Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday Musings: BU Takes Advantage of Late Power Play to Eliminate UMD

One second.

That's all that separated UMD from a successful penalty kill in the third period against Boston University. Crow all you want about the holding penalty against Andy Welinski -- and based on the standard that had been set by the WCHA crew in calling nothing for most of the first 55 minutes and change, it was a terrible call -- but the Bulldogs were that close to rendering the call moot.

But Evan Rodrigues got open enough to rip a shot by Kasimir Kaskisuo and give BU a 3-2 lead it would hold for the final 2:24 to advance to the Frozen Four.

It was one of those moments. You could see the play develop, and there wasn't much that could be done. Rodriguez made a great play to drag the puck around a sliding defender, and he ripped a shot Kaskisuo had little chance to stop. Sometimes, you have to tip your cap.

UMD shut down Jack Eichel, who was held off the scoreboard for just the sixth time in 39 games, but the Bulldogs couldn't contain linemate Rodrigues, who scored twice. As a result, BU heads to the Frozen Four with North Dakota, Omaha, and Providence.

For most of Saturday, I actually thought UMD was the better team. The difference was that Rodrigues ripped off a couple great shots, and the Bulldogs couldn't solve BU goalie Matt O'Connor when they were able to generate gobs of offensive zone time and wear down BU a bit.

UMD showed its best traits on Saturday. The Bulldogs played with speed, were physical when required, rarely got pushed around despite BU possessing some bigger guys, and clearly weren't awed or intimidated by the Eichel line, even though it's damn good and Eichel's going to win the Hobey. Kaskisuo battled, played calm and relaxed, and just didn't get rattled. Neither did the rest of the team.


Four Bulldog careers closed on Saturday night in Manchester. Senior forwards Justin Crandall and Adam Krause, defenseman Derik Johnson, and goalie Alex Fons put on our colors for the final time.

Those doors close, and more doors open. Both the "warm bodies" door -- UMD has four recruits lined up for 2015 -- and the "leadership" door.

The 2015-16 recruiting class includes forward Adam Johnson of Hibbing, near the top of the USHL in scoring this season, and defenseman Neal Pionk of Hermantown, who leads the USHL in scoring by defensemen. Also, the staff has added Spruce Grove forward Parker MacKay, who should sign this spring. Nick Deery will come in from the MJHL as the third goalie starting next year.

(MacKay and the Saints are in the AJHL North Division finals at the moment, tied 1-1 in a best-of-seven series against Bonnyville. MacKay has eight goals in eight playoff games so far.)

That will fill the physical void.

How about leadership?

Great teams need strong leaders. Oftentimes, leaders emerge who aren't wearing a letter on their jersey. But UMD is losing two strong captains and a third guy in Johnson who -- in his last two years -- went from "barely able to get in the lineup" to being relied on for big minutes in big spots.

If Andy Welinski returns, the Bulldogs have a good candidate to be captain.

(More on this in a bit.)

But others will be needed. Will some seniors step up, like Cal Decowski (ahem, CAL DECOWSKI!!!11!1!), Tony Cameranesi, Austin Farley, etc.? Will we see leadership from juniors like Dominic Toninato, Kyle Osterberg, or maybe Carson Soucy?

Too early to tell.

But it will come from somewhere. If it's effective and strong leadership, UMD will be a contender again in 2015-16.


Kaskisuo was fantastic in the NCAA Tournament, to the point I voted him Most Outstanding Player for the Northeast Regional (votes were due before BU got the late power play). He played well in both games, and this summer will be a key to his success going forward. I think he has a chance to be one of the best goalies in the NCHC, if not Division I, next season if he has a good offseason.

His presence allows Hunter Miska to play one more year in the BCHL with Penticton. Senior Matt McNeely will back up Kaskisuo. His work ethic, even in not playing much this season, caught the eye of many around the program. McNeely is a highly-respected part of this team, and for good reason. His play against Minnesota at the North Star College Cup wasn't an accident, and if something had happened to Kas, he would have been ready to go when called on.


Now, for potential flight risks.

Welinski is the big one. The Ducks draft pick has multiple options, beyond "return for his senior season" and "sign with Anaheim." Because he was drafted in 2011, he could become a free agent if he waits out 30 days after leaving school and turning pro.

I have no indication what the mobile defenseman will do at this point.

Our other drafted players were sophomores Soucy and Toninato and junior Cameranesi. Soucy (Wild) will almost certainly be back. I'd be surprised if Toronto signed either Cameranesi or Toninato, though Cameranesi could be tempting given the organization's need for a reset and the strong year he had. His lack of size could be a hindrance, though he has plenty of speed and skill, and he showed a lot of toughness shaking off that big hit he took in the second period Saturday and not missing a shift.

Of the undrafted players, forward Alex Iafallo bears the most watching, I believe. I wouldn't rule out interest from the pro ranks, but will it be the right fit and make him decide he wants to leave?

Last year, we went into the offseason fairly certain Caleb Herbert would turn pro, and he signed within a week. The year before, we were surprised to see Chris Casto make the jump, but that also happened pretty quick after the season ended.

Reality: We should know within a month what departures we're dealing with for 2015-16, if any.


Finally, a word of thanks. First, the UMD staff -- Scott Sandelin, Jason Herter, Derek Plante, Christian Koelling, Chris Garner, DR. Suz Hoppe, Hogie, Bill Watson, Brant Nicklin, Blake Palmer, Josh Berlo, Bob Nygaard, Brian Nystrom, Jay Finnerty, Morgan "Li'l Nyggs" Nygaard, Jeff Stark, and everyone at Amsoil Arena and within the athletic department who help make this job easier.

It's cliche, but this job isn't worth doing if it ever stops being fun. I enjoy every day I get to spend around the UMD staff and players. I told Josh Berlo Saturday that this was the best group I've worked with in my ten years calling games, and I meant it. These kids were a treat to deal with, and they were a hoot to be around at the rink, on the bus, and at the airport.

Thanks to Matt Wellens for assimilating himself as best as possible, and for the transportation help in Manchester.

Most importantly, thanks to my wife and son for continuing to sacrifice and allow me to do this. Couldn't ever manage doing it without their support.

And thanks to all of you. I don't spend much time on blog metrics, and I'd probably keep writing this even if no one was reading it regularly. But I know a lot of you do, and I appreciate it. We're doing some different stuff at the radio ranch, and that's affected my ability to give you the kinds of updates I used to. Thanks for the patience, and for your loyalty. It isn't unnoticed.

Hopefully we can reconvene the band in October and take this thing to the beaches of Tampa next April for the 2016 Frozen Four.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Game 40: UMD vs Boston University (NCAA Northeast Regional Final)

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- High-end skill vs depth.

Experienced goaltending vs freshman.

What's the storyline for this regional championship? We're about to find out.

I believe this game comes down to UMD's ability to neutralize the top line of the top seed Terriers, centered by Hobey Baker favorite Jack Eichel. Teams have been able to play with Eichel, Evan Rodriguez, and Danny O'Regan (65 combined goals, 173 combined points) for spurts of games, but not for 60 minutes.

Can UMD's depth play a role in the game? Scott Sandelin wasn't averse to using all four forward lines in the regional semifinals against Minnesota. He won't be in the regional final, either, especially if Cal Decowski, Austyn Young, and Charlie Sampair can give the kind of quality shifts they gave Friday. Can Sandelin indirectly affect BU's choices for line matchups by consistently rolling three or four lines when BU wants to use its top line more?

We'll find out. To paraphrase Sandelin after Friday's win, if you can't get excited this time of year, something's wrong with you.



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

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Fons

Rodrigues - Eichel - O'Regan
Baillargeon - Hohmann - Oksanen
Greer - Lane - Roberto
Phelps - Moran - Piccinich

Grzelcyk - MacLeod
Hickey - Fortunato
Somerby - Diffley

O'Connor - LaCouvee - Moccia

Friday, March 27, 2015

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Bulldogs Trample Gophers, Advance to Northeast Regional Final

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Sometimes, you survive and advance.

Friday at Verizon Wireless Arena, it was more like "thrive and advance" for the UMD Bulldogs.

After a sleepy start, UMD put up three goals in a 5:59 span of the first period en route to a 4-1 win over Minnesota in the NCAA Northeast Regional semifinals. The win puts the Bulldogs in Saturday's regional final against No. 1 seed Boston University.

"I thought we started a little slow," head coach Scott Sandelin said. "Kas (freshman goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo) made a couple saves early on, then we found our legs. From that point on, we played a pretty good game."

I'd say.

For the first six or seven minutes, the Bulldogs looked every bit a team coming off a bye. The Gophers took it to UMD, getting the early lead in shots and generating a couple scoring chances, though UMD did a good job sticking with its structure and avoiding big defensive zone breakdowns.

The Bulldogs' third line, centered by Jared Thomas with wings Justin Crandall and Kyle Osterberg, put together a strong shift in the UMN zone, getting UMD its first real scoring chances about eight minutes into the first. It wasn't the turning point, but it started to get the Bulldogs going and get them into the game.

Then Willie Raskob set up Tony Cameranesi for a back-door tap-in to get UMD on the board. From there, it was all Bulldogs until the outcome was decided.

"It's really important against any team," Sandelin said, "but certainly our success against Minnesota in the four wins, we scored the first goal."

Less than three minutes later, Brenden Kotyk set up a Justin Crandall tip that made it 2-0. Then Raskob added one -- that went in off Minnesota junior Mike Reilly -- before the first period ended, and at 3-0, there were actual Gopher fans on social media declaring the end of the game.

Sandelin noted that he implored his guys to do a better job getting to the net, and clearly players took heed.

"We talked pretty much the last two weeks that we need to do a better job of getting to the net, getting pucks to the net," he said. "I thought we did a better job of that and we were rewarded with some goals."

The second period was all UMD on Friday. The Gophers barely had the puck long enough to turn it over. UMD created chances, cycled pucks, intercepted clearing attempts, and had huge gobs of offensive zone time. Each line, it seemed, took a turn doing something of note in the offensive zone.

Minnesota just didn't have anything.

"Maybe it just seemed like we were a bit emotionally flat at times," Gophers coach Don Lucia said.

More than anything, I think this is what surprised me the most. Yeah, Minnesota pushed back in the third period a bit. AJ Michaelson had a nice scoring chance, Hudson Fasching got loose down low a couple times, and Seth Ambroz got a late goal to spoil Kaskisuo's shutout bid (so much for Kaskisuo being overcome by nerves in his NCAA Tournament debut; he said afterward it was just a "normal game" for him). And I've never really thought of the Gophers as a chippy, dirty team that takes cheap shots when it's behind late. 

That said, there just seemed to be a lack of emotion. They weren't engaging UMD physically, instead just standing around and letting the Bulldogs do whatever they wanted.

A reporter asked the Gopher players who were made available at the press conference if they thought the small crowd played a role. For his part, sophomore Vinny Lettieri wasn't having anything to do with it.

"There were more fans here than when we came out in Detroit (at the Big Ten Championship last weekend)," he said.

I've said that I think small crowds at regionals tend to randomize results in some cases.

But in this case, there was nothing random. For the better part of 40 minutes, this was a nationally televised whipping administered by a UMD team that has spent the entire season showing it has Minnesota's number. Over the last seven meetings dating to last season, UMD is 5-1-1 against the Gophers with four straight wins. Considering Minnesota hasn't been some middling outfit the last two seasons, that's a really impressive number.


This sets up what should be a great regional final Saturday between UMD and Boston University. The Terriers got a Danny O'Regan overtime goal to edge past No. 4 seed Yale 3-2 in the first game Friday. Hobey favorite Jack Eichel set up the winner with a blast from right point that came off the pad of Yale goalie Alex Lyon and went right to O'Regan for the winner.

O'Regan, Eichel, and Evan Rodrigues have combined for 65 goals and 173 points this season. Eichel has 67 points on 24 goals and 43 assists. Oh, and he's a draft-eligible freshman.

(BU dressed eight freshman skaters on Friday. Neither team is blessed with much NCAA Tournament experience.)

BU coach David Quinn -- an alum in his second season after taking over for retired legend Jack Parker -- made it clear Thursday that his team is not a one-line team. Second-line center Cason Hohmann has 28 points, and right wing Ahti Oksanen has 24 goals after getting one Friday.

But UMD got goals from its second and third lines, plenty of pressure from its top line, and fourth-line wings Austyn Young and Charlie "Chuck" Sampair had five shots between them against Minnesota. It's a one-game snapshot, but BU's third and fourth lines combined for six shots against Yale, two for Nick Roberto and three for Robbie Baillargeon.

I think that will be a huge part of Saturday's game. Definitely bears watching. Will UMD's depth make the difference? Or is Boston University's high-end top line going to be too much for UMD to handle?

Also, with somewhat limited time to study up, how will Quinn handle matchups. He's the home team coach, so he has last change. I'd guess he tries Eichel's line against Dominic Toninato's line at first. Neither team is good on draws, but Cameranesi has become very good as of late, and Toninato really struggled in the circle (3-16) against the Gophers.

I don't think Sandelin minds this matchup. Toninato, Alex Iafallo, and Adam Krause have the ability to play physical and possess the puck. Just like Minnesota, I think that'll be a huge part of this regional final. UMD wants to play a possession game, make opponents play defense and play a 200-foot game to generate any kind of possession on their own. The best defense is puck possession. Eichel and friends can't score if they're defending in their own zone.

Sounds simple. It won't be.

But equally important to the Eichel line matchup is how the other lines play against BU's other lines. If UMD can show an advantage in depth, and whoever plays against the Eichel group can find a way to slow those guys down, the Bulldogs will work from a position of strength.


Good Friday for the NCHC, not so good for everyone else.

In Fargo, St. Cloud State -- should I do the ESPN thing and call them "St. Cloud (Minn.) State"? -- and North Dakota pushed the NCHC to a 3-0 start to this NCAA Tournament, and also guaranteed the second-year league at least one Frozen Four team.

St. Cloud got an overtime goal from Duluth's Judd Peterson to beat Michigan Tech 3-2. The Huskies couldn't hold a late lead, as Jonny Brodzinski tied the score with 37 seconds left in regulation. Peterson's goal was set up by Joe Rehkamp after Tech defenseman Riley Sweeney fell down at the blue line, creating an odd-man rush.

West Regional host North Dakota polished off Quinnipiac 4-1 to finish the day in Fargo. Drake Caggiula scored and had an assist, while Zane McIntyre made 29 saves for UND to set up a rematch against a Huskies team that won over North Dakota at last week's NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

After his team's win, birthday boy Bob Motzko said his SCSU team would either get a road game or a neutral-site game on Saturday.

It'll be a road game, not that I have to tell you.

Also Saturday, the Midwest and Northeast Regionals open up. In the Midwest Regional at South Bend, No. 1 Minnesota State plays RIT, while Omaha battles Harvard. Providence houses the East Regional, which has top seed Miami playing Providence while Denver takes on Boston College. Those regional finals are Sunday evening to finish filling out the Frozen Four field.

Coverage of UMD-BU can be heard on 92.1 The Fan and the Red Rock Radio Bulldog Sports Network starting at 4pm (Central). The game will be televised on ESPN2 and available on the WatchESPN app (sign in with your TV provider, and you'll have access to the stream as long as you get ESPN2 at home, which I think is available on even the most basic cable/satellite packages).

Game 39: UMD vs Minnesota (NCAA Northeast Regional)

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Off and running with the NCAA Tournament. For UMD, it's the ninth trip to the national tourney, and the second time it will face archrival Minnesota in the NCAAs.

The other was 11 years ago, so while it went our way, it means nothing.

Hell, I'm not convinced that the games played earlier in the season mean much of anything. Wipe the slate clean, guys. Let's roll.



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

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Fons

Bristedt - Rau - Fasching
Warning - Boyd - Ambroz
Cammarata - Kloos - Lettieri
Michaelson - Isackson - Glover

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

Wilcox - Lehr

Thursday, March 26, 2015

UMD-Minnesota Rivalry Makes More History

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- For Minnesota and UMD, playing head-to-head is old hat. They've done it a few times in the past, and surely are not done scheduling each other non-conference.

But this is crazy.

When the Gophers and Bulldogs parted ways from the WCHA after the 2012-13 season, fans were left wondering if they would ever lock horns as much as they had in the past.

After Friday's NCAA Northeast Regional semifinal here, the teams will have met five times this season and eight since becoming non-conference adversaries two years ago.

To put that in perspective, the teams met twice in each of the last two years of their WCHA affiliation. They hadn't met four times in a regular season since UMD's national championship season of 2010-11.


(Scratch that. I'm bad with omens. I thought hearing "Holiday Road" at the hotel in Denver before the Friday playoff game was a good omen. Forget I brought the subject up.)

"You grow up playing against some of these guys," Minnesota senior captain Kyle Rau said. "It's fun playing them in college."

Senior Travis Boyd ranks the rivalry "right up there" with Wisconsin and North Dakota. "I guess this one's got a bit more of a rivalry because more Minnesota kids are playing for Duluth."

Head coach Don Lucia doesn't disagree with his players.

"It's a respectful rivalry. I like their coaches. I like their players. UMD does have a lot of Minnesota kids, more than St. Cloud, or Mankato, or Bemidji does."

They're ready to make some more history on Friday afternoon (4:30pm Central time).

UMD and Minnesota have met 227 times previously. Only one of those meetings has come in the NCAA Tournament (2004, won by UMD 3-1). Furthermore, the teams have only had nine meetings where one team could end the other's season. The first of those came in the 1970 WCHA playoffs, where Minnesota dispatched UMD 3-2 in three overtimes before losing to Michigan Tech the next night to end the season.

The Gophers also ended UMD's season in 1975, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1988, and 1995, all in the WCHA playoffs. Since then, UMD has turned the tables, winning an epic 1998 WCHA playoff series in three games to finish the Gophers' season, then taking down Minnesota in that 2004 NCAA Tournament game, as well as the 2009 WCHA Final Five play-in game.

(Who can forget that 1998 game? I wrote about it the week the DECC closed. Can't say I've watched the DVD since that week, but 17 years later, I still get goosebumps. I miss the old goal siren at the DECC.)

Friday, someone's season will again be over at the hands of the other.

Oh, and I believe their home-and-home next season is in October. So that'll be fun -- ooh, the revenge angle. Can't wait.

Why have three of the four meetings been decided by one goal? It's not just because of the familiarity, though it doesn't hurt.

It's because the teams are very similar in their styles. Both like to get up and down the rink, play a pace game. They are blessed with the kind of skaters who can help accomplish that. And there are players on both teams that seem to really flourish against this particular opponent.

(On the UMD side, I'd count in honorary Minnesotan Austin Farley among those.)

But let's level here. The matchup is so closely contested that it will probably come down to goaltending and special teams.

UMD coach Scott Sandelin admitted Thursday the Gophers have a better power play, joking he wants to keep that "on the bench."

Lucia is confident in his goalie, junior Adam Wilcox, but he knows it's the biggest thing this time of year, and it's a lot of pressure to put on a player, no matter how good he is.

"It's very difficult to win this time of year without really good goaltending," he said. "Because you're playing such good teams. You're going to have some breakdowns. The teams that go on in these short tournaments, you have to have outstanding goaltending play. You can't let in leakers this time of year. That one goal's a difference maker."

Sandelin is fully confident in his freshman, Kasimir Kaskisuo.

"I think he's been pretty consistent. He's older, and he's got a pretty good demeanor about him. He's pretty focused on what he needs to do. Our guys have a lot of confidence in him."

These teams know each other entirely too well for this matchup to come down to anything else. No surprises are left in the bag. It's about execution now.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Familiar Foe Awaits UMD at NCAA Tournament

Well, didn't see that coming.

Going into the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday, most, I think, thought UMD would be matched up with Boston College in Manchester, N.H., to open the NCAA Tournament on Friday. I believe I even saw a speculative tweet that UMD would play Harvard if the selection committee danced a couple teams around to avoid conference matchups and try to boost attendance at regional sites.

We got the venue right, and the team horribly wrong.

Instead of playing No. 11 Boston College, as it would have in a true 16-team bracket, UMD matches up with No. 10 Minnesota Friday. It will be the fifth time the longtime rivals have played this season, and this will be the fifth different arena they've played in.

(Ice Breaker at South Bend, Ind, Mariucci Arena, Amsoil Arena, XCel Energy Center, and now Verizon Wireless Arena, in case you didn't believe me.)

At Amsoil Arena Sunday, the UMD players watched the show on ESPNU. It was obvious when the matchup was revealed on TV, because a loud cheer came from the players' lounge.

I'm sure there are some out there who don't like the teams meeting for a fifth time (UMD is 3-1 this season against Minnesota, making a bit of a dent in a huge Minnesota lead in the all-time series), but you aren't going to hear the players complaining. At least not UMD's.

"I think we're all pretty excited for this opportunity," senior forward Justin Crandall of Lakeville, one of 18 rostered UMD players from Minnesota. "I think there's a lot of hatred there, and obviously we respect them as a program. I'm really excited for the challenge."

Senior captain Adam Krause of Hermantown said he was checking Twitter on Saturday night, trying to keep up with everything going on. He laughed when I said everyone was wrong on Saturday.

"It'll be fun, emotional, a good matchup," Krause said.

The four meetings between UMD and Minnesota have been played at a tremendous pace, as you'd expect with two teams that love to get up and down the rink. But a 4-3 Gopher win Oct. 10 at the Ice Breaker was the outlier. Not just because the Gophers won, but because only three goals were scored in each of the other meetings (A 3-0 UMD win at Minnesota, followed by a pair of 2-1 UMD wins).

Adam Wilcox was great in virtually every game for Minnesota, while Kasimir Kaskisuo shut the Gophers down in that home-and-home sweep back in November, and Matt McNeely turned in one of his best performances as a Bulldog at the North Star College Cup against Minnesota.

"They get up and down the rink, got a lot of skill," head coach Scott Sandelin said. "We play the same way. The big difference anytime you play them is staying out of the box, because their power play is really good."

Of course, if the goalies are as good Friday as they were in November and January, it'll come down to things like special teams or puck management, just like it has between these two teams already.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: UMD Still in Limbo as Final Night Nears

Greetings from the mansion. I won't keep you too long, because Matt Wellens has already done a pretty good job laying out what we know regarding UMD's NCAA seeding.

It isn't much.

With the logjam of NCHC teams -- six -- making the NCAA Tournament, the art of "Bracketology" becomes more difficult this year than in the past. Will the committee break up the NCHC teams that are on the same 2/3 seed line, or will it let those teams play each other, which it's allowed to do?

Will it move teams for the sake of attendance?

(We know Fargo isn't an attendance issue. I'm told South Bend tickets were generally sold to Notre Dame season ticket holders, so even if that means there won't be many butts in the seats there's no need to get Miami and/or Michigan there to sell more seats. But Manchester -- hosted by New Hampshire, which won't make the tournament -- is a problem, and Providence -- hosted by Brown University and not Providence, which might make the tournament -- will likely be an attendance problem if Providence isn't in that regional. So attendance concerns are strictly out east for this bracket, meaning it wouldn't be smart to move qualifying eastern teams to the west half of the bracket.)

I ran a few scenarios Friday night and a few more here now.

I've been open about my desire to have UMD head to Fargo. It's unlikely, but as we enter the final games of the season, it's entirely possible.

Here's one way it happens.

Atlantic Hockey Championship: Mercyhurst def. RIT
Big Ten Championship: Minnesota def. Michigan
ECAC Championship: Colgate def. Harvard
Hockey East Championship: Boston University def. Mass.-Lowell
NCHC Championship: Miami def. St. Cloud State
NCHC Consolation: Denver def. North Dakota
WCHA Championship: Michigan Tech def. Minnesota State

If that happens, the Fargo bracket has No. 1 North Dakota and No. 2 UMD. And then it gets interesting. The NCHC would have five teams -- Miami, Denver, UMD, UNO, and St. Cloud -- ranked between fifth and tenth. In this instance, at least one NCHC matchup is virtually unavoidable, so you might as well keep UMD and SCSU paired together. Miami would play No. 12 Boston College, Denver gets No. 11 Colgate, and UNO is paired with No. 9 Minnesota.

This scenario sends Minnesota State -- in all likelihood -- to South Bend, Boston University to Manchester, and Michigan Tech to Providence as the other No. 1 seeds.

Here is another way to get UMD in Fargo.

So Michigan Tech can lose to Minnesota State and still stay ahead of UMD.

Want UMD to play the Gophers in Fargo in the first round? I saw a way to make that happen on Friday, but haven't been able to duplicate it now.

If you want UMD as a No. 1 regional seed, there's probably north of a 25 percent chance that happens. There are a bunch of ways UMD can end up moving into the top four. The most common of them involve St. Cloud State beating Miami for the NCHC title, while UMass-Lowell knocks off Boston University in Hockey East.

If that happens, it's most likely UMD heads to Providence. There are also scenarios where UMD is No. 2 in a regional and likely heading to Providence. I'd say Rhode Island is the most likely destination for the Bulldogs. As for the most likely first-round opponent, I've probably seen Boston College banded with UMD more often than any in the myriad of scenarios I've run.

Other potential opponents include Colgate, Harvard, Minnesota, and the possibility of an NCHC foe continues to exist.

If Harvard beats Colgate for the ECAC title, the odds increase that the committee will be able to break up the NCHC teams a bit without messing with the bracket. Otherwise, expect some controversy, because it becomes more likely the NCHC will have two teams meeting in the opening round.

Also, the need -- if it's actually a need -- to get Providence into the East Regional in Providence might cause the committee to move away from a true serpentine bracket setup (i.e. 1v16, 2v15, 3v14, etc.) that we're used to seeing.

Depending on Saturday night results, we could have a little more intrigue than usual for the actual bracket announcement.

More Sunday after the 11am selection show on ESPNU.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Wait For Selection Sunday

DENVER -- For UMD, a frustrating Saturday defeat starts up the waiting game.

UMD fell 4-0 to Denver Saturday. A strong start -- the Bulldogs had the game's first seven shots on goal and also hit a post in the early going -- went for naught when DU's Trevor Moore scored with 22 seconds left in the first period. Danton Heinen made the highlight reel in the second, then Matt Tabrum added one off sloppy defensive zone play by UMD. The Pioneers added an empty-netter from Joey LaLeggia late to get us to the final margin.

Like Friday, there were more than a few bounces that didn't go UMD's way. But I thought Denver was the better team for more of Saturday's game than was the case Friday. By late in the Saturday rematch, the Bulldogs looked much more fatigued than they did at any point Friday.

That's become the reality. UMD has played 22 games over 11 weekends, and it's come with some tough travel -- two trips to Denver, plane trips to Western Michigan and Miami that included plenty of bus time as well, along with January bus trips to Thunder Bay and Grand Forks -- and a thinning roster hit by illness and injuries.

I wrote about this in December, and again in January. UMD needed to stay healthy because of the thinned-out roster. Before the January part of the schedule started, UMD lost Sammy Spurrell (medical redshirt after back surgery) and Brett Boehm (left team mid-season). Coming out of break, Dan Molenaar fell ill with mono, and eventually Alex Iafallo got that, too. Throw in Dominic Toninato's injury and one to freshman Blake Young, and it's been since Feb. 5, the night Toninato went down, since UMD has been able to field its preferred lineup. That's 11 games where UMD has gone 4-5-2, and amazingly still holds a strong position in the PairWise (more on that in a moment).

And trust me, not everyone in that lineup is 100 percent. Many players aren't at this point around college hockey. There are almost always guys playing with injuries of some sort. In a lot of cases, players who can manage the pain and aren't going to make whatever is wrong worse will do everything they can to get in the lineup. The spread of illness is almost inevitable as the winter months move along, too.

Do the Bulldogs need to play better to make a run? Yes. Starts with the power play, which is scoreless in three straight games and five of six after a very good weekend against Miami. Spills into five-on-five play, where UMD has been much leakier than earlier in the season.

(Iafallo has missed six games with mono. Over those six games, UMD has been outshot by an average of around three per game. It's a departure of nine shots per game from before Iafallo went down. In those 32 games, UMD outshot opponents by six per game. It's not all about getting Iafallo back, but he's a key to this team's puck possession, power play, offensive dynamic, and also to its defensive play.)

But UMD's health should improve with this week off. I have to think Iafallo will be dying to return for regionals, and it gives guys a few extra days to heal minor bumps and bruises. The week off guarantees nothing, because we've all seen teams come off a bye rusty in the past. It'll be a challenge for UMD to avoid that. But it's hard to imagine this not helping in the long run.


Now it's time to hurry up and wait. UMD will be off this week before learning its NCAA Tournament fate Sunday morning. Of course, we'll know before the actual selection show on ESPN, but it won't be official until then.

We're certain UMD will make the tournament. As of this writing, the Bulldogs are sixth in the PairWise, which mimics the selection process and has yet to be wrong about which teams get in. With Denver third, I would imagine the committee sends UMD to whatever regional the Pioneers are in.

North Dakota is No. 1 and has to play in Fargo. I'd imagine Boston University is sent to the Manchester bracket if it's at all possible to help attendance there, especially if Providence makes the tournament and can be sent to Providence (Brown is actually the host there, so Providence doesn't have to go to that regional).

The committee doesn't have to drive attendance to Fargo. It's sold out and has been for like 14 years. It's the other three regionals that face "empty arena" prospects, especially South Bend now that Notre Dame is officially out (lost Game 3 to Lowell Sunday and couldn't make the tourney as an at-large even if it was ranked high enough, thanks to a losing record overall).

I'm not a PairWise or NCAA committee expert, but if I had to guess, UMD would be placed in the Providence regional, which would look like this:

3 Denver vs 14 Providence
6 UMD vs 11 St. Cloud State

Whoa, tiger, SCSU and UMD are in the same conference. Well, let's look at the Manchester regional, as it stands right now:

4 Boston University vs 13 Minnesota
5 Michigan Tech vs 12 Bowling Green

Well, Tech and Bowling Green are also in the same conference. Easy swap of Bowling Green and St. Cloud State, and you have two straight-forward brackets.

3 Denver vs 14 Providence
6 UMD vs 12 Bowling Green

4 Boston University vs 13 Minnesota
5 Michigan Tech vs 11 St. Cloud State

The rest of the field, I think:

1 North Dakota vs 16 AHA champ (Robert Morris is the No. 1 seed)
8 Omaha vs 9 Boston College

2 Minnesota State vs 15 Harvard
7 Miami vs 10 Quinnipiac

That's right now. It'll change by Saturday night. And you can see the possibilities for yourself. USCHO and College Hockey News both run programs this time of year where you can plug in winners of conference tournament games to see how it affects the PairWise.

I don't have a dog in the competition between these two sites for your clicks/eyeballs, but I do like USCHO's new wrinkle, which is a table that shows where each team is landing based on the unique scenarios already run by users. As of this early Monday morning writing, this table is showing UMD as high as third and no lower than seventh in the final standings. Anything fourth or higher is a No. 1 regional seed.

I know there are some hardcore UMD fans out there reading this blog. I thank you, and now I have a challenge for you. If you are inclined to run different scenarios, I'm looking for a couple specific results, just to see if they're possible.

I'd like to know if UMD can possible be placed in North Dakota's regional. That would require UND be No. 1 and UMD either No. 8 or No. 9, or UMD can be No. 7 in the final rankings if North Dakota falls to second.

Also, I'm curious if it's possible to get three NCHC teams in the top four of the final PairWise.

If you run a scenario that makes any of the above happen, copy the URL of your PWR standings page once you've run the scenario (both sites give you a unique URL that shows the scenario you concocted), and either post it in the comments, email it to me, or send me a tweet @bruceciskie.

I doubt you'll hear from me much before Sunday, barring UMD-related news that I'm not expecting.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Game 38: UMD at Denver (NCHC Playoffs Game 2)

DENVER -- For the third straight year, UMD goes into the second game of a league playoff series facing elimination. This one is a bit different than the last two, however.

UMD knew its season would be over with one more loss in both 2013 and 2014. No such issue exists in 2015. The Bulldogs are still fourth in the PairWise and a near-mortal lock to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. That's regardless of the result of this game.

Since beating Minnesota State 6-2 on March 13, 2004, at the DECC, UMD is 0-4 in Saturday playoff games after losing Friday. In that 2004 series, the Bulldogs forced a Game 3, then beat the Mavericks to move on to the WCHA Final Five.

Time to see if the proverbial ball bounces in UMD's favor a little more than it did in Game 1. I'll reiterate what I said on the earlier blog: If the Bulldogs' effort level matches Game 1, UMD wins Game 2.

Senior captain Adam Krause returns after missing Friday due to suspension. Meanwhile, senior Justin Crandall will play after sustaining what appeared -- to anyone with functioning eyes, at least -- to be a lower-body injury during Friday's game.



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

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Moore - Doremus - Heinen
Janssen - Shore - Loney
Larazza - Levin - Romig
Jacobson - Tabrum - Arnold

LaLeggia - Zajac
Plant - Didier
Butcher - Neville

Cowley - Jaillet

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Controversial Winning Goal Sends UMD to Brink of NCHC Tourney Elimination

DENVER -- Well, that sure was interesting.

In a game slowed by two long video reviews, Denver's third goal of the third period -- and third of the game for Ty Loney -- stood as the difference in a 4-3 win over UMD Friday night. Denver takes a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three into Saturday's Game 2.

There was no shortage of controversy. A long video review led to a Denver short-handed goal being disallowed in the second period. I believe it was because Danton Heinen made contact with UMD goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo, though it was never made clear over the PA system.

(Closed circuit to the NCHC: I know I've whined about this before, but if we're not going to mic the officials and make them explain this stuff themselves, and if we're not going to put a shock collar on PA guys to make them relay the info, can we at least get a statement from the league on any video review, ala the NHL Situation Room? Not asking much, just "play was reviewed because of X, goal either stands or doesn't stand, and why that ruling was reached.

I'm pretty sure I am not the only radio guy in the sport who has struggled to get this information in real time because we have jobs to do and can't necessarily drop everything to listen to a PA announcement, assuming there is one. Seems like an easy thing to do that wouldn't require the NCAA be on board. I've put this to the league's attention and probably will again.)

Then after Denver had tied and re-tied the game, the Pioneers scored to go ahead with less than five to play. Loney's goal stood after a lengthy review.

(UMD fan @CampBenCh on Twitter puts together awesome animations of these plays. Give him a follow. Best part is you can pause and rewind them.)

It's a high stick. I'd almost bet my plane ticket home, that's how confident I am. But it is what it is. I'll go back to what I said on the air during the video review, high sticks are very tough to call, both live action and on replay. When reviewing, you almost always need multiple angles, and if it isn't a clean look -- and this is not a clean look, at least not with the angles Ben was able to get on the video he posted -- it's going to be tough for the referees to overturn the existing call. Makes it even tougher when the offensive player is motioning downward with his stick as he makes contact.

(More telling to me than the high stick were the immediate reactions of the players in the area, especially Loney, who reacted as if he was certain he had just done something to keep that goal from counting. You'd think someone would be a little more joyous after completing a hat trick in a playoff game to give his team the lead. But maybe I'm thinking too much. It happens.)

If you're going to rag on the officials, who get enough crap from the coaches (Denver's Jim Montgomery got so angry at one point that his face turned almost redder than a tomato, and Scott Sandelin was quite irate at the end of the game) and don't need our input, that's fine. But I'd rather you pointed your frustrations toward the fact that this hit from behind didn't lead to an ejection, and this hit wasn't called at all.

(The first hit, by DU's Josiah Didier on UMD's Justin Crandall, was a straight five-minute major for boarding, and not a check from behind, which would have been an automatic game misconduct. Looks like a textbook check from behind. Remember, even if you think Crandall turned, the rule clearly states that in a play like this along the boards, the onus is on the checking player to deliver a clean hit [Taken from Rule 50.1: "The committee reminds coaches and players that the responsibility remains with the player approaching an opponent along the boards in this rule. While players turning to draw penalties are a concern, the positive change in behavior the committee observed outweighs this issue. Any penalty in relation to this rule along the boards or into the goal cage must be a major penalty and a game misconduct or disqualification."]. The second hit, by Denver forward Larkin Jacobson on Andy Welinski, was where Sandelin went off in frustration. It might have been more of a combination of things than a reaction to this single hit, but clearly he wasn't happy with the men in stripes.)

In the end, the officials cost UMD nothing. Players still have to play, and DU was able to make a couple big plays in the third period. For the fifth time this season, these two entertained everyone in attendance. I expect that number to grow to six and maybe seven  before the weekend is out.


To be perfectly honest, I thought Denver had the puck too much in the third period. UMD started to run around a little bit in the defensive zone, and that usually leads to trouble for any team. Denver made a couple big plays and took advantage of its offensive zone time. The Pioneers then defended pretty darn well when UMD had Kasimir Kaskisuo pulled for an extra attacker.

That said, UMD did a great job forechecking, especially in the first half of the game. DU couldn't get a whole lot going, and it started in its own zone, where UMD was all over the puck. The Bulldogs did a great job pressuring in the right places, the right situations, and on the right people. It disrupted Denver's ability to make plays up the rink. When facing a team like the Pioneers that is so good off the rush and so good in transition, the ability to slow them down before they get started is critical.

It's little things when you're in a tight matchup like this one. UMD put forth a very good effort on Friday, one of its best efforts of the season when you consider the absences the Bulldogs are dealing with. If you just crawled out from under a rock, Adam Krause was suspended for this game because of his kneeing major last weekend against Western Michigan. Oh, and Alex Iafallo has mono. They're both here, and Iafallo has been skating, but I don't foresee him playing. With Blake Young left home injured, UMD had ten actual forwards dressed Friday, with defensemen Dan Molenaar and Nick McCormack playing on the third and fourth lines, respectively.

Even that wasn't a permanent condition. Austyn Young played some right wing with Jared Thomas and Cal Decowski, with the two masquerading defensemen and Charlie Sampair all used a little more sparingly than normal fourth-liners might be.

Getting Krause back will help UMD's wall play a little bit. The Bulldogs are usually pretty strong on the boards, but I thought they lost a few more puck battles than usual. Makes sense considering Krause is probably their best player on the wall and he was in a suit. Hopefully Crandall's injury isn't too serious, because that would be a blow to UMD's grit, as well as the penalty kill. He was able to finish the game, but without knowing the nature of his injury, it's impossible to say if he can continue in the series or not. We'll have to wait and see.

If Crandall and Krause both play Saturday, one of the defensemen will come out, and UMD will have three full forward lines and a fourth line that features a blue-liner but can at least be used occasionally. I did think DU was a little fresher in the third, but the gap wasn't as significant as I expected, considering the Pioneers used their fourth line more often and we were playing at altitude (a bit of an overrated factor in some ways, but still a factor for sure).

I expect UMD will force a Game 3 if it can give the kind of effort it did on Friday. There will be adjustments by both teams, but everything the coaches will want to do starts with a strong effort. Without that, they've got nothing. And it's not fair to just blame the bounces. Those matter, but I firmly believe UMD will be just fine if it can duplicate its Friday effort.


Only one road team won in the NCHC Friday, and it took double overtime for it to happen. St. Cloud State's David Morley scored his second of the game in the second OT as the Huskies won at Omaha 2-1. Morley opened the scoring in the first period before UNO's Austin Ortega scored short-handed to draw the Mavericks even in the second.

Miami trailed Western Michigan 3-2 in the third before getting the final three goals in a 5-3 victory. Blake Coleman tallied twice, including the game-winner, and had two assists for Miami. Riley Barber had two apples, while Sheldon Dries led Western with a goal and an assist. Miami is now 4-0-1 against Western Michigan this season.

In Grand Forks, the top seed North Dakota breezed by Colorado College 5-1. Senior defenseman Nick Mattson remains on a tear, with a goal and two assists on Friday.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Game 37: UMD at Denver (NCHC Playoffs Game 1)

DENVER -- A new journey begins now.

UMD is in Denver to open the NCHC playoffs against the Pioneers. Don't worry. The irony of the nation's third-ranked (PairWise) team being on the road and seeded fifth in its own league tournament is not lost.

It speaks volumes to the strength of the Bulldogs' schedule. And the No. 1-ranked schedule in the country is not taking a break this weekend. Denver is no slouch, eighth in the PairWise and fifth in schedule strength.

Let's get the proverbial party started.



Osterberg - Toninato - Crandall
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Decowski - Thomas - Molenaar
McCormack - Young (Austyn) - Sampair

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Moore - Doremus - Heinen
Janssen - Shore - Loney
Larazza - Levin - Romig
Jacobson - Tabrum - Arnold

LaLeggia - Zajac
Plant - Didier
Butcher - Neville

Jaillet - Cowley

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Andy Welinski, Kasimir Kaskisuo, Scott Sandelin Up For NCHC Awards

DENVER -- Greetings from Denver, where UMD is completing preparation for this weekend's NCHC playoff series against the host Pioneers.

The NCHC announced its all-league teams Wednesday, then finalists for its individual awards on Thursday. Here is the info on those awards, which feature three Bulldogs up for honors.
After revealing its all-conference teams on Wednesday, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) announced the finalists for its eight individual specialty awards on Thursday. The winners of the awards will be announced Thursday, March 19 at the NCHC Awards Celebration in Minneapolis on the eve of the second annual NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

The three finalists for NCHC Player of the Year are St. Cloud State junior forward Jonny Brodzinski, Denver senior defenseman Joey LaLeggia and North Dakota junior goaltender Zane McIntyre. Brodzinski compiled 23 points in 24 NCHC games, tying for the NCHC lead with 13 goals, including an NCHC-best seven power play markers and two game-winners. He was the co-NCHC Player of the Month in January. LaLeggia, a two-time NCHC Player of the Month, finished second in the NCHC scoring race with 29 points in 23 conference games on 12 goals and 17 assists, while posting a plus-9 rating in NCHC action. McIntyre, a four-time NCHC Goaltender of the Week, was one of just two goalies to play all 24 conference games, posting a NCHC-best 16-6-2 record (.708 win percentage), while ranking in the top three in conference play with both a .931 save percentage and a 2.15 goals-against average.

Up for the Herb Brooks Coach of the Year Award are Omaha’s Dean Blais, North Dakota’s Dave Hakstol and Minnesota Duluth’s Scott Sandelin. Blais led the Mavericks to a 12-8-4-3 mark in conference play and a second straight third-place finish, despite being picked sixth in the NCHC Preseason Poll and having one of the youngest teams in the country. Hakstol guided UND to the Penrose Cup and the NCHC regular-season title with a 16-6-2 record in the NCHC, winning the conference by six points. Under Sandelin, the Bulldogs went 12-9-3-0 in conference play to finish fifth, while reaching 20 wins overall and ranking in the top six nationally.

Finalists for NCHC Rookie of the Year include Miami defenseman Louie Belpedio, Denver forward Danton Heinen and St. Cloud State forward Patrick Russell, all three of which were named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team. Heinen, a four-time NCHC Rookie of the Week and February Rookie of the Month, led all NCHC rookies and tied for third overall with 26 points in 24 conference games, including nine goals and 17 assists. Belpedio, a two-time NCHC Rookie of the Week, led all rookie blue liners with 10 points and had a plus-7 rating in 24 NCHC games, while blocking 21 shots. Russell was second in rookie scoring behind Heinen with 20 points on 10 goals and assists each in 24 conference games. He earned NCHC Rookie of the Week three times on the year.

In addition to being up for Player of the Year, McIntyre is one of three finalists for the NCHC Goaltender of the Year, along with Omaha senior Ryan Massa and Minnesota Duluth freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo. McIntyre, a nominee for the Mike Richter Award and a First-Team All-NCHC selection, led the NCHC in win percentage (.708), wins (16) and saves (704) in conference play, while his .931 save percentage was second. Massa, also up for the Mike Richter Award, was a Second-Team All-Conference selection and started 20 conference games in net, going 9-7-4 with one shutout, while leading the NCHC with a .933 save percentage and ranking second with a 2.12 GAA. Kaskisuo was the only other NCHC goalie to start all 24 conference games (with McIntyre) as he went 12-9-3 with a 2.27 GAA and a .918 save percentage.

Like McIntyre, Brodzinski is also up for two awards as he is one of three finalists for the Forward of the Year, joining Miami senior Austin Czarnik and Denver sophomore Trevor Moore. Brodzinski was a First-Team All-NCHC selection with 13 goals and 10 assists in conference play as his 13 goals tied for the NCHC lead. He was also a two-time NCAA Star of the Week. Czarnik finished with an NCHC-best 22 assists in 24 NCHC games, while tallying four goals, including a hat trick, as he totaled 26 points en route to Second-Team All-Conference honors this year. Moore, a First-Team All-NCHC selection, captured the NCHC scoring title with 30 points in 23 conference games, while his 13 goals in conference play tied for the NCHC lead with Brodzinski and others. His plus-15 rating in NCHC play also led the conference.

LaLeggia is a finalist for three awards, including NCHC Defenseman of the Year, along with Miami junior Matthew Caito and Minnesota Duluth junior Andy Welinski. LaLeggia, a unanimous First-Team All-NCHC recipient, won NCHC Defenseman of the Week five times this season, including three straight weeks in February, while he blocked 24 shots and posted a plus-9 rating. Caito tallied three goals and had 13 assist for 16 points in 24 NCHC games, while his plus-10 rating was second among blue liners and his 45 blocked shots were sixth. Welinski, a Second-Team All-NCHC pick, racked up 12 points, including seven goals, while playing all 24 NCHC games and blocking 25 shots. LaLeggia won the inaugural award last season.

LaLeggia is also up for NCHC Offensive Defenseman of the Year, along with Omaha sophomore Ian Brady, North Dakota junior Jordan Schmaltz and Colorado College sophomore Jaccob Slavin. LaLeggia’s 29 points in conference play were 13 more than any other defenseman, while his 12 goals, all in conference play, rank second nationally among defensemen. Brady tied for second in NCHC defensemen scoring with 16 points on four goals and 12 assists in 23 NCHC games, while he was one of just two defensemen with a short-handed goal in NCHC play this year. Schmaltz was named Second-Team All-NCHC after compiling 13 points, including 11 assists, in 24 conference games and fired 52 shots on goal. Slavin posted 10 points in conference play, including four goals, three of which came on the power play as he earned First-Team All-NCHC honors. LaLeggia also won the inaugural award for Offensive Defenseman last season.

The final award is NCHC Defensive Forward of the Year with Czarnik up for a second NCHC specialty honor, while he is joined by Denver senior Daniel Doremus and North Dakota senior Mark MacMillan as finalists. Czarnik was a staple of Miami’s penalty kill, scoring two short-handed goals in conference play while blocking 17 shots. Doremus finished fifth in blocked shots among forwards with 22 while his plus-13 rating was second among forwards in NCHC action. MacMillan collected First-Team All-NCHC honors while he tied for third among forwards with a plus-11 rating and like Czarnik, tallied two short-handed goals and 17 blocked shots.

Finalists were determined based on voting by the conference’s head coaches and one student-athlete from each team with the top three vote-getters (plus ties) being finalists.


Herb Brooks Coach of the Year
Dean Blais, Omaha
Dave Hakstol, North Dakota
Scott Sandelin, Minnesota Duluth

Player of the Year
Jonny Brodzinski, St. Cloud State, Jr., F
Joey LaLeggia, Denver, Sr., D
Zane McIntyre, North Dakota, Jr., G

Rookie of the Year
Louie Belpedio, Miami, D
Danton Heinen, Denver, F
Patrick Russell, St. Cloud State, F

Goaltender of the Year
Kasimir Kaskisuo, Minnesota Duluth, Fr.
Ryan Massa, Omaha, Sr.
Zane McIntyre, North Dakota, Jr.

Forward of the Year
Jonny Brodzinski, St. Cloud State, Jr
Austin Czarnik, Miami, Sr.
Trevor Moore, Denver, So.

Defenseman of the Year
Matthew Caito, Miami, Jr.
Joey LaLeggia, Denver, Sr. (last year’s winner)
Andy Welinski, Minnesota Duluth, Jr.

Offensive Defenseman of the Year
Ian Brady, Omaha, So.
Joey LaLeggia, Denver, Sr. (last year’s winner)
Jordan Schmaltz, North Dakota, Jr.
Jaccob Slavin, Colorado College, So.

Defensive Forward of the Year
Austin Czarnik, Miami, Sr.
Daniel Doremus, Denver, Sr.
Mark MacMillan, North Dakota, Sr.

Playoffs Open in NCHC as Bulldogs Meet Pioneers Again

DENVER -- Denver coach Jim Montgomery joked this week that he was hoping to not see UMD again until the NCHC Frozen Faceoff at Target Center.

Well, that's next week, and Montgomery won't be getting his wish. Instead, his Pioneers host the Bulldogs in the NCHC quarterfinals.

Despite being third in the PairWise, UMD finished fifth in the NCHC standings. It was really the Bulldogs' own doing. They played 12 NCHC series -- a total of 24 games. In those 12 series, UMD won or tied the Friday game nine times (lost series openers to Denver and Miami in back to back weekends at home, then to Denver again in January).

That's nine chances to either sweep or win a series by winning on Saturday. UMD's record in those Saturday games? 2-6-1.

Valuable points left on the table, and UMD had some winnable games in there. The Saturday game in Omaha saw UMD outshoot UNO 40-18, take 85 shots to the Mavericks' 31, and lose 4-1. The Jan. 17 game vs. Western Michigan was tied 2-2 in the third period before the Broncos scored the game's last two goals. UMD had leads against Miami (3-1) and Omaha (1-0) in back-to-back Saturday games that ended with an overtime loss (4-3 to Miami) and a tie with Omaha (1-1).

Win a couple of those games, and the Bulldogs are sleeping in their own beds this weekend, instead of staring a 3am wakeup call in the face for the trip home on Monday.

(Yes, I realize the shootout losses made a big difference. I'm choosing not to give them too much of the credit, however, because they're so random and dumb.)

And as much a fan as I've always been of this city we're in, it's hard to argue with the comforts of home, especially given UMD's obvious improvement as a home team this season (5-10-3 last year to 8-5-3 this year).

Montgomery's joking aside, this is going to be a great series, and the fact it's the 4/5 matchup isn't the only reason. Denver and UMD play very well against one another. As Montgomery noted back in January, these are two teams that "play the game the right away." Montgomery eluded to that again this week when we chatted.

"I have the utmost respect for Scott Sandelin, their staff, and that team. To think someone's going to sweep this series is a little naive."

They aren't exactly the same, but the purpose is.

Denver wants to push the pace, and the Pioneers do it while being led by their back line. Joey LaLeggia is a sure-fire All-American, a Hobey Baker candidate, and possibly (probably?) the best player at his position in college hockey. When he isn't out there, it's likely DU has Nolan Zajac or Will Butcher on the ice. Or emerging freshman Adam Plant, who I thought had a nice weekend against UMD in January and seems to be coming into his own at the right time.

Similarly, UMD wants to push the pace, but the Bulldogs' horses are up front. Sophomores Dominic Toninato and Alex Iafallo have led the team in scoring much of the season, but it's the line of juniors Tony Cameranesi and Austin Farley with freshman Karson Kuhlman that -- I believe -- defines this team and its style of play. Those three can play a puck possession game, are dogged on the forecheck, and use their speed to both make plays and get back defensively if they happen to lose possession.

When UMD is healthy, I'll take the Bulldogs' four lines against anyone in the nation. Other teams might have a dynamic top line or two (Denver's top line of Daniel Doremus, Danton Heinen, and Trevor Moore is as good as any in the nation right now), but the Bulldogs' depth is what makes them so dangerous.

Of course, illness to Iafallo and an injury to freshman Blake Young -- along with the earlier injury to Toninato -- really has done harm to UMD's depth. Young didn't make the trip to Denver, and with Adam Krause suspended for Friday's series opener, UMD is expected to dress ten forwards and eight defensemen for Game 1.

It'll mark the tenth straight game where Scott Sandelin can't field his optimal forward lineup. It isn't an excuse for the 4-3-2 mark over the last nine games, but rest assured the head coach would like to pencil in his best lineup. Injuries happen, and illnesses happen. The former is the price we pay for playing such a high-speed, high-intensity game. The latter is the price paid for 20-some guys hanging out in close proximity. These things happen, but they preferably happen in January and not March, when the intensity ramps up and the stakes rise.

Luckily for UMD, the PairWise has been friendly all season. UMD earned that by taking care of non-conference business. Wins over teams like Minnesota (three out of four), Minnesota State (one out of two), and Notre Dame (won the only meeting) look increasingly good now. Minnesota State won the WCHA, Minnesota could win the Big Ten this weekend, and Notre Dame has fought its way back to .500 at 17-17-5 for the first time since it was 9-9-2.

It doesn't hurt that the rest of the NCHC did well non-conference, and it's helped UMD greatly that the Bulldogs got points every weekend in conference play. Not even UMD's higher-seeded opponent this weekend can brag about that (Omaha swept Denver Jan. 9-10).

After all, the only NCHC teams to get points out of every weekend series were UMD and North Dakota. Yeah, UND won the league and UMD finished fifth, but look at the PairWise.

The top two NCHC teams in the PairWise? No. 1 North Dakota and No. 3 UMD. It isn't a coincidence. None of the NCHC's five were slouches in non-conference play (UND 9-1-1, DU 7-2-1, UNO 6-2-2, UMD 8-4, Miami 7-3), after all.

With that nice PWR ranking of third, it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that UMD can lose this weekend and still make the NCAA Tournament comfortably. Just don't tell anyone affiliated with the Bulldogs this. It's not that they don't know. They aren't stupid, after all. They can act like they don't know or don't want to know, but they know. They just don't want it to affect the mindset of the players.

For them, it's about that mindset being to go take care of business this weekend, not "try hard and see what happens." And if UMD can win Friday without Krause, it's about not letting the guard down on Saturday.

I believe it was Red Wings coach Mike Babcock I heard talking about this. His team was up 3-0 or 3-1 in a best-of-seven, and he was asked about his team having more margin for error because of the big series lead. His remark was something along the lines of "It's a race to four wins, not a seven-game series."

Same applies here. It's a race to two wins. No law says a team needs to play three games to get there. While I'm sure neither coach can see a sweep happening, I think it's a huge chance for one of them -- hopefully the Bulldogs -- to make a statement.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Struggle, Finish Fifth, Hit the Road Again

Saturday was tough to watch.

I know how much our seniors wanted one more go-round at home. It wasn't meant to be, and some of our guys let their frustration show in a 3-0 loss to Western Michigan.

The Bulldogs got off to a good start, but the sledding was tough. Western came ready to play on Senior Night, and the Broncos were hitting everything in white that moved. UMD couldn't generate speed through the neutral zone, as Western was all over Bulldog players, especially in the middle of the ice.

Give the Broncos credit. You can blame lenient refereeing if you want, but UMD was able to fight through things on Friday. The biggest difference was Western played much more aggressive on Saturday than Friday. The Broncos also played a smarter game, avoiding selfish penalties and also doing a better job clogging up areas UMD wanted to play in.

When a team is trying to clog things up, it takes precision execution to win, and UMD didn't have that on Saturday. The Bulldogs whiffed on a couple early chances, then a bad line change led to the first -- and eventual game-winning -- goal.

I didn't think UMD was as mentally engaged as it has to be to win games, but saying that was the only reason the Bulldogs lost is 1) untrue, and 2) a discredit to Western Michigan's effort and execution.

That said, UMD will have to be better against bigger, grinding-type teams. Won't face one this weekend, as the playoff series at Denver will be racehorse hockey, but the NCAA Tournament can bring all types of opponents.


Denver is up next in the NCHC playoffs. The games between these two teams in the regular season were really, really good. I expect more of the same this weekend.

No question in my mind that there are two legitimate NCAA contenders at it this weekend, and while Denver is eighth in the PairWise, I don't think DU's in danger of falling out of the rankings. These teams can tear each other to pieces to see who moves on to Target Center and the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

But is there advantage in defeat? Will the losing team take nearly two weeks of rest and use it to strengthen from within for an NCAA run. We know UMD is in, and we're pretty sure Denver is, too, after all.

I'll never advocate losing at the time of the loss, but it's undeniable that UMD's 2010-11 team was galvanized by losing to Bemidji State at the Final Five. It wasn't so much the days off that came after that loss. It was the loss itself. UMD knew it didn't play well and knew what it had to do starting the next week. The timing of that loss and the nature of it -- losing in overtime on a power play goal that came from a terrible call against UMD -- helped set up UMD's mindset that year.

Hopefully it doesn't take a loss this weekend to do that.


UMD, of course, is far from healthy.

Sophomore forward Alex Iafallo has missed two weeks with what we now know to be mono. Sophomore defenseman Dan Molenaar dealt with mono in January and missed significant time. With what little I know about the illness (I've never had it, so I looked it up on the internet), I'd think Iafallo won't be back until next week at the earliest, possibly not until NCAA regionals. That said, I also know everyone is different.

(Side note: This is at least four NCHC players I know of who've gotten mono this season. Molenaar had it. So did North Dakota's Trevor Olson, and it's been reported that Omaha's Dominic Zombo has it, too.)

Making matters worse, senior captain Adam Krause suffered an injury on the hit that got him run from Saturday's loss. He knocked knees with hulking Western Michigan forward Willem Nong-Lambert. Neither appeared to be seriously injured on the ice, so hopefully there is nothing wrong with Krause that will keep him from playing this weekend.

If Krause can't play and Blake Young can't return, UMD will have to deploy both its extra defensemen -- Dan Molenaar and Nick McCormack last weekend, with Molenaar playing both games and McCormack scratched -- as forwards on the fourth line.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Game 36: UMD at Western Michigan

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- And we arrive at the end of one journey.

Of course, it's just the first journey. There are more to come.

On this night, the Bulldogs close out the regular season against Western Michigan. On Friday, the teams combined for seven second-period goals -- five of them coming in a crazy two-minute stretch -- before UMD added two Dominic Toninato tallies in the third for a 6-3 win.

There are too many scenarios to count when it comes to UMD's home-ice chances. Reality is that if the Bulldogs win, they'll get home ice next week if any of the three teams ahead of them lose, and it might not need to be a regulation loss.

Never before have I seen a league with only one home-ice slot decided going into the last game of the season.

Enjoy it. This is all part of the journey.



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

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Tiffels - Nong-Lambert - Laporte
McKee - Mellor - Hadley
Hargrove - Dries - Novak
Kovacs - Kessel - Muir

Stewart - Morrison
Goff - Moldenhauer
Dienes - Fleming

Slubowski - Bridges - Hafner

(This is how the goalies are listed. I have not gotten a confirmed starter from WMU. Watch Twitter for updates.)

Friday, March 06, 2015

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: UMD Survives Crazy Flurry, Stays Alive for Home Ice

(UPDATED with full list of UMD scenarios and tiebreakers provided by the NCHC.)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- After scoring just twice in a weekend series at home against Omaha last weekend, there's no question the time was right for an offensive breakout.


With just one goal since Dec. 13, Dominic Toninato didn't necessarily "need" to get back on the scoreboard, but a goal or two from him before the regular season ended would be a good thing.


The 20-win marker means virtually nothing when you've clinched an NCAA Tournament berth, as UMD has done this season. But Friday was UMD's fourth chance to clinch a fifth 20-win season in seven years, a mark never before reached by this program.


The Bulldogs never trailed in a 6-3 win over Western Michigan Friday night that featured a little bit of everything.

While the first period featured good action on both ends of the ice, there weren't a ton of huge scoring chances. Kasimir Kaskisuo and Frank Slubowski kept the game scoreless when called upon, and things seemed quite innocent, honestly.

Even in the second period, there was nothing to indicate that an opening of the floodgates was about to come. Willie Corrin and Sheldon Dries (power play) traded goals, and we went into the last four minutes of the second period with a 1-1 tie. Corrin's goal gave UMD a lead against Western Michigan for the first time in 149:36 of play this season, and 163:14 dating back to last year's playoff series.

And then things, well, escalated. Quickly.

At 16:18 of the second, Willie Raskob made a great move and pass to set up Justin Crandall for a power-play goal, his 12th of the season. It stayed 2-1 UMD for all of 41 seconds before Western tied it on a rebound goal by Sam Mellor. Then Karson Kuhlman gave UMD the lead back 47 seconds after that, putting home a rebound off an Austin Farley shot.

We weren't done. 13 seconds later, Frederik Tiffels banked a puck in off Andy Welinski's skate to tie the game 3-3. Then Welinski got redemption 19 seconds later with a missile of a shot from the right point off a Jared Thomas drop pass.

Five goals in two minutes.

Not kidding, I felt like I was having an out of body experience. Craziness.

I have to think Andy Murray and Scott Sandelin can share a laugh about this at some point, but I find it hard to believe either coach was thrilled with what was happening. Neither team was playing well defensively, and the game got a little loose for either's taste, I'd assume.

Things settled down in the third, but not for Toninato.

He netted his first goal since Jan. 31 and second since Dec. 13 with 7:48 to open the gap back up to 5-3 for the Bulldogs. Toninato then hit an empty net from practically 200 feet away (corner boards at the other end of the rink) at the buzzer.

Kaskisuo made 25 saves for the win, his 17th. He was especially good in the third period, but it was hard to blame him for some of the lunacy in the second. He didn't get a great amount of help from the defensive play. Luckily, the run support rendered those mistakes irrelevant.

I thought UMD made a few mistakes in the third, letting Western Michigan generate scoring chances it shouldn't be able to get when facing a team protecting a two-goal lead. Tiffels had a great chance that Kaskisuo stoned him on, and another WMU player whose identity I can't remember tried to go short side on a rush and missed the net.


So what does UMD have to do to get home ice?

For starters, UMD is in fifth in the NCHC. It can fall no farther, so if the Bulldogs are on the road next weekend, it will be against the fourth seed.

UMD can finish as high as second in the final standings.

Here's how it breaks down, courtesy of Tim Danehy, via Michael Weisman of the NCHC.

UMD will be ...

Seeded #2 with a win, a Denver loss or shootout loss, a Miami loss or shootout loss, and a Omaha loss, shootout loss, or shootout win.

Seeded #3 with a win, a Denver win or shootout win, a Miami loss or shootout loss, and a Omaha loss, shootout loss, or shootout win.

Seeded #3 with a win, a Denver loss or shootout loss, a Miami win or shootout win, and a Omaha loss, shootout loss, or shootout win.

Seeded #3 with a win, a Denver loss or shootout loss, a Miami loss or shootout loss, and a Omaha win.

Seeded #4 with a win, a Denver win or shootout win, a Miami win or shootout win, and a Omaha loss, shootout loss, or shootout win.

Seeded #4 with a win, a Denver win or shootout win, a Miami loss or shootout loss, and a Omaha win.

Seeded #4 with a win, a Denver loss or shootout loss, a Miami win or shootout win, and a Omaha win.

Seeded #4 with a shootout win and a Omaha loss or shootout loss.

Seeded #4 with a shootout loss and a Omaha loss.

Here are the tie-breaker scenarios. Teams are listed in the order they would finish. If there are multiple point totals teams can tie with, and the tie-breaker is different, they are listed specifically by point total.

Two-team ties
DEN-MIA (goals DEN 13-12)
DEN-UNO (wins)
DEN-UMD at 41 pts (wins)
UMD-DEN at 42 pts (goals UMD 13-9)
MIA-UNO (wins)
MIA-UMD at 41 pts (wins)
UMD-MIA at 42 pts (goals UMD 12-11)
UMD-UNO (wins) 

Three-team ties
DEN-MIA-UNO (wins, then goals for DEN-MIA)
DEN-MIA-UMD at 41 pts (wins, then goals for DEN-MIA)
UMD-DEN-MIA at 42 pts (goals UMD 25-20, MIA 23-25, DEN 22-25)
DEN-UMD-UNO at 41 pts (wins)
UMD-DEN-UNO at 42 pts (wins, then goals for UMD-DEN)
MIA-UMD-UNO at 41 pts (wins)
UMD-MIA-UNO at 42 pts (wins, then goals for UMD-MIA)

Four-team tie
DEN-MIA-UMD-UNO at 41 pts (wins, then goals for DEN-MIA)
UMD-DEN-MIA-UNO at 42 pts (wins, then goals for UMD-DEN-MIA)

Just win, baby. That's all you can control.

(And there's something else on the line there. UMD has gone into Saturday games with a chance to win or sweep a series five times in the second half of the season. In those games -- against North Dakota, Western Michigan (home), St. Cloud State, Miami, and Omaha -- UMD is 0-4-1. It'd sure be nice to get over that hump before the playoffs start. After all, there are some pretty significant games to be played on Saturdays in the coming weekends, right?)

Hope you're as confused as I am. There will be a quiz later. Don't fret, because I'll fail it, too.


Good and bad for UMD's home ice chances with the other results Friday.

In Oxford, North Dakota clinched the Penrose Cup with a 2-1 win over Miami. Zane McIntyre stopped 43 of 44 shots, while UND got goals from Keaton Thompson and Connor Gaarder. The RedHawks peppered McIntyre in the final 40 minutes, but couldn't get the equalizer. And as a result, Miami is still not guaranteed to be at home next weekend. Or it could finish second. Sound familiar?

Adam Plant picked a good time to score his first of the year. Plant was credited with the game-winner in the third period as Denver beat St. Cloud State 3-2. Tanner Jaillet made 39 saves as SCSU outshot DU 42-27.

Omaha had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Colorado College, as the Tigers got second-period goals from Peter Maric and Matt Hansen and 32 saves from red-hot goalie Tyler Marble. The Tigers won the shootout 1-0 on a goal by Cody Bradley, so Omaha falls to fourth and leads UMD by just one point.

Game 35: UMD at Western Michigan

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- I'll just cut to the chase.

Don't forget we're on 92.1 The Fan starting with this series. Network stations are unchanged. Red Rock Radio app for mobile streaming, go here for non-mobile.



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

NOTE: Nick McCormack will take the warmup and may play at forward.

Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Tiffels - Nong-Lambert - Laporte
McKee - Mellor - Rebry
Hargrove - Dries - Novak
Kovacs - Kessel - Muir

Stewart - Morrison
Goff - Moldenhauer
Dienes - Fleming

Slubowski - Bridges - Hafner

Thursday, March 05, 2015

NCHC Season Wraps Up With UMD Facing 'Skating Refrigerators'

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- When I tweeted the quote Wednesday, a UMD fan responded by asking if it was bulletin board material.

I've listened back a few times now, and I don't believe it was.

In fact, UMD assistant coach Jason Herter -- conducting the weekly men's hockey press conference Wednesday in place of head coach Scott Sandelin, who was making his way down I-35 to watch son Ryan play and score a goal in the state tournament -- was referencing how he doesn't think UMD matches up wonderfully with Western Michigan.

It actually started with a question about the teams' meeting in January, one that saw Western Michigan take five of a possible six points. The question framed that series as "disappointing."

"Disappointing? I don't know. You look at our league, every weekend so far, we've gotten points," Herter said. "Points matter. Yes, disappointing we didn't get three points, but as close as our league is and as hard as it is every weekend, playing against a team I would say we don't match up great against because they're like a bunch of skating refrigerators.

"They're big men who have a decent amount of skill. They work hard and they're well-coached."

Herter wasn't trying to insult the Broncos. Instead, the point was to show why UMD doesn't necessarily match up very well against them. That is especially true when the Bulldogs -- who probably have a speed and skill advantage in these games this weekend -- aren't moving their feet and are maybe trying to be too physical themselves.

Times have changed. When Western rolled into Duluth, Andy Murray's Broncos were, well, rolling. After starting 3-8-1, WMU ripped off a pair of three-game winning streaks in going 7-1-2 over a ten-game run that ended in Duluth. The Broncos split the following weekend at St. Cloud State, and since beating the Huskies 3-2 on Jan. 24, Western has won just one out of eight games (outscored 24-14, but half that margin came in Saturday's 5-0 loss to Colorado College).

Murray, however, says that doesn't tell the whole story.

On the North Dakota series, which ended in a UND sweep, Murray noted "we liked our compete level." He said UND goalie Zane McIntyre was the difference.

Murray thought his team played very well against North Dakota, but McIntyre (Murray called him the MVP of the NCHC) helped the adversary get all six points on the weekend. The Broncos rallied from 2-0 down in the third period of the Saturday game to force overtime, but gave up the winner in the extra session.

Last weekend, however, Murray wasn't as pleased with what he saw. Western outshot Colorado College 52-25 in the Friday game, which ended in a tie and a WMU shootout win. Saturday, the Tigers pummeled a Bronco team Murray described as "arrogant."

"Most disappointing game, probably, that I've had as a college coach," the former NHL bench boss said this week. "We knew we were going to finish seventh (in the NCHC), and did not show enough respect for our opponent. We were undisciplined in our game, and we got what we deserved.

"How can you play arrogant as a seventh-place team? I've always told people that if you don't stay humble, you'll get humbled."

That's the backdrop for this weekend.

Murray is an exceptional coach, one of the more intense individuals you'll ever come across. If you think he hasn't reminded his players of what happened Saturday -- whether it be subtle or blunt -- you're nuts. He's a smart guy. He'll use that as motivation for this weekend, when Western Michigan knows it will play at Lawson Ice Arena for the final time this season.

WMU only has four seniors -- Justin Kovacs, Will Kessel, Matt Stewart, and goalie Frank Slubowski -- but Senior Night can be a catalyst for everyone on the roster. Especially when the group knows it isn't playing at home again, no matter what.

My point? The Broncos will be ready.

UMD should be, too. The Bulldogs didn't play poorly last time out against this team, but UMD is 0-3-1 over four meetings against Western going back to last year's NCHC playoffs, when WMU ended UMD's season at Amsoil Arena.

(Murray said he felt his team's goaltending was the difference that weekend.)

As Herter said this week, UMD needs to do a better job using its speed as an asset. In January, there were times where the Bulldogs looked liked they were playing more at Western's pace, which is slower. Most opponents will try to -- at least to an extent -- slow UMD down. There aren't a lot of Miamis out there who can skate with the Bulldogs.

If the Bulldogs can quicken the pace and make Western chase more, they'll find more success this weekend.

It's a vital one for UMD's home-ice chances, which took a significant hit with the two ties/shootout losses against Omaha. UMD now trails Denver by two points for fourth and UNO by three for third. With UNO hosting last-place Colorado College this weekend, odds are high the Mavericks will go "over .500" and pull far enough ahead of UMD to hold on to third place. Denver is the kicker. UMD owns the tiebreaker, and DU is at St. Cloud State, which still has an outside shot at improving its position.

UMD will be trying to move up the standings without speedy sophomore Alex Iafallo, who will miss a second straight weekend because of illness. Herter was quick to point out Wednesday that both he and Sandelin were sick for extended periods of time. He forgot that his favorite radio nerd was also sick -- started with respiratory flu symptoms and then a persistent cough and off-and-on stuffiness and sore throat -- for close to two months. There's some serious crud going around, and it sounds like Iafallo is the latest victim.

It stinks, because this is the time of year you want your optimal lineup out there consistently. It's not the time for experimentation or rotating players. North Dakota, for example, has pulled away from the pack by going 11-1-1 since losing to UMD Jan. 9. The lineup hasn't changed much over those games, though it will now with senior forward Mark MacMillan (finalist for both the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award and Hockey Humanitarian Award) out indefinitely.

UMD hasn't been able to field its best lineup since a Feb. 6 win over Northern Michigan. The Bulldogs are 3-2-2 while dealing with the five-game absence of Dominic Toninato and now the two games Iafallo has missed (you can add these two to that record once we know the results of the games).

So it's "GOHUSKIESWOOOO" this weekend for UMD fans (that's a real Twitter handle, y'all), while hoping for the best in Kalamazoo.

That's all for now. I'll return at some point and post all the standings scenarios and the tiebreakers the NCHC will use. For now, know that UMD can finish anywhere from second to sixth, so there are a lot of possibilities in play. Obviously, some are more realistic than others.