Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Lose Lead, Settle for Split

On the surface, the result was the same.

A two-goal win Friday and a tough loss Saturday. A 60-minute effort Friday, but only three points on the weekend. A split.

In no other way was UMD's split against Miami similar to its split against St. Cloud State.

The Bulldogs competed Saturday. They played hard. They battled. They executed wonderfully at times.

It just wasn't quite enough.

Miami rallied from 3-1 down with a goal set up by a great power play, followed by an actual power play goal, then won it in overtime on a Blake Coleman goal 4-3 over UMD.

In all honesty, it was a wonderful game and a great series, every bit as enjoyable for me as the Denver weekend was. Miami solidified its status in the completely unofficial and 100 percent meaningless Ciskie Top Five (joined by UMD, Minnesota State, North Dakota, and Boston University in an order I refuse to try to determine).

Yes, UMD proved it belongs. The Bulldogs went into a tough building against a great team and won four of the six periods. I was impressed by much of what I saw, starting with a pretty solid 120-minute effort. Was it perfect? No. UMD made some mistakes, especially on Saturday. But it's easier to refine execution than it is to coax effort at this point in the season.

There were a few missed scoring chances, a couple instances where guys overpassed, lost faceoffs, and failed to clear the defensive zone. Miami made UMD pay for some of the mistakes and played a strong game on Saturday. The fact UMD led much of that game is a credit to its battle level and its freshman goalie.

Yeah, Kasimir Kaskisuo allowed five goals on the weekend. They came on 80 shots. Considering the quality of the opponent and the quality of its chances, this might have been Kas' best weekend in our colors, even though we only won one game. Practically stood on his head in the second period Saturday (24 saves). 45 stops in the game.

And how about that UMD power play? Two more goals Saturday and four on the weekend in eight chances. Nothing fancy. Guys shot the puck and went to the net. Then they stayed at the net and caused trouble for the Miami goalie of choice. Sometimes, you don't need to draw up a cross-seam, high-low or low-high play. Just get the puck to the net. Worked for UMD on the weekend, and this would be a really good time for the power play to get hot.

In the end, Anthony Louis and Coleman made a play, and Miami got the money. Louis was great all night, using his speed and skill to create space and opportunities. Austin Czarnik continues to only have two goals this season, but man is he a good player.

UMD could see Miami again after a 2-2 season series split, either in the NCHC playoffs or the NCAA Tournament. Despite the strong effort, UMD fell to fifth in the NCHC, and would be on the road for the first round of the playoffs if the season ended today.

(It doesn't.)

Oh, and UMD's third in the Pairwise. So it's possible a No. 1 NCAA seed doesn't even get home ice in its conference playoffs.

That kind of year.

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