With the power play generally not contributing, that means the Bulldogs are pressed to score more goals in other situations.
UMD picked up five even-strength goals and a short-handed marker in a 6-3 win over Northern Michigan Saturday night in Duluth. The power play struck out on Saturday, and the penalty kill had a Meat Loaf night (two out of three wasn't bad, as after a sloppy coverage on the first goal, the killers did good work and scored a shorty in the process).
When the Bulldogs produce at even-strength like they did Saturday, when they outshot NMU 32-12 during the portion of the game where both teams had an equal number of players on the ice, this team is going to be hellaciously tough to beat.
UMD yearned a quicker start on Saturday after Northern Michigan got on the board early Friday and the Bulldogs looked like they were skating in mud for a good chunk of the opening stanza.
Alex Iafallo got the Bulldogs on the board not four minutes in on Saturday, and Charlie Sampair followed just short of the seven-minute mark with his first goal of the season. It was a deserved result for Sampair, who played better this weekend than he had all year to this point, and certainly earned the two points and increased ice time he got.
When NMU cut that two-goal lead in half, the Captain answered. Adam Krause ripped a wrist shot top shelf late in the first to make it a 3-1 lead.
When NMU cut that two-goal lead in half, the Bulldogs' most consistent line -- Tony Cameranesi, Austin Farley, and Karson Kuhlman -- responded, with the former two setting up Kuhlman's wraparound goal that made it 4-2.
When NMU got a power play late in the second period, senior captain Krause and assistant captain Justin Crandall conspired on a short-handed tally that put the game out of reach.
The Bulldogs ended up with a half-dozen goals on the night, nine on the weekend, and they outshot the visitors 85-35 in the 120 minutes.
Hell, someone might want to order more pink sticks.
UMD got a bit leaky in the second period, and Northern Michigan's Jake Baker made a great read to recognize that Kuhlman -- who didn't have a stick -- wasn't paying attention to him as he crashed into the slot and scored off a perfect Reed Seckel centering pass. Baker was Kuhlman's guy on the play, but he was watching the puck in the right corner and didn't see Baker making his way toward the front of the net.
The Bulldogs do have to find a way to cut down on the defensive lapses. They seem to most commonly happen after long stretches of offensive-zone possession. It's like the guys forget they have to defend their end of the ice when it isn't attacked for a while.
It's human nature. You see a long period of puck possession, and you want to jump in the play. Everyone wants to jump in the play. A little overaggression, and suddenly it's a two-on-one the other way.
You can't assume puck battles or races will be won. Players have to work hard to win them. UMD just can't afford to have all these defensive mistakes, especially when it should be working with momentum on its side.
Dominic Toninato (or Tom Doninato, right, DU broadcasters?) sat out Saturday's game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. From the sounds of it, UMD doesn't expect it to be a long-term problem for Toninato.
But all was well, because freshman Jared Thomas stepped up big-time. The former Hermantown Hawk won ten of 13 faceoffs, scored a third-period goal and added an assist. Thomas' three-point weekend (he also scored the game-winning goal Friday) was his first multi-point binge on a weekend since his two-goal game in Mankato back on Oct. 18.
He stepped in for UMD's No. 1 center and played a strong game. They say freshmen aren't freshmen anymore once we get into the second half of the season. In Thomas' case, he showed a lot of maturity and poise in his game with Saturday's performance.
With Scott Sandelin possessing no desire to break up Cameranesi's line or Cal Decowski's line, Thomas likely goes back to the fourth line against St. Cloud this weekend. However, everyone knows that there's a button that can be pushed if Toninato has a rough game while Thomas continues to produce in his more limited role.
That is a good thing as we head down the stretch. Strength down the middle is a nice problem to have as February hits and March approaches.
Already blogged about the crazy finish that's coming for the NCHC.
Case in point: Miami's out to a 4-0 lead on Western Michigan with 12 minutes in their game at the Hockey City Classic Saturday in Chicago. Game's over, right?
Western storms back with goals 37 seconds apart to cut the lead in half, then gets one with an extra attacker on in the final minute. The RedHawks did a good job in the final seven minutes of keeping pucks from getting to the net, however, and Miami survived 4-3 to jump ahead of UMD and Denver and take third place in the NCHC.
No lead is safe. No game is over.
(Unless you're St. Cloud State and you're pantsing Colorado College 7-0 in the second period. That's probably safe.)
Speaking of St. Cloud State, here come the Huskies. Since being swept at Denver, SCSU has won three of four and scored 272* goals.
(* - possible exaggeration)
In all seriousness, take the seven out of that number, and 22 goals in four games is pretty solid. Juniors Jonny Brodzinski (17 goals) and Joey Benik (24 points) are leading the way offensively. But Bob Motzko has skill on all four lines. Oh, and Charlie Lindgren carries a .922 save percentage in NCHC play.
I don't care that UMD swept at St. Cloud in November. This is going to be another in a long line of great series where a split appears ever-so-likely.