Friday, October 30, 2015

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Bulldogs Grind Out Quality Win

It was a game much more entertaining than the final score indicated, as the UMD Bulldogs won a goaltenders' duel at Amsoil Arena Friday night.

UMD sophomore Kasimir Kaskisuo and UMass-Lowell senior Kevin Boyle traded big save after big save, but a Dominic Toninato rebound goal late in the second period gave the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish. The win runs UMD's unbeaten streak to five since a season-opening loss at Bemidji State.

The game started a bit slowly, but UMD's Blake Young got a minor penalty for playing hockey charging just short of the 6:00 mark of the first. UMD killed it off without allowing a shot, and the Bulldogs started to get going after that. The first ended scoreless, but UMD ended up leading 11-4 in shots, and the Bulldogs started getting the better of zone possession as the period wore on.

All the game's scoring came in the second period, and after the teams traded goals, it was UMD's fourth line that really got things working. Cal Decowski, Charlie Sampair, and Blake Young had a great shift, with Young and Decowski both getting a couple shots, and while they didn't score, they hemmed UML in for quite a long time and eventually drew a penalty. 11 seconds into the power play, Toninato banged home a rebound off an Alex Iafallo shot that hit the post, and UMD led 2-1.

Lowell generated some real possession time in the third period, but only managed 11 shots on goal. There were a couple sequences where the Bulldogs struggled to get the puck out of their zone, and when they did, it didn't go more than six feet across the blue line before it was rapped back in. The RiverHawks, however, didn't get a lot of great looks at Kaskisuo, who made his best saves on a futile UMD power play early in the second period. A couple bad turnovers gave UML two short-handed breaks in the same UMD power play. Kaskisuo stopped both of them to keep the game scoreless.

This might have been the best game "Kas" has played at UMD. He made a few point-blank saves in the second period, and he did a good job controlling rebounds. His defense blocked 17 shots, which helped him, but he was strong from the outset, despite not seeing any shots of any kind for the first half of the first period.

It's obvious Kaskisuo improved over the offseason. Outside of a couple hiccups, mainly in the Bemidji State game, his rebound control has been exemplary. He's standing tall and making the saves he's supposed to make. Also, his puck play -- while still not at Stalockian levels -- has certainly gotten better. It's certainly early, but Kaskisuo is at a .933 save percentage through six starts, which would mark a superb improvement over his solid freshman numbers. I don't think it's necessarily reasonable to expect a goalie to post that kind of save percentage over 34 games against this kind of schedule, but if he does, it's a bonus for UMD and bodes well for the kinds of goals this team has.


I was looking for a few things this weekend. I wanted to see how UMD responded to UML's "pack it in" defensive game. The RiverHawks do an outstanding job in their own end, and it's rare that you see the puck cycle down low and have the offensive player not outnumbered. UMD players coughed up a few pucks Friday because they were trapped and outnumbered deep in the offensive zone. But as the game wore on, the Bulldogs appeared to wear down UML a bit with a strong forecheck. They got that going by being smart about dump-ins and getting to pucks quickly. Every line generated pressure and chances, and every line had at least four shots on goal in the game.

I liked how UMD got to Boyle and kept the pressure on him. He's a whale of a goaltender, very athletic and fundamentally sound. He played a great game, and UMD did a lot of good things to keep the heat on.

With the goalie pulled in the final 1:30 or so, the RiverHawks never really got a great look to the net. UMD won a couple faceoffs and battles, and the clock ran out when Kyle Osterberg, who assisted on Andy Welinski's goal to open the scoring in the second period, dumped it down the rink.

I know it ended 2-1, but it was a very entertaining, very cleanly-played game between two very good teams. Whatever happens on Saturday, this is a quality win for UMD and will absolutely help them going forward.


Six NCHC teams played games for conference points on Friday. In Kalamazoo, Western Michigan never trailed in handing Omaha its first loss of the season in a 4-2 game. Ohio State transfer Collin Olson started for WMU in goal and made 31 saves, and the Broncos got goals from four different players. Sheldon Dries gave Western the lead for good in the second period, then Aaron Hadley added insurance in the third.

In St. Cloud, the homestanding Huskies dominated Miami, winning 3-0. SCSU outshot the RedHawks 40-15, including 17-4 in the first period. Patrick Newell scored twice for St. Cloud State, and goalie Charlie Lindgren made the 15 saves for a shutout.

In Colorado Springs, the kids were all right for North Dakota in a 5-2 win over Colorado College. All five UND goals came from rookies, with Chris Wilkie tallying twice. Goalie Matt Hrynkiw made 19 saves for the win, as the Tigers fell to 0-7.

Also, Denver got a late goal from Will Butcher to tie Boston College 3-3, but Matthew Gaudreau scored with 36 seconds left to lift the Eagles to a 4-3 win over the Pioneers. Danton Heinen scored twice for DU, which plays Boston University Saturday to close out the weekend out east.

Local Division III teams also kicked off their seasons Friday night. St. Scholastica got a goal from Dylan Nowakowski with 54 seconds left to complete a comeback from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits and get a 3-3 tie against UW-River Falls. The Saints welcomed back head coach Mark Wick, who missed the end of last season on medical leave. He revealed to the Duluth News Tribune he was battling depression.

In Ashland, UWS got third period goals from Anton Svensson and Jordan Neduzak to beat Northland 3-1. The Yellowjackets head to the Upper Peninsula for a Saturday game against Finlandia.

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