Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Struggle Through Saturday Loss to St. Cloud State

Let's not mince words here: For UMD to win the NCHC or make noise in the NCAA Tournament, games like Saturday better not happen much, if at all, the rest of the way.

After a pretty good start to Saturday's game -- albeit with no goals -- the Bulldogs fizzled badly and fell 4-1 at home to St. Cloud State.

The first five minutes were pretty good for the Bulldogs. UMD cycled the puck, had strong possession, and kept St. Cloud State from getting anything going offensively. Then came the first media timeout, and the Bulldogs weren't the same afterward.

The Huskies began to push back, taking the lead in shots on goal for good in a sequence that saw them get six in a row on Kasimir Kaskisuo. The game stayed scoreless because Kaskisuo was sharp and SCSU didn't do a great job of getting to the net.

The second period saw more of the same. SCSU outshot UMD 14-7, had a number of good scoring chances, and was clearly the better team. The Bulldogs lacked jump, didn't really get much going with the puck, and looked like the slower of the two teams after seemingly wearing down the Huskies the night before.

Two David Morley goals put the adversary ahead 2-0 in the third period, but Austin Farley scored on a rebound to make it 2-1 with UMD's second power-play goal of the weekend. It is the first time UMD scored power-play goals in both ends of a weekend series since Nov. 14-15 against Minnesota.

That positivity didn't last long. UMD had a golden chance to tie it up, but Tony Cameranesi hit the goalpost on a partial breakaway after using a backhand move to beat goalie Charlie Lindgren. Shortly after that, defenseman Carson Soucy took a penalty for playing with a broken stick, and Patrick Russell scored on the power play to give SCSU a 3-1 lead. Joey Benik hit an empty net late for the final margin.

Not much more to say. UMD wasn't sharp enough, quick enough, or hard enough to play against on Saturday. I don't know if there were guys who thought it would be easy after they dominated puck possession Friday. But just can't happen. Senior Justin Crandall made a good point after the game, telling reporters it reminded him of the North Dakota series, where UMD closed on a win late Friday before laying an egg Saturday. The three points lost here might not kill them in the NCHC race, and UMD's NCAA hopes are still in great shape. Big picture, it's not the kind of thing that can be repeated again.

Couple quick notes to close.
  • Don't know what the status of Dominic Toninato is. Heard from a few people who saw him walking around on Saturday. I'd guess he'll do everything he can to get on the ice for practice this week, and if there's any chance of him playing, he'll make the trip to Oxford. If there isn't a chance that he plays, UMD should take eight defensemen, and I believe Scott Sandelin will do that. This isn't the Omaha trip, where Adam Krause traveled even though he had no chance of playing. As of now, UMD has eight defensemen who are cleared to play. Might as well use them.
  • Now, the status of Blake Young might change that. Young left in the first period Saturday and didn't return. If he can't travel to Oxford, we'll see what Sandelin does for extras on the trip.
  • I thought Kaskisuo made some huge saves Saturday, especially in the second period. But the first goal Friday and first and third goals Saturday didn't look that great. Overall, a solid performance that kept UMD alive for most of the game. But there's improvement needed in goal, too.
  • UMD is four points out of the top spot in the NCHC, which is now a three-way tie between Miami (UMD's next opponent), Omaha, and North Dakota. Totally within striking distance, but the Bulldogs could still end up on the road for the first round of the league tournament. That's how tight it is right now.
Work to get done in a short week at the office. That'll do it for me. UMD fell to seventh in the meaningless USCHO poll, but is fourth in the PairWise, which will matter March 22, when selections are due out.

Barring big news, we'll talk Thursday from Oxford and in between on Twitter @bruceciskie.

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