The 6-1 final was largely indicative of how the game was played, as UMD overwhelmed Lakehead from about the ten minute mark of the first period to its conclusion. The Thunderwolves used a first period power play goal to take the lead into intermission, but two significant Bulldog flurries late in the period really showed what was to come.
Power play goals by Tony Cameranesi and Nick McCormack -- Cameranesi scored on a five-on-three -- came 45 seconds apart and gave UMD the lead for good early in the second. Lakehead pulled effective starting goalie Jeff Bosch (24 saves on 26 shots) about halfway through the second, and UMD teed off on backup Justin McDonald, a former Midget teammate of UMD sophomore Blake Young. Austyn Young, Bill Exell, Alex Iafallo, and Blake Young scored goals 3:22 apart just after McDonald came into the game. That blew the game open, and UMD never looked back from there.
Shots ended up 50-11, with freshman goalie Nick Deery stopping four in the third after sophomore Kasimir Kaskisuo and senior Matt McNeely each stopped three in their respective 20 minutes of work.
I hate to be "that guy," but I learned very little from Sunday's game.
Worse yet, I'm not sure what I expected to learn.
Sometimes, there's a line to get a look at, or a newfangled defensive pairing. But even though the top line and top defensive pairing both feature freshmen, I had a pretty good idea what to expect from Adam Johnson and Neal Pionk. Wasn't disappointed by either of them.
This isn't a bad thing. It's a product of the team returning 21 letterwinners from a team that damn near made the Frozen Four.
The power play generated chances and moved the puck well. As frustrating as it can be when guys aren't shooting, reality is that possession is such an important part of a power play. Win the faceoff, establish possession in the offensive zone, and then it's all about generating opportunities by finding the spots on the ice where you can outnumber the opponent and execute your plan. Shooting for the sake of shooting isn't a good idea. It's a recipe for losing possession and chasing the puck down in your own zone.
The penalty kill got victimized by a goofy bounce for the Lakehead goal. Otherwise they were solid in limited work. Lakehead only got two shot attempts off during three power plays. I'm thinking the coaches will take that.
The freshmen all looked good. Johnson got extended playing time on the top line with Dominic Toninato and Iafallo, and Pionk played with Welinski, as expected. The "fifth line" came on in the second half of the game, eventually taking the spot of the top line on the bench, and Exell, Parker Mackay, and Blake Young had a good night, chipping in a couple goals.
Had a few people at the rink and on Twitter ask why UMD decided against an experimental three-on-three. While I understand why some did it (Denver tried it after a 4-0 win over Calgary last night), ultimately UMD's call was to let the game dictate if there was overtime, and further if there would be a three-on-three period.
Why? What we were told is the decision was made because of the feeling that playing overtime -- even a fake, experimental overtime -- was not right after a regulation win of any kind. UMD has done experimental shootouts since that concept was introduced, but they came after convincing victories and made little sense in context.
Win a game 6-1, and now it's time of overtime? Nah, no need for that.
Bemidji is next. As I mentioned on the air, UMD owes the Beavers one. Last January at the North Star College Cup, Bemidji State put a pretty thorough 4-0 whipping on UMD. It was the low point of the season for the Bulldogs, one that spurred a bit of a turnaround starting the next afternoon against Minnesota in the consolation game.
That means nothing now, but it was a really impressive performance by the Beavers that afternoon, and I have to imagine UMD hasn't forgotten about it, especially with the aforementioned 21 players back from that team. Bemidji should be improved in the WCHA yet again, and this is a sneaky good matchup on the "Week 1" docket in college hockey. The atmosphere at both games -- especially Saturday's game in Bemidji -- should be very good. I expect the hockey will be, too.
By the way, this will be a regular Monday feature on the blog, recapping the weekend series and occasionally exploring other NCHC notes of interest. Hopefully you'll check back regularly.