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.
DEN-MIA (goals DEN 13-12)
DEN-UMD at 41 pts (wins)
UMD-DEN at 42 pts (goals UMD 13-9)
MIA-UMD at 41 pts (wins)
UMD-MIA at 42 pts (goals UMD 12-11)
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)
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.