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.

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