Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Monday Musings (on a Tuesday): Bulldogs Break Out Ties in South Bend

I bring two ties on every road trip. I know, I should probably bring more, but two games, two ties.

UMD brought two ties home on the bus from South Bend Saturday night/Sunday morning. The Bulldogs, arguably, should have won Friday before a 3-3 draw against Notre Dame. The Irish, arguably, should have won Saturday before a 3-3 tie.

T'was that kind of weekend.

It was an entertaining series, as most of us expected. Notre Dame has a reputation for being a bit on the boring side, but I've never agreed with that. The Irish have too much skill to consistently be branded that way. That's not to say Jeff Jackson doesn't want his kids to play defense. He does. It's saying he does turn the kids loose and lets them display their speed and skill, especially in the middle of the rink. These teams tend to play enjoyable, watchable, clean hockey against each other. It was the last of a four-series deal between the programs (two weekends in each city, with UMD also getting invited to last year's IceBreaker in South Bend), but hopefully they're able to work it out to play each other more in future seasons.

The Bulldogs weren't their crispest or best over the weekend, but yet UMD found a way to avoid losing either game. Friday night, the Bulldogs blew a 2-0 lead, thanks in large part to an anemic power play that struggled with faceoffs, zone entries, and general possession. Saturday's tie came despite a power play that struggled some more, though it did unquestionably show improvement on faceoffs, zone entries, and possession.

UMD never was good enough to put a lot of pressure on a Notre Dame defensive corps that I thought was a bit vulnerable going in. I didn't think there was enough net drive by the Bulldogs, and while they still generated gobs of pressure, there were at least a half-dozen quality rebound opportunities that ended up being harmlessly cleared away because no one in a maroon sweater was crashing down low.

Speed was a big advantage I expected UMD to exploit, especially at forward. While Tony Cameranesi's line -- with Austin Farley and Karson Kuhlman -- made more than a few plays by using their speed, there wasn't of that on the weekend.

Honestly, when you read this, you probably think UMD lost a game. The fact that didn't happen is a credit -- in large part -- to a couple entities: The penalty kill, and Kasimir Kaskisuo.

Kas' save percentage actually went down on the weekend, but don't be fooled. He was superb, especially on the penalty kill in Friday's game. And don't be fooled by the knuckle puck that he let squeak by him from Notre Dame freshman Dylan Malmquist in the first period Saturday. He bounced back from that to put in another strong effort.

The kill allowed two goals in 11 power plays on the weekend, but was actually better than even that number would indicate. UMD outshot Notre Dame on its power plays Saturday, with five short-handed shots compared to four power-play shots for the Irish. At one point, I got to use the "Who's on the power play?" line everyone loves so much, especially when it's your team executing a penalty kill well enough to make it a valid line.


And what can we say about Cameranesi? The guy plays with reckless abandon, to the point that I'm almost concerned about the risks he takes. But good luck getting him to slow down. This is how Tony Cameranesi plays, and when his team needed him most. the senior really cranked up the jets and used his speed to score a huge goal in Saturday's game.

We call that "leadership" around here.

Cameranesi scored later in the second Saturday to cut the lead to 3-2, then set up Neal Pionk's first career goal that tied things up in the third. He's one guy who constantly was using his speed to make plays, and it showed. That line -- Cameranesi, Farley, and Kuhlman -- was UMD's best down the stretch last year, and it's been the most consistent so far.


UMD hosts UMass-Lowell this weekend. Arrive early Friday to watch the school retire the No. 1 worn by goalie Glenn "Chico" Resch, who will hopefully join us on the radio Friday night. That ceremony was scheduled for the first intermission, but has been moved to pregame, so keep that in mind if you have tickets for Friday.

Lowell is a very good defensive team, one that's allowed only five goals in five games (3-0-2 record). The RiverHawks tied Merrimack 1-1 in both games of a home-and-home series over the weekend to kick off their Hockey East schedule.

It's a good challenge for UMD, trying to score goals against a team that simply doesn't give up much. UML was outshot 58-33 by Merrimack, but got two ties out of it.

UMD has outshot its opponents 116-71 at even strength over the last four games. Keep that up, and hopefully we'll see good results this weekend.

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