reilly (Connor) - Boyd - Ambroz
Lettieri - Kloos - Cammarata
Michaelson - Isackson - Reilly (Ryan)

Skjei - Bischoff
Reilly (Mike) - Glover
Brodzinski - Marshall

Wilcox - Coyne

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Bulldogs Break the Ice With Hefty Challenge

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- For the UMD men's hockey team, a page has to be turned.


Perhaps it's a fortunate "bounce" that the Bulldogs open Friday's Ice Breaker here in South Bend with longtime rival Minnesota, which doubles as virtually everyone's preseason No. 1.

"I don't have a problem playing them," head coach Scott Sandelin said this week. "It was a good attention grabber for our players to see that we play them right out of the gate."

UMD is guaranteed three games against a Gophers team it went 1-1-1 against last year, including handing Minnesota its only regulation loss at Mariucci Arena all season (6-2 on Nov. 24).

"Our guys enjoy playing them, because they are a good team every year," Sandelin said.

UMD is 5-6-4 in its last 15 cracks at the "Main U," as the kids call it.

(Well, someone calls it that. I guess I don't know what the kids are saying.)

There's plenty of reason to be excited about this matchup. Some will look at UMD's narrow 4-2 win over Lakehead and think it's a bad omen. Sandelin isn't so sure. In fact, he's willing to admit his team was probably looking ahead a little bit.

"I think so. I think it's something our guys talked about when they got back. Certainly, with a short week, too, looking at Monday and the way we came out, it might have been indicative of guys thinking ahead."

Makes sense, because the UMD team we saw in the early going Monday is not a team that is going to beat Minnesota.

"You have to take care of the puck," Sandelin said. "The way we turned the puck over on Monday, I thought it was way too much. I thought we were soft on the puck and made some poor decisions."

Sandelin also noted the need to stay out of the box and avoid putting Minnesota on the power play. The Gophers were 20 percent with the man advantage last year, and they were somewhat better than that (six for 22) in the three games against UMD.

In general, Sandelin wants a more disciplined Bulldog team this year than last. It'll be a point of emphasis all season. One thing that probably irritates the veteran coach is knowing that last year's team killed almost as many power plays by taking penalties during them (23) as it scored power play goals (26).

(I don't know if that's an unusually high number in college hockey or not. I also know that there is a bit of a bean game sometimes with the officials, and the call that evens up a situation is sometimes a bit, um, ticky-tack. But that happens to everyone. It only happened 11 times to UMD the previous season, so 23 seems excessive to me. It's something the Bulldogs have to remedy. The power play was not terribly effective last year, and to shoot oneself in the foot that many times on top of that is just not a recipe for success.)

No matter what, Minnesota is a challenge. But remember, it's their first real game, too. It's not like Don Lucia got them together for a bunch of games against NHL competition over the summer or something. They're good, but they're at the same point UMD is at. The start.

It's a long journey, and it won't be defined by 60 minutes in October. Yeah, it would be really nice to beat the Gophers, but getting this team to take a good first step to kick off the season is much more significant at this stage of things.

Worry about that, and then we'll worry about beating these guys.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

2014-15 NHL Season Predictions: Me vs Hunter vs Hat

I'll try to get back in this post in the next 24 hours and elaborate a bit on my picks, but the theme this year is simple.

I pretend to know a few things about hockey. My son, 12-year-old Hunter, likes to play and watch hockey, but he really doesn't pay much attention to who's good and who's not. My hat has no clue whatsoever. Hasn't even heard of the teams.

So who can pick the divisions better?

1. Boston
2. Tampa Bay
3. Montreal
4. Florida
5. Ottawa
6. Detroit
7. Toronto
8. Buffalo

1. Boston
2. Tampa Bay
3. Buffalo
4. Montreal
5. Detroit
6. Florida
7. Ottawa
8. Toronto

1. Boston
2. Detroit
3. Florida
4. Ottawa
5. Buffalo
6. Montreal
7. Toronto
8. Tampa Bay

1. N.Y. Rangers
2. Washington
3. N.Y. Islanders
4. Pittsburgh
5. Columbus
6. New Jersey
7. Philadelphia
8. Carolina

1. Philadelphia
2. Carolina
3. N.Y. Rangers
4. Pittsburgh
5. N.Y. Islanders
6. Columbus
7. Washington
8. New Jersey

1. Carolina
2. New Jersey
3. Philadelphia
4. Pittsburgh
5. Washington
6. Columbus
7. N.Y. Islanders
8. N.Y. Rangers

1. Chicago
2. St. Louis
3. Minnesota
4. Dallas
5. Colorado
6. Nashville
7. Winnipeg

1. Chicago
2. Colorado
3. Winnipeg
4. Minnesota
5. Nashville
6. Dallas
7. St. Louis

1. Winnipeg
2. Colorado
3. Chicago
4. Dallas
5. St. Louis
6. Nashville
7. Minnesota

1. Los Angeles
2. San Jose
3. Anaheim
4. Edmonton
5. Vancouver
6. Arizona
7. Calgary

1. Los Angeles
2. San Jose
3. Anaheim
4. Vancouver
5. Arizona
6. Calgary
7. Edmonton

1. Calgary
2. Anaheim
3. Edmonton
4. San Jose
5. Los Angeles
6. Arizona
7. Vancouver

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Exhibition Thoughts: Sloppy Start, Hot Goalie, Work Needed

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

It didn't start well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 06, 2014

Exhibition: Lakehead at UMD

After a 205-day absence that probably felt like closer to 350 for some, UMD hockey is finally back. If you're not making it to Amsoil Arena for this game against the mighty Thunderwolves of Lakehead University, or if you need to know your options to catch games on the radio or internet this winter, check out that info in this post.

As for this game, UMD is going to hold forward Charlie Sampair and defenseman Derik Johnson out, so 15th-year coach Scott Sandelin is going with 14 forwards and seven defensemen. Goalie Alex Fons will dress but will not play, as junior Matt McNeely and freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo will split the game.

(None of the three are anything serious. Sampair and Johnson are expected to play Friday in South Bend against Minnesota. That game counts. This one does not. In fact, I'd say Sampair is virtually locked into the lineup for Friday. I'm sure of ten of the 12 forwards Sandelin will use in that Gopher game. I think the other two spots can be had.)

Also, don't read too much into the lines listed below. With 14 forwards and seven defensemen dressed, there will be much juggling. Also, expect to see a lot of the new guys as Sandelin tries to get them some game experience before they enter what could be long battles for the 11th/12th forward and fifth/sixth defensemen minutes. As an example, a guy like Blake Young -- a left wing on a team stuffed full of left wings -- could end up on the ice a ton, because there's less of a chance he plays as opposed to a guy like, maybe, Karson Kuhlman, who could seriously challenge for top six-type minutes in the early going.

Also watch closely the play of sophomore defenseman Brenden Kotyk. I know no one in that facility says a bad word about him. Of course, he's 6-6, and "225 pounds" (listed weight), so there's good reason for that.

In all seriousness, Kotyk hasn't played competitively in a long time. It'll be interesting to see how he plays against a live opponent after spending last year practicing with the team but sitting out because of NCAA rules (transferred from St. Scholastica).

The thinking? Give him experience now and hopefully build some confidence, because he needs to compete his tail off every week to get in the lineup.

We might see a lot of combinations of those supposed ten forwards who should be locks for Friday. This is the time to experiment. There are combinations among those ten forwards (Cameranesi-Osterberg/Crandall, Toninato-Iafallo, Decowski-Farley/Krause, for example) that we know work. This is a good chance to put Iafallo with a different center, Decowski with different wings, just to see what might work and what might not.

That said, here we go.



Osterberg - Cameranesi - Crandall
Farley - Decowski - Kuhlman
Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Young (Blake) - Spurrell - Young (Austyn)
Thomas - Boehm

Soucy - Welinski
Corrin - Raskob
McCormack - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Ainsworth - Hammond - Carrick
Faust - Dubchak (Carson) - Dubchak (Brennan)
Butler - Quesnele (David) - McDonald (Austin)
Hynnes - Kaarela - Cull

Hynnes - Quesnele (Mike)
Maw - Fillman
Bruyere - Kostecki

Bosch - McDonald (Justin)

UMD Hockey Listening Options 2014-15

Another UMD hockey season is upon us. Figured I'd let you know what your options are for listening to games this year, as we've added network affiliates (good news, eh?).

On the radio, UMD hockey can be heard on the following stations:
  • 94X in Duluth, which is 94.1 FM in the Twin Ports and 104.3 FM in the surrounding area (good signal to Cloquet and sometimes farther, also north to Two Harbors and Silver Bay and west to Floodwood).
  • KBAJ-FM 105.5 ("KQ 105.5") in Deer River/Grand Rapids. Strong signal, easily heard in Hibbing and Buhl to the east, and as far south as Aitkin and west as Bemidji on a good day.
  • KAOD-FM 106.7 ("KQ 106.7") in Babbitt/Ely. Gets west to the eastern boundary of KBAJ (Virginia or so). Can also be heard through much of Lake County and up into Canada.
  • KKIN-AM 930 ("Red Zone Sports Radio 930") in Aitkin. During our day games, like Friday against Minnesota, you can pick up this station all over the place, including west to Park Rapids, south to Little Falls, east into Wisconsin, and north to Hibbing and Virginia. At night, not as much, but should still easily cover Aitkin, McGregor, Crosby, Hill City, and maybe Brainerd/Nisswa.
  • WXCX-FM 105.7 ("SAM 105.7) in Siren/Pine City. Under ideal conditions, can be heard as far north as Moose Lake, east to Spooner and Cumberland in Wisconsin, and west as far as Mora.
  • WHSM-FM 101.1 in Hayward. Works into the eastern limits of WXCX's signal pretty easily, and extends our coverage out to the east to get us into Winter. The town, that is. Can also be heard north to Solon Springs, so if you're driving north and lose WHSM, you can pick up the game on 104.3 FM out of Duluth.
In addition to the radio options, you can stream all games online at Click "Listen Live" in the upper right of the home page. If you have a mobile device, you can download the Red Rock Radio app and listen online. The app works on MOST devices. Just download it and then tap the button to listen to 94X. The station streams 24/7, so you don't have to wait for around pregame start time to pick it up.

Hit me up on Twitter @bruceciskie with any questions you might have.

Friday, October 03, 2014

For UMD, Next Step Could Be The Hardest

In 2012-13, the UMD men's hockey team was outscored 109-99, despite outshooting opponents by an average of 5.6 shots per game. The Bulldogs were a pretty solid possession team that struggled to put the puck in the net, but one that also struggled with the back end.

Last October, in the run-up to the 2013-14 season, I mentioned the Bulldogs needed to score more, yeah, but the elephant in the room was a team save percentage of .896. Making that number even more ghastly: UMD's 2012-13 opponents posted a save percentage of .922.

Despite losing seven percentage points off the power play (23 percent in '12-'13, 16 percent last year), UMD actually scored more, going from 2.61 goals per game to 2.89. The Bulldogs did that despite what was unarguably a tougher schedule last year versus the year before.

The goals came, and the team had more balance across forward lines and more speed all over the ice. But the team save percentage? .896 again. Opponents were at .911.

Doesn't sound like a huge gap, and maybe it isn't, but UMD both scored and allowed 104 goals last year. If opponents had matched UMD's .896 team save percentage, that would have meant 18 more goals, or exactly one-half goal more per game on average. UMD lost five games by exactly one goal (not accounting for two-goal games with empty-netters at the end). Flip a few of those five games, and suddenly UMD is in the NCAA Tournament.

(The contrast of that is taking away enough opposition goals to get UMD's team save percentage up to .911. That's 15 fewer goals allowed, and probably has a similar impact on the bottom line of 16-16-4.)

A few things to watch for in 2014-15:

Improved goaltending. Doesn't matter who is in net. The play of the goalie must improve, and I believe it will. This team makes the NCAA Tournament this year if it can get a team save percentage of even .905 or .910, which is right in line with where UMD's number was when it won the national title (.906) and the following year, where UMD got to the Northeast Regional final (.907).

UMD has freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo competing with junior Matt McNeely. I don't pretend I know for a fact what will happen in a week when we play the Gophers in South Bend, but I believe one of these two will hook the job on a semi-permanent basis by December.

At least, I hope so. UMD has never won consistently with a goaltending carousel, and I'm not a fan of trying now.

New volunteer assistant Brant Nicklin will work on every facet of this team's goaltending, including puck play and rebound control, two areas UMD seemed to struggle last season.

Stronger defensive zone play. Too many times last year, UMD players went up the rink before possession was secured, failing to support the puck in the defensive zone and cleanly execute a breakout. First passes weren't strong enough, leading to turnovers, or the puck would get coughed up on the Bulldogs' side of the red line, leading to odd-man opportunities.

The defensemen return this season, outside of the graduated Tim Smith. St. Scholastica transfer Brenden Kotyk is eligible after sitting out last season, and don't be surprised if he makes an impact. UMD is going to be bigger, stronger, and hopefully more confident in the back this year, thanks to Kotyk's insertion into the lineup and some added strength for sophomore Carson Soucy, who will play big minutes again this winter alongside junior assistant captain Andy Welinski of Duluth.

Better special teams. I'll throw both the power play and penalty kill in here. I mentioned the power play decline already, but the kill also lost a step, falling from 82.3 percent to 81.7, and seeing its goals allowed go from 29 to 33. It wasn't as huge a fall-off as the power play, but UMD has to improve its discipline and its special teams play to take the next step and become a legitimate NCAA Tournament team.

UMD is an aggressive, in-your-face team, but the Bulldogs took some silly penalties and cost themselves power play time here and there with undisciplined play. Remaining an aggressive team that hounds the puck but cuts down on the penalties is paramount, and it isn't the easiest thing to do.

Not everything is necessarily going to be improved right away. But when we look back at the 36, 40, or however many games UMD ends up playing, we're either going to see these areas improved over 2013-14, or we're going to see a UMD team just miss on the NCAA Tournament, or barely get in and exit early.

Expectations are higher this year, and I believe UMD can fulfill them. No matter what, I'm pumped for the season and ready for another winter on the NCHC World Tour.