Saturday, January 31, 2015

Game 26: UMD at Denver

DENVER -- We're ready to go from Magness Arena, where UMD tries to make like bananas. The Bulldogs split this weekend set and the season series with a victory.

UMD was close in many ways on Friday. I liked the intensity, the forecheck, the work ethic, and the willingness of players to go to the net. Need to finish better, and need to start periods better than the Bulldogs did in the first and second on Friday.

UMD broke a season-long streak of four straight games failing to hit 30 shots on goal with exactly 30 on Friday. That run of four low-shot performances has dropped UMD's per-game average from a peak of 34.6 down to 33.16 entering this game. UMD has averaged 27.4 shots per game over its last five.



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

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely

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

LaLeggia - Zajac
Plant - Didier
VanVoorhis - Butcher

Jaillet - Cowley

Two DU lineup notes: We're told Evan Ritt will take the warmup and could play in place of Ty Loney, who is scheduled -- at this point -- to return after missing time with an undisclosed injury.

Also, this tweet indicates it will be Evan Cowley starting in goal instead of Tanner Jaillet.

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Controversial Calls, Slow Second Period Start Sink UMD in Denver

DENVER -- I'd like to think I've been nice to our officials this season. At least the NCHC ones. This blog -- after the absolutely controversial 3-2 loss to Miami on Halloween night -- is the closest I've come to even being something less than diplomatic.

I'll try to keep that from changing on this night/morning.

UMD fell 3-2 here to the Denver Pioneers on Friday. It was an entertaining game, as expected, and UMD was sunk by a poor start over the first five minutes of the second period. Goals by Quentin Shore and Joey LaLeggia forced UMD coach Scott Sandelin to burn his timeout. The Bulldogs played better after that, but Karson Kuhlman's second-period goal was as close as UMD would get.

(The start to the game wasn't much better. Dominic Toninato took a goalie interference penalty at the 22-second mark, and Daniel Doremus scored from a bad angle seven seconds later.)

The Bulldogs were predictably unhappy after the game, though, and it wasn't because of that poor start to the middle frame.

Instead, UMD was left fuming over a somewhat controversial major penalty that was called against captain Adam Krause for interference with eight minutes left in the third period.

Krause hit Denver's Matt Tabrum while it appeared he (Krause, that is) was heading off for a change. I'll let you read Krause's version of the events, as told to the Duluth News Tribune.
"He stepped in front of me to try and draw a penalty. He went down like I hit him with a hammer in the head and that’s just the way it is.

“You can’t hide from guys who dive like that. I put a shoulder into him, he saw me coming, he tried to block me from getting to the bench and he went down.”
I can't say it any better.

Officials make mistakes. No matter how good they are, they are human. It happens.

And this one takes the cake so far this season. Here's a tweeted photo of the contact. There's barely any. If you watch the whole sequence over again, it crystallizes Krause's version. Tabrum looks to get in Krause's way on purpose. These guys aren't stupid. He knows Krause is going for a change. Everyone in the building knows Krause is going for a change. Tabrum gets in the way anyway, with the likely intent of drawing a penalty. When he goes down, he acts like he was hit in the head, comes off the ice slowly, and the officials overreact to that apparent injury and call a major penalty.

(Krause had a goal disallowed in the first period because, I think, the officials couldn't visually confirm the puck crossed the goal line. I have not yet seen a high-quality replay of this, but when I called it live, I reacted to what I saw, which was the puck crossing the goal line. I was sitting maybe six feet from the Root Sports main camera, so if I saw that, I find it hard to believe the TV replay didn't show the puck across the goal line. Then again, I'm in Colorado, so maybe I ate some brownies or something.)

(I can't tell you with certainty why that goal didn't count, because I couldn't hear the public address announcer tell the fans what the ruling was. That's a whole different rant. At some point, someone has to devise a system that makes it easier and more efficient to communicate referee decisions off replay reviews. "Have the PA guy relay it" is just not good enough, especially when a broadcaster is on the air and working alone. Sometimes, it's impossible to hear the announcement.)

UMD killed the major, thanks to a goal that was disallowed by a video review that showed goalie interference by Denver. The Bulldogs got Kasimir Kaskisuo off with 90 seconds left but couldn't equalize.

For UMD, plenty of guys played well. Cal Decowski's line with Justin Crandall and Kyle Osterberg produced a goal and had a very good night. I thought Willie Corrin (six shots, assist, plus-two) had a strong game. Tony Cameranesi's line was good again. Austin Farley helped Corrin set up Kuhlman for that second-period tally.

Just wasn't enough on Friday.

The slow start to the second killed the Bulldogs. It was inexplicable, too, because UMD had a very strong last ten minutes of the first. I don't know why, but that just didn't carry over. Maybe the guys assumed it would without them doing anything to make it? I don't know. It's frustrating, though, because these sloppy stretches have cost UMD too many games already. The Bulldogs simply have to find a way to stop starting slowly, whether it's the first period, the second, or the third. It can't happen anymore.


I do try not to make this a "rag on the refs" bit. We've discussed the difficulties of officiating at this level before. The athletes aren't getting smaller or slower, and as the speed picks up, so do the intensity and the emotion. It's a tough mix for officials, because it takes such a strong combination of smarts, vision, positioning, and hockey instinct to do the job at a high level.

They weren't good enough on Friday. I get that UMD has a reputation for some hits this season that have been over the line. But Krause hadn't been guilty of any of them, and is not regarded as a dirty player.

(At least, he better not be.)

This is why reputations are dangerous. They're human nature, but they're dangerous, because they can lead people to see things that aren't there. What Krause did Friday was probably not a penalty at all, because it was so obvious Tabrum was going out of his way to create the contact. To call it a major is just unacceptable.

It didn't cost UMD this game by any means, but that doesn't make it less frustrating.


Omaha had a five-on-three in overtime and got a goal from Austin Ortega on said man advantage to beat North Dakota 3-2. That came after Drake Caggiula tied the score 2-2 with less than a minute to play on a UND power play. Omaha holds on to first place, now by four points over UND and seven over UMD.

St. Cloud State walloped Colorado College 7-1. The Huskies led 7-0 before the second period was over. Kalle Kossila had four points, and a bunch of other guys had three, led by Jonny Brodzinski, who scored twice. The Huskies move back ahead of Western Michigan for sixth place, but the Broncos now have a game in hand.

(Western, by the way, hosts Miami Saturday, then meets the RedHawks next weekend at Soldier Field in the Hockey City Classic.)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Game 25: UMD at Denver

DENVER -- UMD's first trek to the Mile High City in more than three years features the Bulldogs trying to work themselves out of an offensive rut.

Through 16 games of this season, UMD was averaging 3.4 goals per game. Over eight games since, the average has plummeted by more than a goal per game to 2.25.

The power play -- 20 percent in the first 16 games and just three for 30 since -- is a culprit. But five-on-five scoring has to improve, too. It will only get more difficult to put the biscuit in the basket as we get closer to "win or go home" time. If the power play is going to keep struggling, the Bulldogs are going to go through hell trying to rack up enough goals to win games consistently.



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

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely

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

LaLeggia - Zajac
Butcher - Didier
VanVoorhis - Plant

Jaillet - Cowley

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bulldogs Return to NCHC Play With Tough Assignment in Denver

DENVER -- Outside of next weekend's non-conference games against Northern Michigan, it's nothing but rematches the rest of the way for UMD.

The North Dakota series Jan. 9-10 was the last one for UMD that came against an NCHC team it had not previously played. Prior to that, UMD hosted Colorado College in December for its only meetings of the season against the Tigers.

This weekend, it's a rare trip to Denver.

Yes, I said "rare," which was not something that could be said about UMD trips to Denver just a few years ago. After going there regularly for a period of time starting in the spring of 2005, when the Bulldogs won a best-of-three WCHA playoff series at Magness Arena, UMD has not visited Denver since being led to a three-point weekend Nov. 4-5, 2011, by the likes of Jack Connolly, J.T. Brown, Travis Oleksuk, Brady Lamb, and Kenny Reiter (who stopped Jason Zucker on a penalty shot in a Saturday shutout win).

The 2012-13 WCHA schedule didn't feature a trip there, and neither did the inaugural season of the NCHC. So it's suddenly foreign territory for UMD, to the point where members of the Bulldogs' smallish senior class -- namely captain Adam Krause and assistant captain Justin Crandall -- didn't have much recollection of what Magness Arena was like.

(Crandall played in both games, while Krause was in the lineup that Saturday for a 4-0 victory. The Friday game ended 3-3 after UMD rallied from two goals down for the draw.)

There's no time for trips down memory lane this weekend. UMD coach Scott Sandelin liked a good chunk of what he saw in the first two periods of a 2-1 win over Minnesota at the North Star College Cup Saturday in St. Paul. It was a nice rebound for a Bulldog team that put in probably its worst performance this season to date in a 4-0 loss to eventual tournament champion Bemidji State on Friday.

But Sandelin was quick to note that, despite those good things through 40 minutes, "we were on our heels" in the third period, as the Gophers outshot UMD 11-2. Krause's goal at 17:49, the game-winner, was UMD's first shot on goal in the third period.

And, no, the game plan wasn't "lull Adam Wilcox to sleep by not doing anything of real significance offensively for almost 18 minutes."

Sandelin took a page out of the early-season playbook, actually, saying this week that he's more concerned about having his team ready to play than flooding their minds with information about the Pioneers, a team UMD faced Oct. 24-25 in Duluth and split against.

"Right now, I'm more focused on the things we need to do. You can put so much in their heads about what other teams have and what they do that you forget about what you need to do. That's been our focus."

Denver coach Jim Montgomery -- in his second year at the helm -- thinks there's something to be said in going back to the earlier meetings to see what UMD tried to do to his team.

"You compare their last couple games to those games and see how much they've changed," he said this week. "There's a lot of relevancy when you play a team and what they try to do you, besides what they tried to do against (other teams)."

It makes some sense. UMD wasn't off the rails in a one-point weekend against Western Michigan. I've said this before, but I felt there was intensity and drive in that weekend set, even though the results weren't there. The Broncos played extremely well and earned the five points, and to say UMD no-showed those games would be a disservice to Western Michigan's performance.

But at the risk of doing that to Bemidji State, Friday was as close to a no-show as we've seen from the Bulldogs this season. And Saturday was a much-needed response. That said, UMD didn't "finish" that game. Matt McNeely was on in the third period, the Bulldogs did hold their defensive structure more effectively than in past games, but as Sandelin said, they were on their heels and didn't create much pressure. Certainly not as much as they had in the first two periods.

(By the way, we don't know who's starting in goal Friday. Don't ask. I would guess UMD goes back to Kasimir Kaskisuo, but I've been wrong on the goalies so often over the years that these words should be taken with a grain of salt. I just think I'd like to see how Kaskisuo looks after being able to watch a whole game from the bench. He's played well for the most part this season. Even in these recent struggles, Kaskisuo hasn't allowed many -- if any -- "bad goals," the kind that just deflate a team. He just hasn't made the big saves he had been making earlier.)


The Pioneers present a different challenge than Minnesota. The Gophers have some big forwards with elite ability, but they're shakier on the back line. Denver's back line -- featuring Hobey Baker candidate Joey LaLeggia, Nolan Zajac, U.S. World Junior star Will Butcher, and the big, underrated Josiah Didier -- is as good as you'll see anywhere in college hockey.

Of LaLeggia, Montgomery says he's special "at both ends of the ice.

"He can change the momentum of a game in one shift. He can dominate a game throughout."

LaLeggia has 42 career goals, which is pretty good for a blue-liner. What's interesting is that he doesn't have a Shea Weber shot. He doesn't beat goalies with big velocity from the blue line. There aren't a lot of players in Division I who have LaLeggia's ability to get shots through traffic, and he's very good at finding soft spots in defensive coverage and exploting them by pinching from the point and making himself available in better scoring areas.

And when he's not putting pressure on the opposition to account for him all over the ice, it's probably Zajac doing that. Butcher has offensive ability as well, but he has a bigger shot -- at least in my opinion -- than the other two. Butcher played in the World Juniors after Christmas, and Montgomery said they're still monitoring his fatigue.

"With the emotion and the mental exertion you go through, we have seen Will be a little tired," the coach said, noting they're still monitoring his minutes.

"It's more the mental (side). When you play in big games, the mental toll it takes on you really catches up to you, usually about three weeks after it's done."

While UMD will surely want to hit Denver's defensemen whenever possible (and it's not as often as you might think), Denver will probably want to do the same with UMD junior Andy Welinski. He says he'll be ready.

"Being a bigger body, it's easier to prepare yourself," he told me this week. "It's something you get used to. It's no fun having to turn back and get the puck every time. It's a teaching point for our forwards to get the puck in and bang bodies in their end. Personally, I think it's just being aware and moving the puck quick."

Welinski noted it helps that he's put on some muscle since his freshman year, but it's still impressive how good he's gotten at avoiding big hits. Part of that is improved skating, and part of that is knowledge of the system and just understanding where the puck has to go. If he's quick getting rid of the puck, the other team can't knock him into the middle of next week.


One other matchup to watch this weekend would be special teams. UMD's power play is, in a word, struggling.

Since going a respectable 3-for-11 in a home-and-home sweep of Minnesota Nov. 14-15, the Bulldogs have scored a meager four power play goals in 44 chances. That's nine percent, and it ain't good.

Despite that, UMD is 6-5-1 over its last 12 games. Doesn't sound impressive, but considering UMD has four special teams goals in 12 games, it's actually a decent record.

(The UMD kill is 29-for-37 over the last 12 games, which is a shade under 80 percent and not a great number. But the killers were trending upward until allowing opponents five goals on 18 chances the last two weekends. Small sample size there, but the penalty kill absolutely has to improve, too.)

UMD's power play faces a tough matchup this weekend. The Denver kill is 17 for 19 this month and is clicking at nearly 87 percent on the season, allowing just 11 goals in 84 chances. For reference, UMD scored four times in 13 chances during the October series in Duluth, and the Bulldogs would be doing very well for themselves if they could repeat that performance this weekend.

(It's unlikely, not just because DU's kill is elite, but because UMD hasn't had 13 power play chances in a weekend since then, and hasn't had more than eight in any weekend since the start of November.)

The Pioneers are typically very aggressive on the kill, something that tends to give the Bulldogs fits. Sandelin has talked about "controlled urgency" in the past when he brings up how to beat very aggressive penalty kills, and this weekend will be no different. The key is making sure everyone knows what their options are on a play when they have the puck. Denver will force everyone on the rink to make quick decisions and quick moves. It risks leaving guys open, but the Pioneers will take a chance that their aggression will work, and if it doesn't, they'll put trust in goalies Tanner Jaillet and Evan Cowley, both of whom have save percentages over .920.


Sandelin has talked in the past about the need for UMD's best players to be its best players when the team is struggling. The top line took those words to heart Saturday against Minnesota, as Dominic Toninato and Alex Iafallo set up both of Adam Krause's goals in that 2-1 win.

The Bulldogs have shown balance across all lines this season, and that balance will be needed against Denver.

Yes, the Toninato line has to keep going. But they can't be the only guys doing so. There will be pressure on Tony Cameranesi's and Cal Decowski's lines to produce. They both had their moments Saturday, generating sustained offensive zone time while the six players on these two lines combined for 10 of the team's 26 shots on goal (Karson Kuhlman led with three and played well after, in my view, struggling quite a bit on Friday against Bemidji).

The more balance UMD shows, the harder it will be for Montgomery to match his top defensemen up with one forward line.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Game 24: UMD vs Minnesota (North Star College Cup)

ST. PAUL -- That's the last time I heed warnings about ridiculous traffic.

"Get there before 2. It's going to be suffocating!"

Um, no.

Anyway, we're ready to go for the consolation game of the North Star College Cup. Just like everyone predicted earlier in the season, it's UMD vs. Minnesota.

UMD is 0-3-1 in its last four games. We'll call it a mini-slump, because Minnesota is 4-7-2 in its last 13 games, starting with that home-and-home sweep UMD put on them in November. The Gophers haven't played very well since October, and we'll ask Don Lucia why in a conversation you'll hear during the broadcast.

That Minnesota funk has dropped the Gophers to 20th in the Pairwise, making UMD's position of sixth much less precarious.

Stylistically, this is certainly a better matchup for UMD. There should be a good pace to this game, and I can't imagine the 14 Minnesotans -- plus honorary Minnesotan Austin Farley, a guy Gopher fans still don't like after last year's championship game -- in the Bullog lineup wouldn't love another piece of the Gophers.



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

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

McNeely - Kaskisuo - Fons

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

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

Wilcox - Lehr - Coyne

(Note: Minnesota's line chart always says the listed order of the goalies does not indicate the starter. Usually, I don't believe that, but we'll see what we're told when we get pregame availability.)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Bulldogs Turn in Clunker at North Star College Cup; Questions From Twitter

ST. PAUL -- You guys probably know me well enough by now.

I'm not much of a sugarcoater.

(Yes, I know that's not a word. The squiggly red line under it is plenty of evidence of that.)

So I'm not going to sugarcoat what we saw Friday afternoon/evening at XCel Energy Center. It wasn't very good. In fact, it was about as putrid a performance as we've seen all season. Probably not even close, to be frank.

Bemidji State took it to UMD for the better part of 60 minutes in a 4-0 win here that sends the Beavers to Saturday's championship game. UMD will play Minnesota, a 4-2 loser to Minnesota State, for third place at 4pm Saturday. It's the fourth meeting this season between the longtime rivals, and they've come at four different venues (Notre Dame's Compton Family Ice Arena, Mariucci Arena, Amsoil Arena, and now XCel Energy Center).

Things didn't start great for UMD, and they got much worse. Bemidji had four shots on goal before UMD even got close to one, but the Bulldogs generated some pressure after the first media timeout, which came just past the five-minute mark of the period.

UMD took a couple of penalties in a row, and Bemidji burned the Bulldogs on the second one, as Matt Prapavessis pinched from the center point to the high slot and put a screened shot by UMD goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo for a 1-0 lead. I would question the screen, as it appeared obvious there was a BSU player screening Kaskisuo while his skates were in the blue paint. By NCAA rule, that should be a no goal.

(The relevant part of the Rule 73.1 goes like this: "The overriding rationale of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within the goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player. If an attacking player enters the goal crease and, by these actions, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to defend the goal either visually or physically, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed."

There is no question that if you watch this animation of the goal, Markus Gerbrandt's skate or skates are in the crease when the puck comes through. It's also clear Gerbrandt is doing his job, providing a screen and making it hard for Kaskisuo to see the shot. Letter of the law, this is supposed to be a "no goal" call, and I've seen it reviewed to that "letter of the law" standard on multiple occasions in my years on this job.)

Luckily, any controversy was averted by the rest of the game (note some sarcasm there). It wasn't good for the Bulldogs.

The Beavers made it 2-0 halfway through the second when the Fitzgerald triplets struck. Well, two of them, as Gerry fed Leo for a shot from the slot. It was an example of UMD's not-very-good puck management and defensive coverage in this game. BSU took control of the puck in the defensive zone and UMD just didn't get back well enough.

Bemidji State tacked on two more goals in the third off UMD turnovers to get to the 4-0 final score. It hastened the inevitable, because even at 2-0 after two, I remarked to someone in the press box that it felt like 8-0. UMD just didn't have anything going.

UMD had scoring chances, but the Bulldogs missed the net on 15 of 55 shot attempts in the game, and didn't do enough to make freshman goalie Michael Bitzer's life difficult. In 23 games, I'm not sure I've seen the kind of poor execution and battle level in the offensive zone that plagued UMD Friday. And it was a near-constant from start to finish. Races and puck battles were lost all over the rink, and those types of things will kill a team when it's on the power play.

It did that on this day, for sure.

UMD's power play struggled through a five-minute chance in the first period when Gerbrandt leveled Kyle Osterberg and was whistled for a charging major. Five shots on goal in five minutes isn't terrible, but UMD lacked the prime scoring area shots ... then and throughout the game.

Credit to Bemidji State. They were ready to play. The Beavers have more speed -- not just with the Fitzgerald kids, who are going to be a hoot to watch get better, because man you can see there's talent there -- than they've had in the past, but they still bring the proverbial lunch buckets to the game. Even with improved talent, it's the work ethic that will win them hockey games, just like Friday.

This isn't necessarily on Kaskisuo. Coach Scott Sandelin told me before the game that Kaskisuo's .865 save percentage over his previous five starts was a combo platter. Kaskisuo's play -- in a sense -- reflected that of the guys in front of him. Uneven, yes, but probably not solely responsible for the poor stat line in those starts.

Well, now it's .862 over six starts. And Friday was more of the same. I'd expect Sandelin to start Matt McNeely on Saturday against Minnesota, but I honestly thought McNeely might get the call Friday. So now you know what I know.

For UMD, getting beat is fine. It happens. The Western Michigan series was a dogfight from start to finish, and UMD didn't back down. Even when the Bulldogs weren't playing their best, they were battling. They won races, fought through checks, and found ways to make plays to the net.

None of those things really happened Friday. It was Bemidji State winning puck battles, winning races, and getting to the UMD net. More than anything, that's almost assuredly what concerned the coaching staff as it watched the events unfold.


What's the answer?

Honestly, it isn't that easy. Without Matt Wellens of the Duluth News Tribune tweeting that there was a players-only meeting after the game, I could have predicted that outcome.

I'm not a big "blame the coaches" guy. At least, I'm not anymore. And especially in hockey. Coaches can't do anything for the players, outside of try their damndest to prepare them for what lies ahead. They can't execute the plan for the players, as badly as they might want to sometimes. This isn't football, where coaches are constantly making decisions from the sideline that can change the course of a game.

When you have a game like this one -- an absolute throw-the-tape-in-the-garbage clunker -- it's probably time for the players to take a look at what they're doing.

It's hard to believe that only two Fridays ago, UMD was largely carrying the play against then-No. 1 North Dakota. But as hard as it is to fathom UMD falling this far in just two weeks, it's only been two weeks. And there is a lot of hockey left to be played.

UMD has 13 games left, starting Saturday against the Gophers. It only took four to get to this point, and there's no reason the Bulldogs can't get back where they were just as quickly.

But it starts in that room, hence the players-only meeting. They have to figure out where they went wrong and get back to what was going so well.


Because of the early start, I had decided on the drive down Friday that I would take questions after the game from fans via Twitter. Never did I think the game would go the way it did, but I figured I'd do it anyway.

The only stipulation was I would not accept questions or comments that went after individual players. This isn't the NHL. No one played well Friday, and no individual deserves to be called out in a public forum.

So here are a few questions from actual Twitter followers @bruceciskie. Thanks to all who submitted on the fly Friday for asking good questions and not letting frustration get to them.

@biddco: "why do we have this slump around this time of year? Teams figure us and we don’t adjust?"

It's a common thought that we have this kind of slump every year. Here's what the numbers say. They're 0-3-1 in the last four, and we hope it doesn't get worse than that. But it's a slump, for sure.

UMD had a four-game slide in February of last year, but the losses came to very good St. Cloud State and North Dakota teams. UMD responded by winning three straight. There was no big slump outside of that, really.

The 2012-13 team was up and down all year, so I'm not sure a winless streak that hit nine games (eight in February) really was all that meaningful towards this argument.

2011-12's team, a very good one, went 1-3-1 over a five-game stretch that included a 5-0 loss to Michigan Tech and a loss to Alaska-Anchorage.  UMD responded by going unbeaten in its next five games on its way to the NCAA Tournament.

The 2010-11 team had a pretty famous 8-2 loss to St. Cloud State as the big negative in a six-game run where it went 1-3-2. That season ended well.

So there have been three pronounced slumps in the last five years. I'm not sure that makes or breaks that question, but I think it's just part of the normal ebb and flow of a season. It's not fun, for sure, but I don't see it as being anything more than that, unless it keeps going.

Tony Schmaltz asks "Was this by far, the sloppiest game of the season?"

I don't think there's a question. The only game where UMD was close to being this poor offensively was the Friday game at home against Denver in October. And no disrespect to Bemidji State, but Denver's blue line is elite. The Pioneers make a lot of teams look virtually inept offensively.

UMD wasn't hard on pucks, didn't make good decisions (the multiple turnovers during a five-on-three should provide plenty of evidence of this), and just didn't have enough battle level to win this game. Those things haven't all been the case in any other game to this point, in my opinion.

Craig Berry asks "Were they looking past Bemidji to UofM or Mankato?"

Geez, I'd hope not. You'd have to ask the players to be sure. I'd imagine that wasn't the case.

Oh, and it's "Minnesota State," Craig.

Corey Lange: "what's it gonna take to bring back the teams intensity and drive?"
Jon Fischer: "how can the bulldogs get back to how they were playing before the break."

Would hope it doesn't take much. It was just there a week ago.

See, I could argue a lot of things about UMD's games against Western Michigan. But I can't argue that the Bulldogs lacked intensity or drive last weekend. They didn't execute well enough, but it wasn't for a lack of effort.

I didn't like the effort level on Friday, but that's quite the rarity with this group, even going back to previous seasons.

As for Jon's question, which was somewhat similar to Corey's, I'd argue the Bulldogs are very similar to the Wild. They aren't built on a star player with a bunch of followers. For UMD to win, it takes a 20-man effort. Everyone has to "pull on the same chain." Sandelin coined "sticktoitness" when we were chatting on Friday. When UMD is going good, it sticks to the game plan and plays the way Sandelin wants the team to play.

When it goes off the rails, like Friday, those things don't happen.

It isn't as simple as flipping a switch, but UMD can get it back as quickly as it seems to have lost it.

Paul Clusiau: "Here's a question. Why are we turning over the puck so much lately?"

It's a combination.

There have been times this season where forwards have been caught up the rink before the puck is out of the defensive zone. It's almost as if they're hoping the puck gets out, and they're thinking a few seconds ahead of where the play is at. If everyone executes and does their job, this isn't a huge deal.

But teams are putting more and more pressure on the defense, which means forwards need to help out and give the blue-liners options to get the puck out of trouble. Flying up the rink isn't providing that option.

The lack of options will make the blue-liners look sloppy. To get the train back on the tracks, UMD must first get back to the 200-foot game it was playing so effectively before Christmas.

Finally, Al Onken asks, "Game #2 at Grand Forks took a lot more out of this team than anyone thought at the time, I think. Agree/Disagree?"

I don't know that I do.

What I do think is that UND exposed UMD's defensive zone issues that I just discussed. Now it's time for the Bulldogs to adjust.

It doesn't matter if you win a game 1-0 or 8-5, but the 1-0 game will be much easier to watch if the guys are taking care of their goalie and their own end of the rink first.

There have been times this season where UMD's defensive breakdowns have been caused not by a lack of defensive acumen, but instead by players thinking too much about the offensive side of things. There have been quite a few odd-man rushes lately, and many of them have been caused by players being caught too far up the rink because they're trying to make things happen offensively.

More than anything on Saturday, I want to see UMD take care of its own zone, whether it's McNeely or Kaskisuo in net. If that happens, I'll be happy regardless of the end result, because I know that other things will take care of themselves.

They have to be good defensively first.


As mentioned, No. 1 Minnesota State beat Minnesota 4-2 in the other NSCC semifinal. Bryce Gervais scored twice for the Mavericks. Hopefully the Gophers have forgotten about that home-and-home sweep in November. Ah, who are we kidding? The third-place game should be very salty Saturday afternoon.

In the NCHC, North Dakota got a short-handed goal from Michael Parks in the third period to beat Colorado College 2-1. Zane McIntyre made 30 saves as CC actually led in shots 31-27. Just when CC was looking like an easy out for the NCHC regular-season champion, the Tigers are playing much better hockey. That could mean no easy outs for any home team in the league tournament.

Denver went into Oxford and beat Miami 3-1. With the score tied at one in the second, DU killed off a five-minute major on Ty Loney, who was ejected for a check from behind. Then Trevor Moore scored twice in the third, including an empty-netter with ten seconds left. Tanner Jaillet got the win in goal with 27 saves.

St. Cloud State blasted Western Michigan 7-0, sending the red-hot Broncos to just a second loss in 11 games. Western had been 7-1-2 over ten games, an impressive run that came against some strong competition. But WMU had nothing for the Huskies Friday night. David Morley scored twice, while Joey Benik had four assists for SCSU while Charlie Lindgren pitched a 23-save shutout.

Game 23: UMD vs Bemidji State (North Star College Cup)

ST. PAUL -- The second annual North Star College Cup features a first-time participant.

Bemidji State wasn't here last year, just like UMD won't be here next year.

Coach Tom Serratore says he's excited, and he hopes his team's fans are, too. No matter how excited Beaver Nation is, don't expect a huge crowd for this first game. It's a 4pm local time start on a Friday, tickets are single-session both days, and traffic around here is supposedly going to be the epitome of awfulness all weekend.

We'll see how that affects turnout.

Anyway, check out my game preview. Also, UMD had one male and one female nominated for the awesome Hockey Humanitarian Award. And Red Rock Radio signed on for two more years of UMD football and men's hockey coverage.



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

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Fons

Gerbrandt - Arentz - Parker
Fitzgerald (Leo) - Fitzgerald (Gerry) - Fitzgerald (Myles)
O'Connor - Ward - Harms
Marinaccio - Bauman - Brewer

Rendle - Windle
Beauvais - Prapavessis
Pedan - McCormack

Bitzer - Walsh - Mimmack

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bulldogs Venture Out of NCHC to Battle 'Baby Geniuses,' Bemidji State, at North Star College Cup

For UMD, it's time to put last weekend's disappointment in the rear-view mirror.

One point against Western Michigan? Sucks, but it's time to move on.

A new challenge awaits, as the Bulldogs head to XCel Energy Center for a Friday date with Bemidji State in the North Star College Cup.

Head coach Scott Sandelin has been quick this week to point out that this isn't the Bemidji State that Bulldog fans are used to seeing. Virtually gone are the days where it seemed a good hockey play for the Beavers was "chip the puck off the glass and hope someone beats an opponent to it."

That said, you're dead wrong if you don't think Tom Serratore's team will work hard in every game it plays. It's just that the Beavers aren't as big as Western Michigan, last week's difficult opponent. That doesn't mean anything will come easier for UMD. It means this game will be different, no matter how many similarities exist in the teams' styles.

"They don't have the size that Western does," Sandelin said this week. "They're a different team this year. They've got a little more skill, trying to play a different game themselves. But they've always been good defensively. They always work hard. They compete extremely hard."

"They're probably one of the hardest working teams in the nation," senior forward Justin Crandall said. "It's a team you want to get off to a good start against."
"Overall, I like our team," Serratore said. "I think we have a lot of good pieces in place."

Bemidji has plenty of youth. Of course, the way Serratore and his staff recruits, "younger players" are still 20. The Beavers had a seven-game losing streak in October and November, a frustrating run but one where Serratore was still not completely displeased.

"They kept their nose to the grindstone," he said, "and their work ethic never wavered. We were outshooting teams. I think over the course of the streak, five of the seven games we had more scoring chances. That's the picture you want to paint for your guys.

"We got out of it pretty good and had a little success."

However, Serratore says his team "took a step back" last weekend against Lake Superior State. In 1-0 and 4-2 losses, he said "our urgency was never there."

He said shot numbers on Friday (44 for his team) were inflated. Oh, and he wasn't happy with the net-front traffic.

"It's what I told our guys before the second game. 'I don't want you around the cage,'" Serratore said. "'I want you in front of the cage.' There's a difference. I thought we were just around the cage. This day and age, you have to manufacture offense any way you can."

Bemidji State has always been good at this, and I would expect it to be better on Friday. They'll get their noses dirty and make UMD outwork them to stop them from getting second or third chances on the Bulldog net.

They'll also reunite their triplet line.

Yes, BSU has a triplet line.

Not just any ol' triplets.

Myles, Leo, and Gerry Fitzgerald are freshmen for Bemidji State. They're not the biggest guys, but they lit up the BCHL last year and they have played well for Serratore so far. They got a little bit of buzz when they committed because of their background. The three appeared in the 1999 blockbuster hit movie "Baby Geniuses" with such luminaries as Dom Delouise and Kathleen Turner.

Gerry has played in every game, while Myles has missed two and Leo seven. They've combined for eight goals (Myles has four), 16 assists (Gerry has eight), and 24 points (Gerry leads the trio with 11). Myles missed last weekend, but all three should be in the lineup Friday. It's a play-by-play guy's dream nightmare.

"They're fun players," Serratore said. "They're clever out there. They skate. They compete. We're fortunate to have them. I think their body of work over the course of four years is going to be pretty exciting."

(At least Serratore said the plan is to keep them on the same line, as they were before Myles was injured. Or was it Gerry who was injured? Or Leo? Great, I'm already mixing them up and it's not even gametime yet.)

It's a similar game plan that we expect UMD to employ. Sandelin has made it clear this week that he wasn't happy with the missed scoring opportunities his team had against Western Michigan. The Broncos don't give the opponent much, and when the door was open last week, UMD didn't take full advantage nearly as often as necessary.

"We left some chances out there," Sandelin said.

The fact UMD led for exactly 0:00 out of the 125:00 played last weekend is a clear part of why the Bulldogs only got one point. I've seen UMD sweep series that they never led in (overtime goals to win games that were either tied or saw the opponent ahead the entire time prior), but that wasn't the ideal opponent for testing that kind of strategy.

This isn't, either. UMD has to get out to a lead, no matter what the pace of play is. That can't be an excuse. The Bulldogs have to bear down in the offensive zone, get pucks and bodies to the net, and bang away for second chance opportunities. Michael Bitzer and Andrew Walsh have been solid in goal for Bemidji, but neither has dazzled. Throw in seven empty-net goals allowed late in games, and BSU's team save percentage is a pedestrian .894. UMD needs to drive the net and pounce on pucks. Play with pace and wear down Bemidji State.

At the other end of the rink, UMD has to manage the puck better. There have been too many own-zone turnovers in the last few games, and there's no question those turnovers and defensive play that isn't as good as it was overall are big reasons why freshman goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo has a .865 save percentage in his last five starts. It's absolutely not all on him, and that number won't improve without a better team effort in front of the goalie.

As the season goes on, it will be harder to score, not easier. The teams that best do the little things will be the successful teams.


One interesting nugget in the tournament format this year is this: Last year's UMD-Minnesota shootout for the NSCC championship will not be repeated.

Tournament organizers have decided to go with NCAA Tournament overtime rules for the championship game of this event. That allows for 20-minute overtimes as we keep playing until someone puts the puck in the net.

Sandelin said he didn't know about it until this week. Neither did the rest of us.

"Last year's game, how could you not want to keep playing?," Sandelin said. "The kids want to decide it the right way, I think. It's good."

Asked if he's concerned about continuous overtime in a midseason tournament, Sandelin quipped, "If it goes too long we'll just give them two days off (during the week)."

"That's awesome," Crandall said. "I think I'm one of the advocates for doing that all year. You only play two games on a weekend.

"I think we were all pretty unsatisfied, including the fans, last year, having a great hockey game ending in a shootout. Hopefully it doesn't get there, but if it does, that will be a little bit better for everybody."

UMD's Adam Krause, Zoe Hickel Nominated for Hockey Humanitarian Award

This is a big deal.

15 nominees for the prestigious Hockey Humanitarian Award were announced Thursday.

UMD has two of them.

Men's hockey captain Adam Krause of Hermantown and women's co-captain Zoe Hickel are on the list of nominees for the award, which recognizes "college hockey’s finest citizen – a student-athlete who makes significant contributions not only to his or her team, but also to the community-at-large through leadership in volunteerism."

Krause also earned a nomination this week for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. Unlike that award, this particular honor is not exclusive to seniors. The 15 finalists include 11 seniors, three juniors, and a sophomore.

Both Hickel -- who hails from Anchorage and has developed into one of UMD's top players over her time at the school -- and Krause are active in the community. Frankly, you couldn't draw up two better representatives for the UMD Bulldogs. They're good with kids, good with the media, and obviously recognized by their teammates as great leaders in the room and on the ice.

The Hockey Humanitarian Award will pare down to five finalists in February, with the winner announced April 10 in conjunction with the Frozen Four in Boston.

UMD and Wisconsin (Brittany Ammerman and Joel Rumpel) lead the way with two nominees each.

Red Rock Radio, UMD Extend Radio Partnership Through 2016-17

Happy to announce that UMD football and men's hockey will be staying with Red Rock Radio through the 2016-17 athletic season.

Please see the below for more information.
Red Rock Radio and the University of Minnesota Duluth are proud to announce the extension of their radio rights contract. Red Rock Radio and UMD have signed a two-year extension, keeping rights for UMD football and men’s hockey radio coverage with Red Rock Radio until the end of the 2016-17 athletic season.

“We're very excited that we were able to come to terms with UMD for another two-year sports agreement,” said Shawn Skramstad, President of Red Rock Radio. “We have had a very good working relationship with the college and are delighted to be able to bring all of UMD's football and men's hockey action to the Northland.”

The deal continues a relationship that first began in the fall of 2009. UMD football coverage airs on KQDS-AM “The Fan 1490,” while men’s hockey is found in the Duluth area on KZIO-FM 94.1 (“94X”). Games also air on a recently-expanded network throughout northeast Minnesota, with games on KBAJ-FM 105.5 (Deer River/Grand Rapids), KAOD-FM 106.7 (Babbitt/Ely), KKIN-AM 930 (Aitkin), and WXCX-FM 105.7 (Pine City/Siren).

“It’s great that we’ve come to this agreement,” stated Bruce Ciskie, Sports Director for Red Rock Radio and play-by-play voice of UMD men’s hockey. “I’ve had a great time working with UMD all these years, and I’m excited to continue what I think has been a great relationship for everyone involved, including Bulldog fans all over the Northland.”

In addition to continuing to air UMD men’s hockey and football, Red Rock Radio will continue to air the Bulldog Blitz Thursdays on the KQ Morning Show (KQDS-FM 94.9) and The Fan 1490 between August and April.

"UMD Athletics is very pleased to extend our partnership with the Red Rock family of radio stations to bring the Bulldog Men's Hockey and Football broadcasts to more stations and more of Bulldog Country than ever before.  In addition, we are excited about the expanded the Bulldog Blitz coach and student athlete weekly spotlight to both KQ Morning Show and The Fan 1490. We look forward to continuing to grow this strong partnership." said Josh Berlo, UMD Athletic Director.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Struggle With Broncos, Settle For Single Point

Not the best weekend for our favorite college hockey team. I knew it would be a struggle with a big, tough, and deceptively-skilled Western Michigan group. But a number of factors made it a bigger struggle than even I thought it would be.
  • Western Michigan stuck to its game plan and played very well. While UMD was largely burned by "older guys" throughout the weekend (Nolan LaPorte and Colton Hargrove did a ton of damage), Andy Murray was able to get quality shifts from younger guys like freshman Frederik Tiffels and defenseman Matt Stewart. Goalie Lukas Hafner was rock-solid. It was a 20-man effort for the Broncos, and it was an impressive one. Credit where it's due. That's how we roll around here.
  • (It's also not a stretch to give that credit. Western is 7-1-2 over its last ten games. Murray has them positioned to make a lot of noise in the second half of the season.)
  • UMD missed a number of opportunities, especially with three empty power play chances on Saturday in the second period. Two of those overlapped by a couple seconds, giving UMD 3:58 of contiguous power play time with no goals. The power play is now four for its last 38 going back to before Christmas. 
  • The Bulldogs failed to lead for even one second against WMU. Considering how tough the Broncos are in their own zone and how adept they are at taking room away from opponents, it's just too difficult to get into the pace game UMD wants to play without getting a lead. There's nothing to "suck" Western Michigan into that style when what the Broncos are doing is working as well as it was over the weekend.
  • UMD goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo is struggling a bit. No time for panic on this, but we'll have more on it in a moment.
Back to the beginning. Start this by giving Western Michigan credit. LaPorte shook off an obvious knee injury to score once Friday and add the shootout winner. Hargrove scored twice Saturday, once off a bad and wholly uncharacteristic Andy Welinski turnover that he turned into a goal with a wicked wrist shot, and the other on an unreal bank shot into the empty net.

When I chatted with Murray during the week, he noted that he had a lot of young players, but it was his upperclassmen carrying a lot of the water over the weekend. That's how it should be for everyone. You'll notice that UMD teams that relied too much on freshmen weren't as successful as those that had a good mix of classes with the older guys doing the bulk of the work.

The Bulldogs need to do a better job around the net. Whether it's screening goalies or driving the net to get after loose pucks, UMD isn't quite as effective as it could be. This team is not built on pure goal-scoring talent. UMD wants to play a pace game, wear down opponents, and score goals by driving the net and making life difficult on defensemen and goalies. Not having the goal-scoring leader, sophomore Dominic Toninato, in the lineup Saturday because of an NCHC suspension exasperated the problem, because it put more of a premium on getting to the net and breaking down Western's strong team defense. When that didn't happen, UMD was in a lot of trouble.

The power play looked better at times this weekend after some tweaks were made during the week. I know the coaching staff is frustrated with the lack of production as of late, but I doubt we'll see a ton more changes there immediately. At least some of the things they tried were working in a small sample. Might be worth it to stick with this plan against Bemidji on Friday and see how it goes.


To me, one of the biggest stories this season has been Kaskisuo. Just last week, coach Scott Sandelin talked about how he stepped in and solidified such a position of need for his team.

"We knew Aaron Crandall was leaving, and we identified him, and he's had a pretty good year," Sandelin said. "He's got a long way to go. He's certainly stabilized that position."

Kaskisuo had some huge games early in the season for UMD. He played very well in a win at now-No. 1 Minnesota State in October, and he was superb when tested in back-to-back wins over then-No. 1 Minnesota in November. His numbers were great for a while, but they've tailed off lately.

In Kaskisuo's last five starts, he has stopped 90 of 104 shots for a save percentage of .865. That's dropped his season number to .914 for a peak in the low-.920s earlier in the season.

It's far from panic time. However, UMD needs Kaskisuo to get back to the form he showed in the fall, or at least get close to that. I don't know if a night off is in his future, but I do know that backup Matt McNeely played well enough at Michigan Tech and then at Lakehead to earn a chance if it comes to that.


The North Star College Cup is this week at XCel Energy Center in St. Paul. Outside of small crowds for the afternoon games, the event was a success last year, and I'm sure there's optimism for better ticket sales this year, given Minnesota isn't playing in an outdoor game the week before the tournament this time around.

UMD will take on Bemidji State (7-12-3) Friday afternoon, while Minnesota and Minnesota State clash Friday night. You know the drill on Saturday.

The Beavers are off a sweep at the hands of Lake Superior State over the weekend. On Friday, the Lakers scored a power-play goal with one second left to beat BSU 1-0. Saturday, Lake State jumped to a 4-0 lead and won 4-2.

Bemidji is 2-2 against the NCHC this season, thanks to splits against North Dakota and St. Cloud State. No secrets here: Bemidji will work hard, and they have some skill with Cory Ward and the Fitzgerald twins. UMD will need to be ready, because it can ill afford to let this winless run hit four games on Friday.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Game 22: Western Michigan at UMD

Here we go with Game 2.



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

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Fons

Osborn - Pitt - Tiffels
Kovacs - Kessel - Muir
McKee - Nong-Lambert - Hadley
Hargrove - Dries - Laporte

Dienes - Fleming
Goff - Moldenhauer
Stewart - Morrison

Slubowski - Hafner

(Western Michigan does not list goalies by who is starting. I'm assuming it'll be Hafner until proven wrong.) 

Dominic Toninato Suspended by NCHC

The NCHC has suspended UMD sophomore forward Dominic Toninato for Saturday's series finale against Western Michigan as a result of his knee-on-knee hit to Nolan LaPorte of Western Michigan Friday night.

Here is the relevant portion of the league's statement from earlier Saturday (UNO's Brian O'Rourke got a two-game ban for a hit to head against Colorado College, but I'm not including that in this copy/paste).
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) has issued suspensions to both Omaha senior defenseman Brian O’Rourke and Minnesota Duluth sophomore forward Dominic Toninato, in accordance with the conference’s supplemental discipline policy, the NCHC announced Saturday, Jan. 17. The suspensions stem from illegal hits during their respective games on Friday, Jan. 16.

Toninato was suspended one game following a review of the play in which knee-on-knee contact was made with a Western Michigan player at 13:31 of the first period of Friday’s game with the Broncos. Toninato was issued a five-minute major for kneeing on the play. He will be required to serve the suspension during Saturday’s series finale with WMU and is eligible to return next weekend, Jan. 23 against Bemidji State in the North Star College Cup.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: UMD Battles Back for Tie

Well, that was as advertised. It looked like there was nothing fun at all about playing that game.

My job is awesome, but that was about as much fun as going to the dentist. And no one hit me during the game.

Quick blog because we have a busy day at a youth hockey tournament Saturday. More thoughts on Twitter @bruceciskie.

Western Michigan isn't a flashy team. The Broncos work hard, sell out for their system, and just don't give their opponents much.

And for the first period, UMD didn't get much of anything.

The Broncos used a Dominic Toninato kneeing major to get a 2-0 lead late in the first. Toninato wasn't ejected for the hit. Live action with no replay, I agreed with the call. I'll stand by that. Sad thing it wasn't the dumbest penalty we took on the night.

UMD needs to get back to good discipline. As analyst Lee Davidson pointed out in the postgame, this wasn't a physical enough game for the penalties that were taken. It might have been frustration or something else, but the Bulldogs have to play their game, no matter how difficult it might be to get that going.

I expect UMD to be sharper on Saturday, which will hopefully lead to more pucks to Lukas Hafner, the Western Michigan goalie who played quite well on Friday.

The Bulldogs battled back again after trailing 2-0. Defenseman Brenden Kotyk scored his first career goal in the second period on a short UMD power play, then his point shot was headed in by Justin Crandall to tie the game in the third.

(Yes, headed.)

Kotyk played his best game for UMD. Hopefully there's more of that to come. He was great in all phases, and if he can continue to emerge, it will do a lot to strengthen UMD's defensive depth.

Western's shootout win was buzzkill, but I'm not turning down that point.

That'll be all for now. UMD is third in the PairWise as we shut down for the evening. I don't expect the UAF-UAA game to have a big impact on it.

Again, more thoughts on Twitter as I have time Saturday, so give that a follow if you haven't already.

Game 21: Western Michigan at UMD

Home sweet home.

UMD is home for the only time this month for games this weekend against Western Michigan. It's UMD's first time at Amsoil Arena since Dec. 5-6 against Colorado College.

The Bulldogs are 5-3 here, thanks to a run of four straight wins on home ice that goes back to a 4-3 win over Miami Nov. 1. The Bulldogs toppled Minnesota here two weeks later and then swept CC. So a ten-week long four-game winning streak.

We need to play here more often.



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

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Fons

Rebry - Pitt - Tiffels
Kovacs - Kessel - Muir
McKee - Nong-Lambert - Hadley
Hargrove - Dries - Laporte

Dienes - Fleming
Goff - Moldenhauer
Stewart - Morrison

Slubowski - Hafner

(Western Michigan does not list goalies by who is starting. I'm assuming it'll be Hafner until proven wrong.)

Bulldogs Know They Face a Battle with Western Michigan

We've said this before, but it merits another mention.

There are no byes in the NCHC. No weekend is easy, and no points can be taken for granted.

This weekend is a great example. UMD hosts Western Michigan for its only home games of January, and while the Broncos are in seventh place in the NCHC, they are every bit a formidable opponent.

Case in point: Western Michigan owns an 8-2 win over defending national champion Union, which hadn't given up that many goals since losing 8-0 to Colgate in February 2008.

Don't mess around with these guys.

"They've got a very big team," head coach Scott Sandelin said this week. "They pose a very different challenge from a physical side. They're a team that's hard to play against. They don't give you a lot of room."

The Broncos are 6-1-1 in their last eight games, but veteran coach Andy Murray believes he knows why WMU struggled out of the gate.

"We've got a lot of young players," he said. "We normally dress three seniors who play, and we have four or five juniors that play. The rest are freshmen and sophomores. I think our team is maturing as the season goes on. We're competing hard."

Western has 17 skaters who tip the scales at over 200 pounds. Their average weight of a shade over 202 pounds is about ten pounds higher than the average UMD player weight of 192. It doesn't sound like a ton, but WMU will try to bring the physical game. The Broncos want to play on the wall, where they're very good.

UMD has to outsmart and outfox Western Michigan.

"We're going to have to utilize our speed," sophomore defenseman Willie Raskob said. "If we can get up and down the ice, try to wear them down a little bit, that's how we have to beat these guys. In the defensive zone, we're going to have to be good with our sticks, make sure we're smart in the corners. Try to stay out of the box, not get into the stuff after the whistle, because that's where they'll beat (us)."

Raskob, who isn't exactly a big guy himself, also talked about the smarts he has to use defensively. He knows he shouldn't be trying to hit a guy like Colton Hargrove straight up, but there are ways he can position himself and use his speed, smarts, and leverage to win battles from Hargrove, or any other bigger Western Michigan forward.

"It's going to be one of those things where if I go into a corner, I'm not going to go in and bang him into the corner and beat him that way," Raskob said.

This is going to be a battle. It might not be as simple as suggesting that UMD play its pace game and wear down the Broncos. You're assuming UMD is able to control the puck long enough and execute well enough to dictate the pace of the game like that. It's not that easy, and it might take a slow build to get to the point where the Bulldogs can play at a higher pace than we think Western Michigan will be comfortable with.

If UMD comes right out and is easily able to play its racehorse hockey, Murray won't be pleased, and he'll demand adjustments from his players.

This isn't to discount Western's talent. WMU has some guys like Justin Kovacs, Sheldon Dries, and Nolan LaPorte who aren't the biggest in the world and can surely get up and down the rink. Hargrove is "going to make a lot of money playing this game after his college games are done," Murray believes, assuming he continues to improve and become more consistent on the ice. He isn't an elite skater, but he's very good for a man his size. It certainly isn't holding him back.

The Broncos' back line includes impressive goal-scoring junior Kenney Morrison and talents like Matt Stewart and Taylor Fleming. Lukas Hafner has gotten the bulk of the work in goal and has been very good for Western Michigan so far. In fact, he's supplanted the best nickname in hockey, Frank "The Big" Slubowski, as the unquestioned No. 1 goalie for Western.

Murray is very appreciative of Hafner's work.

"He's a guy that walked on to our team," Murray said. "He's still a non-scholarship player. He's on academic scholarship. He's an outstanding person, a really good student.

"He joined our program, he had 14 percent body fat, about 15 pounds overweight. This past summer, he was in the top five of our conditioning test. He's a solid 205 pounds. He's athletically really gifted now, and he handles the puck really well."

Murray joked that he doesn't know much about goaltending. "Just stop the puck," he said, but Hafner's been doing that. And Western Michigan has been winning as a result.

The Bulldogs might have to grind out a win or two this weekend, but we know they're capable. It takes strong defending, keeping to the structure when the pressure mounts, and quality goaltending. Freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo didn't have a great Saturday in Grand Forks, but he also didn't get a lot of help. This weekend, Kaskisuo and the skaters have to be ready to take care of the puck in the defensive zone first. UMD struggled Saturday to move it out of its own end, and North Dakota made the visitors pay. Western will do the same thing if UMD is making mistakes with the puck.

And the Bulldogs have to be ready to win some battles. The game won't be played entirely in the middle of the rink. It never is. And Western has a size and strength advantage virtually across the board. UMD will need to use positioning and good sticks to win pucks along the wall and avoid getting hit too much by the bigger Broncos.

Oh, and despite the notable size advantage, remember this: The biggest advantage either team has in this series is UMD's speed and depth up front against WMU's. Murray knows this, too. He says he has speed on his team, but he concedes that UMD is "the best team we've played this season," and he said this will be a very tough series for his team.

If UMD can exploit that advantage, then UMD will get the money this weekend, and the pressure will be on Omaha to do well in Colorado Springs to keep first place in the conference.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Monday (Tuesday) Musings: Bulldogs Settle for Split After North Dakota Ramps Up Its Game

I actually got an email from someone wondering where the Monday bit was.

Well, pretend it's Monday. Then you'll be surprised to find out Friday has come because you think it's Thursday.

Anyway, UMD had a chance to sweep North Dakota in Grand Forks for the first time since 1995 on Saturday night. Willie Raskob's rebound goal gave the visitors a 1-0 lead in the first period, but North Dakota had too much on that night.

I figured North Dakota would be more physical, especially on UMD's defensemen, than Friday. Check.

I knew North Dakota would be tougher in the neutral zone, both with and without the puck. Check.

I assumed UMD would have a hard time getting pucks by Zane McIntyre. Check.

The Bulldogs gave an honest effort, but a couple defensive zone breakdowns, failed clearing attempts, and too many penalties doomed them on this night. North Dakota used a couple second period power plays to seize momentum, and it used that momentum to turn a 1-1 game into a 4-1 game in less than seven minutes' time.

UMD outshot UND 32-19 over the last 40 minutes. Just like Friday, UMD had the puck a lot.

The difference? UMD had more glaring breakdowns in its own zone, and more struggles in the neutral zone. North Dakota didn't necessarily make a ton of strategic adjustments. Instead, it executed better and used more speed to create havoc. The Bulldogs just made too many mistakes. Carson Soucy and Willie Raskob were a combined minus-seven, and that was with Raskob having a hand in both UMD goals. Karson Kuhlman (minus-three) accidentally put a puck in the UMD net after it bounced off goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo.

It was one of those nights.

And then things disintegrated. I didn't like Stephane Pattyn punching UMD defenseman Derik Johnson. No matter what you perceived of Johnson's alleged flop after he was hit, it's not part of the game. Glove on or not, that's a sucker punch in my view. Not cool.

There were a couple skirmishes. At one point, there were 11 players in the penalty box, six for UND and five for UMD. McIntyre started one of those by taking a late shot at UMD's Cal Decowski. It was physical in front of both goalies both nights, so you can give McIntyre a bit of a pass, even though it wasn't the first shot he took at a UMD player on the weekend. He's competitive, just like the rest of the players.

(In the end, the Pattyn-Johnson incident was the only thing that made me cringe a little. The rest of the rough stuff isn't okay, but it didn't go way overboard, and in a fast, intense, emotional game, you're going to have breakdowns in discipline on occasion. Despite taking 30-some minutes in penalties, UMD only gave North Dakota three power plays. That's significant. UMD has given opponents just 24 power plays in its last ten games going back to before break. That's 2.4 power play chances allowed per game. If the penalty kill continues to click the way it is right now, UMD will find it's harder and harder for opponents to score goals. Last I checked, that was a good thing.)

In the end, it was just not UMD's evening. The Bulldogs did a lot of good things in their first "real" weekend back from break, but there is work to be done. Western Michigan will exploit UMD's back line if it doesn't shape up before the weekend. The Broncos are a hard-working, opportunistic team that will take those defensive- and neutral-zone mistakes and turn them into odd-man rushes. With skilled players like Colton Hargrove and Justin Kovacs leading the offensive charge, WMU has the horses to cash in on those opportunities.

It'll be interesting to see how UMD adjusts its week-to-week schedule. Players need practice reps, for sure, but it's not abnormal for practice times to drop a bit in the second half of the season. Since the Bulldogs are down to 13 forwards and are at seven defensemen until Dan Molenaar returns from illness, they need to be mindful of overworking the healthy guys during the week. Coach Scott Sandelin has mentioned this a couple times, so we'll see how it plays out.

With the extra two games allowed to UMD by its appearance in the Ice Breaker event in October, there are no byes in the second half. And with the nation's No. 1-ranked schedule not getting any easier, there are no easy weekends. It'll be a great way to prepare this team for what we hope is a long run in March, but health is a huge key as the end of January approaches.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Game 20: UMD at North Dakota

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- For UMD, this game represents a tremendous opportunity. Win, and the Bulldogs have another quality performance on the road, a second road sweep in NCHC play, and they know they'll hold down sole possession of the NCHC lead for at least six more days.

Not to mention the potential PairWise implications down the road.

A loss sure isn't the end of the world, but it could render UMD's stay in first place a short one. Omaha is only one point behind the Bulldogs, and Miami can re-tie for the league lead if it beats St. Cloud State while UMD loses here.

North Dakota will be desperate. I expect a physical, emotional game that will test the patience of the officials much more than Friday did.



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

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
McCormack - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Poolman - MacMillan - Parks
Chyzyk - Caggiula - Schmaltz (Nick)
Pattyn - Johnson (Luke) - Murphy
O'Donnell - Gaarder - Poganski

Ausmus - Schmaltz (Jordan)
Mattson - LaDue
Thompson - Panzarella

McIntyre - Johnson (Cam) - Hrynkiw 

NCHC Fictional Midseason Awards

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- I had planned on doing this last week, but illness overcame me in Thunder Bay and I decided to put it off. It took until Wednesday before I felt remotely myself, and by then I had to prepare for this weekend series. So here we are.

The following assumes some things. It assumes 1) I have a vote in the league honors, and 2) there are any kind of midseason awards.

I don't have a vote, but I'm going to post my thoughts for discussion and entertainment purposes only.

These observations are based on my observations from the first half of the season. There is a flaw. I haven't seen Western Michigan play, not live because UMD hasn't played them, and not on video, either. I've seen every other team in the NCHC both live and on video.

Anyway, here goes. I'll give you two all-league teams and some other individual honors through half the season.

Riley Barber, Miami
Austin Ortega, Omaha
Dominic Toninato, UMD

Joey LaLeggia, Denver
Andy Welinski, UMD

Ryan Massa, Omaha

Austin Czarnik, Miami
Austin Farley, UMD
Mark MacMillan, North Dakota

Matthew Caito, Miami
Jordan Schmaltz, North Dakota

Zane McIntyre, North Dakota

Jonny Brodzinski, St. Cloud State
Drake Caggiula, North Dakota
Blake Coleman, Miami
Jake Guentzel, Omaha
Danton Heinen, Denver
Nick Schmaltz, North Dakota

Kenney Morrison, Western Michigan
Nolan Zajac, Denver

Evan Cowley, Denver
Jay Williams, Miami

Danton Heinen, Denver
Karson Kuhlman, UMD
Jake Randolph, Omaha

Louie Belpedio, Miami
Luc Snuggerud, Omaha

Kasimir Kaskisuo, UMD

Goalie of the Year
Ryan Massa, Omaha

Defenseman of the Year
Andy Welinski, UMD

Forward of the Year
Austin Ortega, Omaha

Rookie of the Year
Danton Heinen, Denver

Offensive Defenseman of the Year
Joey LaLeggia, Denver

Defensive Forward of the Year
Karson Kuhlman, UMD

Player of the Year
Austin Ortega, Omaha

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: UMD Answers Tying Goal With Emphatic Rally, Topples No. 1 North Dakota

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Leave it to Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald to unearth a pretty cool stat. After Saturday, UMD will have played 25 percent of its games -- five out of 20 -- against teams ranked No. 1 in the country at the time of the game.

Now, no matter what happens Saturday, UMD is guaranteed an above-.500 record in those games.

The Bulldogs rode a three-goal surge in the final half of the third period to a 4-1 win Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena, improving to 3-1 against No. 1 teams this season.

(Schlossman, by the way, didn't vote North Dakota to the top spot this week. He's been voting UMD No. 1 since like November.)

We get that polls don't matter, but what does matter is that UMD is third in the PairWise, and UMD is now in sole possession of first place in the NCHC (more on that later). And UMD is now 15-5-1 away from Amsoil Arena in the last year.

The first period wasn't pretty for UMD. North Dakota had a couple doorstep chances to go along with a goal that was disallowed after video review (more on that later, too), and UMD was probably fortunate to get out of the first 0-0.

We'll just say it was a good road period.

In the second, UMD started to generate offense. An Adam Krause goal was disallowed because of goalie contact, but Kyle Osterberg made it 1-0 less than three minutes later after Justin Crandall mishandled a pass and it came free to Osterberg in the slot.

Those weren't UMD's only chances in the second. Willie Raskob made a great play to get a puck out of the defensive zone, then skated in on UND goalie Zane McIntyre and rang one off the iron. Austin Farley was sprung for a breakaway in the closing seconds by Karson Kuhlman that McIntyre denied, too.

It stayed 1-0 until about halfway through the third, when UND senior Connor Gaarder got loose in the left circle and ripped a shot past UMD freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo. The puck went in off the right post and the game was tied.

It stayed tied exactly 67 seconds. What happened next was probably UMD's most emphatic statement of the season to this point.

Raskob got a puck at the right point, dangled by a North Dakota defender in the right circle, and fed a puck to Tony Cameranesi in the slot. The UMD junior made no mistake for the eventual game-winning goal. Carson Soucy got a partial breakaway goal barely a minute later, and Alex Iafallo hit the yawning net with 14 seconds left.

UMD has prided itself on rallying from behind and answering adversity all season. With the crowd finally going and the game tied on Friday, the Bulldogs did what they do. They silenced another big home gathering. Once UMD took the lead back, North Dakota never really threatened again, even with McIntyre pulled for most of the last two minutes.

Going back to last season, this marks the first time UMD has won back-to-back games in Grand Forks since Jan. 28, 1995, and Nov. 3, 1995.

The standouts were aplenty. Krause, Iafallo, and Dominic Toninato generated offense just about every time they were on the ice. Cameranesi's line was fantastic again, and the Decowski line had another strong game. Raskob, who had his share of struggles in the first half, was fantastic, as was Soucy. Kaskisuo was sharp as a tack, making 23 saves for the win.

When UMD moved its feet and got its pace game going, North Dakota didn't have many answers. The Bulldogs probably could do a better job dictating the pace on Saturday, and you can bet your bottom dollar that North Dakota will make sure its blue line plays a more physical game. We'll see whose will wins out.


You just don't see many goals overturned by video review. It's even rarer to see it happen twice in the same game.

In Friday's case, I believe both calls were correct.

In the first period. North Dakota's Drake Caggiula had a goal waved off after review. It was determined that UND's Bryn Chyzyk was in the crease and interfering with Kaskisuo, who bounced up after Caggiula scored and was emphatic that he was interfered with. Chyzyk may have been bumped into the crease area by UMD's Carson Soucy, but he made no effort to avoid the contact or get out of the crease after he went in.

In the second, Krause's goal was disallowed because the officials ruled that he bumped McIntyre and then put the puck into the net on a rebound chance. While the bump was not severe contact, and it didn't seem to affect the goal, Krause went there on his own and was not checked into the goaltender.

I've seen more malicious contact and goals allowed to stand in the past (especially in the case of the Krause goal), but there's no question that -- via letter of the law -- the officials got both calls correct. No matter what, you can't complain when they make a call and they have the rulebook 100 percent on their side.

And even though video review helps the stripes, they still do miss one on occasion. They're human, after all.


Miami and UMD entered the second half of the season tied for first in the NCHC.

UMD is all alone now.

David Morley scored twice as St. Cloud State beat Miami 3-1 in St. Cloud on Friday. SCSU goalie Charlie Lindgren stopped 37 of 38, including all six Blake Coleman shots. The RedHawks outshot the Huskies 17-8 in the first period, but Lindgren kept them off the board.

Mr. Hockey Avery Peterson had a goal and two assists as Omaha rallied from 3-0 down to beat Denver 5-4. DU had a 4-3 lead in the third before David Pope tied the game on a delayed penalty call. Since this is college hockey, the penalty gets called anyway, and Joey LaLeggia had to sit for holding the stick. Luc Snuggerud set up Dominic Zombo on that power play for the winning goal.

It's a dumb rule. Sorry, but it is.

In a non-conference game, Western Michigan scored the last three goals in a 4-2 win over Notre Dame in Kalamazoo.


Couple programming notes: I'll post my midseason NCHC awards Saturday, so we'll see which fanbase gets really mad at me this time.

Also, I'll be on KFAN radio's "Beyond The Pond" with Brandon Mileski, Pat Micheletti, and Nate Miller Saturday at 10:35am. Listen in Duluth on The Fan 1490, in the Cities on KFAN 100.3 FM, or anywhere on the internet at

Friday, January 09, 2015

Game 19: UMD at North Dakota

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Greetings from the best building you'll find anywhere in college hockey.

Yes, I said it.

The history alone puts The Ralph at the top of the list, but add in the visuals and the game-night presentation they put on here, and it's an experience like no other. I recognize it isn't for everyone, but I'm telling you how I feel.

There's a reason, after all, why most UMD players list this as their favorite opposing arena. They get it, too.

Anyway, should be a hell of a series. UND coach Dave Hakstol even said so. And he's right. These teams match up well together, with quality skating forwards, hard workers, and active defensemen. While North Dakota's non-conference strength of schedule doesn't match with UMD, their performances and opponents in league play are remarkably similar.

Counting this weekend along with last week's exhibition games in Thunder Bay (here's how sick I was: I barely remember any of that trip except Friday's winning goal and Saturday's game), UMD is on the road four out of five weekends in January. After next week's home dates with Western Michigan, the Bulldogs hit the road for the North Star College Cup, followed by a series in Denver.

That might not be a terrible thing. UMD is improved at home (5-3 this season) without question, but if you track back one year to the start of the second half of last season, you'll find that UMD is 14-5-1 in its last 20 games away from Amsoil Arena. This group relishes playing on the road. And if I've learned anything in a decade behind the mic, it's that guys seem to get a little fired up for a chance to quiet down a big house like this.

Programming note: I'll be back with the usual Saturday ramble-fest after the game. I also plan to publish my fictional votes for NCHC awards at the halfway point of the season on Saturday. That's always a good way to get yelled at by some league fanbase. Wonder if it'll be your turn this year.

Also, I'll be on "Beyond The Pond" with Brandon Mileski, Pat Micheletti, and Nate Miller Saturday at 10:35. The show airs on KFAN radio in the Twin Cities, The Fan 1490 in the Twin Ports, and all along the Fan Radio Network and at



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

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely

O'Donnell - MacMillan - Parks
Chyzyk - Caggiula - Schmaltz (Nick)
Pattyn - Johnson (Luke) - Poganski
Simonson - Gaarder - Murphy

Mattson - LaDue
Ausmus - Schmaltz (Jordan)
Thompson - Poolman

McIntyre - Johnson (Cam) - Hrynkiw

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Potent North Dakota Blue Line Leads Top-Ranked Team in Country

Polls don't matter. We get it.

But the polls say North Dakota is the top dog right now. At 13-4-2, UND is not off to its typical slow start that fires up the message boards with "Fire Hakstol" hot takes. Well, since that 5-1 clunker in the season opener against Bemidji State, that is. Maybe that was everyone's chance to get it all out?

(In fact, this is the best start UND has had under coach Dave Hakstol.)

Anyway, that's our adversary this weekend. And it wouldn't take a poll for someone to figure out North Dakota is good. A balanced offense and strong defense lead the way for UND, which is just two points back of the first-place tie between UMD and Miami.

Let's focus on the right things. This is not the time to talk about the fact that UND has non-conference games played against the likes of Wisconsin (2-11-1), Lake Superior State (4-17-1), Air Force (5-13-3), and Bemidji State (5-10-3). Don't bring that up. It doesn't matter.

Instead, let's look at what North Dakota has done in building a 6-3-1-0 record in NCHC play.

UND swept Colorado College 3-1 and 7-2. UMD swept Colorado College 3-2 and 7-2.
UND split with Miami, losing 3-2 and winning 4-1. UMD split with Miami, losing 3-2* and winning 4-3.
UND split with Denver, losing 4-1 and winning 3-1. UMD split with Denver, losing 3-1 and winning 6-1.
UND split with St. Cloud, losing 3-1 and winning 3-2. UMD swept St. Cloud State, winning 3-2 and 3-1.
UND tied Omaha 2-2 and won 3-2. UMD split with Omaha, winning 3-2 and losing 4-1.

Closely matched if you look at common opponents, I'd say.

North Dakota is an interesing matchup for this Bulldog team. UND was activating defensemen into the offensive play before doing so was chic in college hockey. Now, Denver does it well, Miami does it well, and they're far from the only ones.

Make no mistake: North Dakota does it better than just about anyone. After leading the nation in points from the blue line last year, UND is third this season, with 15 goals and 50 points from defensemen. UMass-Lowell has 19 goals and 64 points, while Minnesota State has gotten 13 goals and 53 points from defensemen. For perspective, UMD -- which has gotten much improved offense from its blue line this season -- ranks in a tie for 24th nationally with ten goals and 35 points from the "D."

"I think it's a real credit to (assistant coach) Brad Berry, and the way he works with and develops our individual defensemen," Hakstol said this week. "Probably as importantly as that, (he works with) our D-corps as a whole."

Hakstol said that work extends back to recruiting, where Berry is very specific about the kinds of players he is looking to recruit for North Dakota's blue line. From there, it's nose to the proverbial grindstone when it comes to developing them.

UMD coach Scott Sandelin likes how his team has played against strong defensive teams like Denver and Miami, and he has a pretty good idea what to expect out of North Dakota.

"The key is not a lot of puck watching," Sandelin said. "If we're standing around watching, those guys are going to be a big part of their offensive push. We've seen it before. It seems to be the way things are going. It does create problems if you're not aware of it and not paying attention."

Hakstol said he doesn't think he has a superstar on the blue line, but junior Jordan Schmaltz is sure close to that billing. The Verona, Wisc., native has three goals and 14 points in 19 games, and continues to play a very steady brand of hockey from the back line. He and UMD's Andy Welinski are arguably the two best defensemen in the NCHC right now (though Denver has Joey LaLeggia and Miami Matthew Caito, and both guys are playing very well right now). Guys like Paul LaDue and Nick Mattson aren't afraid to jump up in the offensive plays for Hakstol, but he's right in that they don't have an attention-commanding player atop the defensive line charts like they have in the past with players like Derek Forbort and Dillon Simpson. Instead, there's a balance from spots 1-6 that rivals anyone in the country, even a team like Denver with some real high-end guys back there.

As much as UMD has to mind itself against North Dakota's active and aggressive defensemen, Hakstol knows his guys have to be aware of one of UMD's greatest assets.

"Number one thing that comes to mind is pace," he told me this week. "The pace of play that they play at throughout the lineup both with and without the puck is very impressive.

"The playmaking ability of their forward group is very impressive, and that couples with the pace of play that they have. I've always respected Scott's teams without the puck. They play very well. Their gaps are good. I don't see a lot of holes in their group. It should make for one hell of a series. I feel like this is the best team that we've played against all year."

The stakes are high for this early January tilt. Sandelin noted a couple times at his media availability Wednesday that UMD is a point ahead of UND in the NCHC standings, and the goal is to be ahead of UND when the weekend ends. Obviously, the North Dakotans have other ideas.


UMD sophomore forward Dominic Toninato has already faced one Duluth East linemate this season (Jake Randolph with Omaha in November).

He won't get the chance to play against a second until March, at least.

North Dakota freshman Trevor Olson, another former Greyhound star, is out indefinitely after being diagnosed this week with mono. He has three goals in a bottom-six role over 15 games, and he's drawn the attention of his coach.

"He was really growing and developing his role," Hakstol said. "Another big-body, straight-line type of player. Probably would surprise people with the amount of plays he can make and the hockey sense he has.

"We watched him a lot as a young player coming out of high school. As he growed and matured in the USHL, he played with good players all the time. He was not only a guy there to police things and be the physical player and take care of his teammates, but he was also the guy who could go make plays with good players. At playoff time, he could elevate his game and impact the game.

"He's another guy that leads by keeping things loose. We're gonna miss him."

Monday, January 05, 2015

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Tune Up For Second Half

The second half of the season is officially underway for UMD. The Bulldogs opened with exhibition games in Thunder Bay over the weekend, sweeping the series from Lakehead with an 8-4 win Saturday night.

It was a good chance for the players to shake off rust from a two-week holiday break before NCHC play resumes at North Dakota this weekend. More on that in a bit.

As for Saturday's game, UMD started a bit slowly, though it wasn't disastrous because Matt McNeely made a couple key saves and kept the game scoreless. Once Blake Young struck past the halfway mark of the first to give UMD a 1-0 lead, the Bulldogs took it to the Thunderwolves for most of the next 30 or so minutes. The lead swelled to 5-0 through two periods.

At that point, Lakehead started to rally on UMD third-string goalie Alex Fons, getting the score as close as 6-3. But after that third Thunderwolves goal, UMD coach Scott Sandelin called his timeout, and Tony Cameranesi had UMD back on the board less than two minutes later for a 7-3 lead. Jared Thomas added one more and UMD ended up winning by four.

On the night, Willie Raskob scored twice, Cal Decowski had three assists, and UMD got two points each from Carson Soucy, Austin Farley, and Austyn Young.

Outside of getting a little leaky in the third period, it was a pretty good performance by the visitors. Leaves the coaches with things they'll want to clean up, but they got out of the series healthy and everyone who played got enough ice time to shake off the rust after the long layoff.


UMD's depth was tested in the first half, and the Bulldogs passed that test with flying colors.

However, the team faces a different kind of test now. Entering a stretch of 18 games in nine straight weekends, UMD already knew it was down to 14 forwards, with sophomore Sammy Spurrell lost for the season after back surgery.

Now it's down to 13.

Freshman Brett Boehm left the team and returned to his former junior team, the Flin Flon (Sask.) Bombers of the SJHL. Boehm debuted there Sunday night and had an assist in a 2-1 win over Humboldt. He maintains his NCAA eligibility in juniors and will be able to play for a different Division I school in 2016, if he so desires. Boehm had no points in five games, but I don't know if playing time was an issue or if there was something else afoot. Reality is that it looked like Boehm was struggling, especially with his play away from the puck.

We'll hear from Sandelin this week on this, but it certainly puts the Bulldogs in a tough spot going into a long stretch where there are no weekends off, neither literally nor figuratively.

With only one extra forward, UMD has to hope for good fortune from a health standpoint. It's not like Division I forwards grow on trees.


North Dakota is up next, with both teams part of a jumbled mess atop the NCHC. UND is fourth with 19 points, just two points back of UMD and Miami with 21. Omaha is third with 20 points. Denver is fifth with 12 points, which sounds like a big gap, but the Pioneers have three games in hand on the top four, so they can close the gap on their own.

UND is known for slow starts, but this year should debunk the notion that it's an annual bit. At 13-4-2, North Dakota is -- like UMD -- in a good position coming out of break.

In what is a difficult second half for travel, this will be UMD's easiest NCHC road trip until the league playoffs. The other conference roadies take UMD to Denver, Miami, and Western Michigan.

I'll give you more on the series later in the week. But anyone who was listening Saturday knows I am not well. Going to go home and steal some Zs and take care of myself so I don't sound like that again Friday in Grand Forks.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Exhibition Game 2: UMD at Lakehead

THUNDER BAY, Ont. -- Off and running for the final game of this exhibition series north of the border. Then it's time to navigate through the snow and get home.

Really looking forward to that.



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

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Kotyk
McCormack - Corrin

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Fons

(They're listed this way on the chart, but McNeely is starting. The plan is for Fons to take over at the midpoint.)

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Welinski Beats Buzzer to Give UMD Exhibition Win

THUNDER BAY, Ont. -- For UMD, staying healthy and setting a solid starting point for the second half of the season are big keys this weekend.

Yes, wins are nice, but let's be honest: With 20 games in ten weekends between now and the end of the regular season, and up to nine more games in five weekends after that, this team has to keep its best players upright and on the ice.

A very physical exhibition game started UMD's second half here Friday night, as the Bulldogs ralled from a pair of deficits to win 3-2 on Andy Welinski's rebound goal with six tenths of a second left in overtime.

For UMD, it wasn't a perfect performance, but the Bulldogs managed to put 51 pucks on Lakehead goalie Jeff Bosch, and they managed to rally from 1-0 and 2-1 down to win another tight hockey game.

The power play was decent. The penalty kill had a pretty good night (the only Lakehead power play goal came off a crazy scramble right as a five-on-three ended). Those are good jumping-off points for those units after an up-and-down first half of the season.

After getting pulled from UMD's last game before break at Michigan Tech, freshman goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo got back in the groove with a steady 26-save performance. UMD did a good job clearing lanes for "Kas" to see pucks, and he did a good job controlling rebounds. There was a hairy rebound in the first period, but UMD's defensive work around the net rendered it meaningless.

(This was something I mentioned on the air during the postgame of the Michigan Tech loss Dec. 13. Instead of coming back and playing the next night, UMD had two weeks to forget the painful loss to the Huskies. Kaskisuo had two weeks to forget the worst start he's had for our colors.)

UMD's top line of Dominic Toninato, Alex Iafallo, and Adam Krause buzzed throughout. Iafallo's assist on Austin Farley's power play goal was the only point from that line, but they were good. Farley, Tony Cameranesi, and Karson Kuhlman had another very strong game. Kuhlman scored the first UMD goal on a great individual effort, beating Bosch through the five hole after he was taken down by a Lakehead defender. Farley's wicked wrister tied the game 2-2 after Lakehead had taken the lead for the second time.

Depth guys like Blake and Austyn Young contributed to the offensive cause, even though they didn't score.

UMD owned the puck a good chunk of this game and forced Lakehead to do a lot of chasing. The Bulldogs hit at least three and possibly four goalposts/crossbars and were robbed a few times by Bosch, who was sharp as a tack in his first game since October (concussion symptoms).


There were multiple skirmishes in the game, none bigger than a near-brawl not long after Lakehead opened the scoring in the second period. It happened in the Thunderwolves zone after a Bosch save and stoppage. All ten skaters on the ice were involved, with UMD's Brenden Kotyk and Lakehead's Carson Dubchak getting ten-minute misconducts and roughing minors, while two other players got roughing minors.

It led me to believe we'd see a fight at some point, but after a couple more post-whistle fracases (fracasi?) in the second, things cooled a bit in the third.

The biggest issue was all the facemasking, an ejection in NCAA hockey but not even worth talking about in Canada, or so it seemed based on Friday.

Goes back to how much I've prioritized health in this weekend series. It doesn't mean you sit your best players, or you tell guys to go half-speed. But I'd like to see Saturday's game played cleanly. No need for the kind of garbage we saw on Friday, and while Lakehead initiated a fair amount of it, things work both ways (in fairness).

Get in, do more good things, do a better job winning faceoffs and getting traffic to the net, and win another game before the Great North Dakota Freeze Out next weekend.


Elsewhere, former Duluth Marshall star Judd Peterson's goal early in the third stood as the game-winner as St. Cloud State stormed back from 2-0 down to beat Quinnipiac 3-2. Also, Denver tied Dartmouth 1-1 at the Ledyard Bank Classic. Miami got two from Riley Barber in a 3-2 win at RPI.

UMD remains third in the PairWise rankings, behind Minnesota State and Harvard. Remember, the polls don't matter.