Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Back to Work

Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving. It was another holiday weekend off for UMD, which regularly does not play that weekend. It's a good time for a week off, as the Bulldogs were going every weekend from the start of the season. With final exams coming soon, UMD has two weekends of hockey left before the holiday break.

Of course, anytime you go unbeaten in three, get a rousing "win" at home and back-to-back road shutouts, you probably don't want to have a bye. Alas, the schedule is what the schedule is.

Now, UMD will be tasked with coming out of the rest with four strong performances before the halfway mark of the season hits.

There isn't much to say about the Colorado College sweep. UMD took care of business against a team it needed desperately to beat twice. The Tigers went to 0-12 with the losses, and while they got their first win of the year by beating Air Force on Saturday night, they're not a good team. UMD couldn't afford to lose, but I thought the Bulldogs played pretty well, especially in the first period on Friday and then most of Saturday's game. Shots were more even on Saturday because CC played much better, but UMD wasn't as leaky defensively.

Scott Sandelin wanted a more responsible performance from his group, and it looked like he got it. And once UMD popped a couple goals in late in the first period, the Tigers weren't the same. They were a shaken outfit that played like it. Good in spurts, but no confidence that anything good would come of the effort.

Don't discount these games, though. UMD needed to get some confidence of its own, especially in the offensive zone. After scoring 24 goals on 407 shots in 11 games (5.9 percent), the Bulldogs potted 11 on 70 shots against Colorado College (15.7 percent).

By comparison, St. Cloud State has 60 goals this season, on just 447 shots on goal (13.4 percent). If UMD scored on 13 percent of its 477 shots this season, the Bulldogs would have 62 goals, not 35.


(Yes, we're staying on that story. Much of SCSU's crazy shooting percentage is the result of a power play that's clicking at 30 percent, and that's more than double UMD's power play success rate of 14 percent. But it's something worth watching as the season goes on.)


Up next is Western Michigan. It'll be interesting to see how UMD fares this weekend after going 1-4-1 in the last six games against the Broncos, including a very meh 1-2-1 last year. At home, UMD is 1-4-1 against Western Michigan since the NCHC launched in 2013-14.

Western is a very structured team, but the Broncos have struggled as of late. WMU has lost six straight -- outscored 27-7, though one of those games is an 11-1 loss to St. Cloud State, so the total is a little misleading -- since a sweep of Omaha to open NCHC play. At 4-8-1, the Broncos are badly in search of a pick-me-up, and they probably look forward to this trip to Duluth, a place they've recently played well.

I'll get a chance later this week to watch back Western Michigan's losses to RPI (4-1) and Notre Dame (3-1) at the Shillelagh Tournament in South Bend over the holiday weekend. What's clear without the magic of digital video is that Western didn't score even-strength on the weekend, and the Broncos have scored just one even-strength goal in four games.

I like this Western team, honestly. They've got size (Mike McKee is 6-5 and having a good season so far, Willem Nong-Lambert is 6-4, Aaron Hadley 6-3, Aidan Muir 6-4, Scott Moldenhauer is 6-4, Neal Goff 6-5, and you get the drift) and what I think is underrated skill with guys like Sheldon Dries, Nolan LaPorte, Kyle Novak, Griffen Molino, and Colt Conrad. Despite allowing 11 goals in that SCSU disaster, the team save percentage is a respectable .900. Andy Murray has rotated goalies so far, with senior Lukas Hafner getting seven starts and Ohio State transfer Collin Olson six. The blue line has been shaky at times, and if UMD can play well in the neutral zone (a huge key this weekend, in my opinion), there should be opportunities to attack with speed.

Just don't assume that Western has all these trees and can't skate. You'll be quickly proven very wrong if you do.

(By the way, a country concert at Amsoil Arena will push UMD's practices to the DECC Wednesday and Thursday of this week. They aren't taking the ice out, only covering it for the show, so hopefully there aren't a lot of adverse impacts in that regard.)


During the bye week, College Hockey News broke some pretty significant news, reporting the Big Ten proposed legislation that would prevent 21-year-olds from entering college hockey with a full four years of eligibility.

(The site has a special section with updates on the story here.)

It's a proposal that -- per the story -- came largely from Minnesota coach Don Lucia, and he didn't really deny that at his weekly press conference last week. He said it was discussed as a Big Ten group, and once the Big Ten's coaches were on board, they decided to go forward with it.

I'm going to tread carefully. Frankly, I value my relationship with the University of Minnesota and with Lucia, both of which -- I think, at least -- have been good. Lucia has always made time for me, which can be difficult with televised games against UMD, because there TV wanting both coaches, and both coaches have similar pregame availability. He's never blown me off, and I appreciate that. I also think he's always been honest with me (and, by extension, my audience). I value that in coaches, because you don't always get it.

I respect what Lucia has accomplished in this sport, and I do think his perspective is a valuable one, even if I don't see eye to eye with him. And I don't see eye to eye with him, or any of the 11 coaches who -- according to CHN -- are in favor of this proposal.

Lucia answered every question that was asked last week of him. Here are a couple quotes, and I swear I'll try to move on.

"I don’t buy the fact that schools recruit older players. They recruit players and then delay them."

There are many examples of 20-year-olds being recruited and signing late in the process, often to take the spot of a kid who left early. When a school unexpectedly loses a player to pro hockey, there are two choices: Bring an existing recruit in a year early, or find a late bloomer.

For me, as a parent, I don’t think many kids leave to go play junior hockey thinking, "I’m gonna play [in juniors] three years." And every kid that’s playing college hockey, the beauty of it would be they just go to college a year earlier. I don’t see anything wrong with that. For me, philisophically, I don’t think there should be 22-year old freshmen (by the end of the season). Other people can disagree, and that’s fine. That’s what the intent was, I think it’s a good rule; it’s good for fans, it’s good for kids to be in college in closer proximity to the age of their peers.

Feel how you want to feel, but can you at least give me a reason why there shouldn't be 22-year-old freshmen? Why is this such a big problem that we need to change a rule to stop it?

With all due respect to Lucia (and that's a lot), I think he and the other coaches are off-base here. And it's not a good optic for any of them.

Most kids don't play three years of juniors post-high school. This rule isn't going to change much. There will still be the chance of facing 25-year-old kids who either redshirted or turned 21 after starting their freshman season, which followed two years of junior hockey.

It makes the Big Ten look bad, something the new conference in college hockey doesn't need right now. The league already has the perception of the group responsible for all these changes in college hockey, and the league isn't good right now (1-14-1 against the NCHC, for example). Now it looks like B1G coaches are trying to use the conference's position of power to push a rule change that is all about their inability to win. Even if that's an unfair sentiment, it's the prevailing public opinion in the wake of this story coming out.

Basically, I see a rule proposal that's searching for a problem to solve.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Game 13: UMD at Colorado College

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- This is a good time to remind you of a longtime stance of mine:

"Weather the storm" is rarely a good game plan.

UMD may face a bit of a storm in this game. Colorado College coach Mike Haviland was pretty blunt in his assessment of Friday's 5-0 UMD win, and his captain, Sam Rothstein, called himself and the rest of the team's upperclassmen out.

You can bet they'll come out stronger in the series finale. It's up to UMD to do the same or more.

As assistant coach Brett Larson said before the Omaha series, the coaching staff wants their players to match and exceed the intensity level of the opposition.

The first goal is highly important in this game. Haviland talked about how hard it's been on his team playing catch-up hockey all the time. The Tigers haven't led since the first period of an Oct. 16 loss at UMass-Lowell. They lost the lead in the first period that night, never reclaimed it, and haven't led a game since. Colorado College has, entering Saturday's game, played 531:40 without once leading a game. If UMD can score first and not let up, the Bulldogs will be in great shape.



Iafallo - Toninato - Johnson
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Osterberg - Thomas - Young (Austyn)
Sampair - Decowski - Mackay

Corrin - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Pionk - Molenaar

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Gooch - Bradley (Cody) - Gerdes
Bradley (Trey) - Rothstein - Roos
Fejes - Heil - Hansen
Burmaster - Ockey - Martello

Kivihalme - Lagrone
McCaskill - Emilio
Farny - Kwiecinski

Nehama - Marble - Shatzer

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Bulldogs Snap Slide at Expense of Winless, Undermanned Tigers

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Honestly, Friday night was mostly what I had hoped to see to start this weekend series.

UMD jumped on Colorado College early and -- outside of a couple second-period lapses and a big gaffe in the third that we'll discuss -- never looked back in a 5-0 win at the Broadmoor World Arena.

This was UMD's most complete game of the season, but it came at the expense of an undermanned Colorado College team that looked overwhelmed from the opening faceoff, something that has to fire up second-year coach Mike Haviland. To play like that out of a bye week, when the Tigers had actually played pretty well the previous weekend against Denver, well let's just say that won't sit well with any coach. Haviland has been around the block enough to know how to deal with it.

The problem: He already basically admitted his team's having issues with its confidence.

"I do worry about confidence," Haviland told me before the game. "We had some issues early on in the year, when we'd get a goal scored we kind of went down a bit and I had to be a cheerleader on the bench."

UMD was in control from the start on Saturday. The opening faceoff ended up in CC's zone within a few seconds, and Dominic Toninato, Alex Iafallo, and Adam Johnson went to work. If the puck left the Colorado zone before Austin Farley opened the scoring 72 seconds in, it didn't stay out very long. The game's barely started, and an 0-10 team is behind 1-0 while having barely touched the puck.

Going back to Haviland's comment, he did say he thought his team had shaken that habit. If it had, there was a big-time relapse on Friday. UMD played probably 65-70 percent of the first period in the Colorado College zone. I put the first-period shot chart on Twitter (see it here), and it tells a pretty grim story for the home team. UMD attempted 30 shots to Colorado College's seven, and the Tigers blocked more UMD shots (ten) than it had attempts of their own. None of CC's shots came from below the top of the faceoff circles, showing how non-existent their net drive was.

(I didn't get second- and third-period shot charts until after the game. CC was better in the second, but the third was another meh 20 minutes for the offense.)

I'll throw out a couple more thoughts about the work Haviland has ahead of him in Colorado Springs in a bit, but this is a UMD-centric blog, and to not talk about the Bulldogs and the guys who played well is a disservice to them and the work they put in Friday.


As you can imagine, when winning 5-0 and outshooting the adversary 39-19, there aren't a lot of passengers. Somehow, Alex Iafallo, Jared Thomas, and Cal Decowski didn't have any shots, and Willie Corrin also went shotless on the evening. Otherwise, every UMD skater had at least one shot, and no one had more than Tony Cameranesi's five, so it was a pretty well-balanced attack.

In fact, here's the breakdown of shots by line and defensive pairing:

Iafallo - Toninato - Johnson: 5
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman: 11
Osterberg - Thomas - A. Young: 6
Sampair - Decowski - Exell: 5

Corrin - Welinski: 1
Soucy - Raskob: 7
Molenaar - Pionk: 4

That's what it looks like when everyone is pulling on the chain and contributing. When you have the fourth line forechecking and generating chances like it did Friday (I thought Sampair was especially active and had a couple other good chances besides his goal), UMD will win a lot of hockey games. This team is at its best when it's a bear to play against, as it was Friday, but it's also at its best when everyone is getting the job done. That was also the case.

Just think about it: We haven't talked about Kasimir Kaskisuo yet, and he posted a shutout. Let's be honest, Kas could have gotten some homework done during the first period. His biggest challenge was likely to avoid getting bored. The Tigers got the first five shots of the second period, but Kaskisuo looked sharp, and he honestly wasn't tested a ton after that.

Well, outside of one play. The wonderful @umdhockeygifs Twitter account has animation of it. It looks like Colorado College was able to win a race near the UMD blue line. Raskob appeared to make a poor decision to step up, and he missed his guy. That helped spring Christian Heil and Teemu Kivihalme in on Kaskisuo on a two-on-none. It looks like Kaskisuo poked the puck away from the slot as Heil tried to pass to Kivihalme. No matter what happened, it was a massive fail and the Tigers didn't even get credit for a shot when they had a two-man breakaway.

That was really it in this game for Colorado College. The Bulldogs did a great job forechecking and applying constant pressure to the puck. While I'm sure CC will produce a better effort on Saturday night, the Tigers are now 0-11, outscored 43-15, and have lost the last seven while being outscored 28-6 and shut out four times. Even with a better effort, UMD has to be "favored" on Saturday.


I addressed a bit of the Tigers' issues in the Thursday blog (read it here). Looking at this team (I watched back the Tigers' games against Denver, and then obviously watched them a third time Friday), it seems more is at play here.

First off: Tyler Marble -- who started Saturday -- and Jacob Nehama are not the problem. Yes, Colorado College could be more competitive with elite goaltending, and neither goalie has elite numbers. But it's not fair to blame this solely on the goalies. It's taking a broad brush to the problem.

Part of the issues here are timing. Haviland took over for Scott Owens last year, and he inherited a team with some nice pieces. However, he now has 14 freshmen as he tries to overhaul the roster. But to bring in those 14, much of the late recruiting involved players that weren't getting Division I looks.

Some of these freshmen -- Trey Bradley, especially -- look like they'll be pretty good. I like Cole McCaskill on the blue line, too. I assume we'll see Nehama in goal in Saturday's rematch.

But Haviland can't be happy with his upperclassmen. Captain Sam Rothstein was invisible Friday. Juniors Luc Gerdes, Heil, and Alex Roos didn't do much. Kivihalme is a really nice defenseman, but he can't do it all alone, and it felt like he played 25 minutes in the first two periods. He's also only a sophomore, someone Haviland thinks "has a chance to play in the NHL."

There's a lot of work ahead for Haviland and his staff. It isn't good for anyone -- not here, not in the NCHC -- to have Colorado College be this bad. It won't last forever, but I don't know when it will end. I still believe this group can do some good things, but not when they're playing with such a lack of confidence and drive.


Elsewhere in the NCHC, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks debuted in St. Cloud, and got a win. UND held off St. Cloud State 4-3 in front of a big crowd at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Drake Caggiula had a hat trick, and goalie Matt Hrynkiw made 36 saves. Nick Schmaltz had three assists for the Fighting Hawks, and that is officially weird to type.

In Oxford, Ohio, Miami and Omaha played to a 3-3 overtime tie, which meant three-on-three hockey at Steve Cady Arena. It didn't last long. Wild prospect Louie Belpedio scored 49 seconds into the three-on-three period, giving the RedHawks an extra point in the NCHC standings. Austin Ortega's ninth goal of the year knotted things at three about midway through the third period. Freshman Jack Roslovic had a goal and an assist for Miami.

Non-conference, Denver got second-period goals from Trevor Moore and Evan Janssen to erase a 3-1 deficit and tie Wisconsin 3-3. That's how the game ended. Quentin Shore also scored for the Pioneers, who were outshot 32-24 by the Badgers. Wisconsin won an exhibition shootout 1-0 because the night wasn't already long enough for the assembled media.

Also on Friday, St. Scholastica beat Northland 4-2 at Mars Lakeview Arena. I bring this up not because the Saints are now 3-1-1, or because they scored three in the third to complete a comeback from 2-0 down to win. Instead, I bring it up because CSS won despite being outshot 51-27. The Lumberjacks outshot the Saints 30-7 in the second period. How? Because CSS had two players sent off for checking from behind at the same time. That gave Northland a five-minute five-on-three power play, something I can safely say I've never seen. Fans in attendance ended up not seeing it, either. Less than three minutes into the power play, Northland got tagged for too many men on the ice, nullifying the five-on-three for two minutes. The Lumberjacks didn't score with the man advantage and the score stayed 2-1, setting the stage for the Saints' comeback.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Game 12: UMD at Colorado College

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Scott Sandelin wants points this weekend. Badly.

"We have to go in there and build off what we did Saturday," Sandelin said earlier this week. "It's a big weekend, because we don't play next weekend. These are critical points for me, if you want to stay in any type of race, important points before we get to December."

Against winless Colorado College, which has been outscored 38-15 in ten games, it better not be an assumption in that room that anything is going to be easy. When your opposing goalies are stopping pucks at an alarming rate (.941 team save percentage for UMD opponents so far), you haven't scored more than three goals in any game, and you have a grand total of eight goals in a five-game winless streak, you've lost the right to rest on your laurels.

It's time to go. It's time to turn things around. I strongly feel UMD is one bounce away from starting a tidal wave of positivity, but the Bulldogs have to keep working hard before that bounce will ever come.



Iafallo - Toninato - Johnson
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Osterberg - Thomas - Young (Austyn)
Sampair - Decowski - Exell

Corrin - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Pionk - Molenaar

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Bradley (Trey) - Rothstein - Bergh
Fejes - Heil - Gooch
Gerdes - Bradley (Cody) - Hansen
Maric - Ockey - Roos

Kivihalme - McCaskill
Farny - Emilio
Lagrone - Israel

Marble - Nehama - Shatzer

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bulldogs Still Seek Breakthrough Performance

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- For UMD, Saturday was a huge load off a lot of shoulders.

A scoring drought of 106:34 was snapped in the third period, as senior Tony Cameranesi took what he called "an absolutely perfect pass" from freshman Adam Johnson and had a tap-in to tie the game against Denver. The goal came after three glorious UMD chances -- an Andy Welinski short-handed breakaway where Welinski beat the goalie clean but rang a wicked wrist shot off the goalpost, a Charlie Sampair pass to Austyn Young on a two-on-one where Young was robbed blind by DU goalie Tanner Jaillet, and a Johnson partial breakaway where the puck wobbled and his backhand shot went wide -- went awry.

"I give our guys a lot of credit," coach Scott Sandelin said this week. "We've gone through this a couple times. Teams go through it. There's not a lot you can really say as a coach. Keep doing the things you're doing, if you're doing good things. We were generating opportunities."

UMD outshot Denver 46-20 through the five-on-five overtime Saturday. To put that in perspective, you have to go back more than a year to find the last time Denver allowed that many shots in a game. The Pioneers gave up 48 on Oct. 25, 2014 ... to UMD. To find the last time Denver was outshot by 20 or more in a game, you have to go all the way back to Dec. 6, 2013, in a 3-1 win at Miami (34-12 shots in favor of the RedHawks). That's a stretch of 76 games for DU without being that badly outshot.

I know, you're sick of hearing about shots on goal. You want results. However, I'll go back to that quote you see above from Sandelin.

"Keep doing the things you're doing, if you're doing good things."

In other words, stick with it. It isn't always easy when things are perceived to not be going your way. And things surely weren't going UMD's way on Saturday. For the second time in four goals on the weekend, Denver scored when a puck went in off a UMD defender. Friday, it was Jarid Lukosevicius trying to pass across the slot and having the puck go in off Andy Welinski's skate. Saturday, a left point shot by Adam Plant bounced in off the shoulder of Carson Soucy.

But UMD kept at it, outshooting DU 19-5 in the first period and eventually cracking Jaillet, who made 45 saves on the night and watched in horror (maybe not literally) as Evan Cowley, who shut the Bulldogs out on 27 saves Friday, earned NCHC Goaltender of the Week honors.

(Sorry, NCHC, you got the wrong guy. With all due respect to Cowley, who's a solid goalie, Jaillet's 45 saves on 46 shots was much, much more impressive than his 27 saves on 27 shots. Not even close, in my view.)

Total shot attempts were 82-34 in UMD's favor, much more similar to the Omaha series than it was to the Friday game against DU. The Bulldogs went from not being very good to being very good and plain unlucky.

And when Cameranesi put that last puck by Jaillet in the three-on-three, you could tell by the way UMD celebrated that it meant a little more to them than the one standings point would indicate. It was the positive jolt UMD needed and it couldn't have come at a better time.

"Hopefully a game like that where the result is what we got, gives our guys some life," Sandelin said. "Because the other way, right now going into Colorado, I'd be very worried with our mindset. If you look at the last four games, three of the four you play well enough to win, it's a hard thing to manage."

"I thought we played well," Cameranesi said. "I just think after the first one went in, you could see a little weight come off guys' shoulders. You could tell by the way we reacted on that goal, it was a lot of hard work to get that extra point. If we keep playing like that, we'll be fine."


Never one to make excuses, Sandelin said this on the UMD Coaches Show Wednesday on 92.1 The Fan:

"You can't control the bounces. We haven't had a lot of puck luck either way, offensively or defensively, I'll be honest. It's not an excuse, but you need a little bit of that, too."

Look at the numbers. Look at the shooting percentages. Sandelin is on to something. This isn't just a case of guys who can't score. UMD has hit pipes and found ways to hit goalies at an alarming rate in the early going.

We discussed it heading into the Denver series. Trust me, one goal on 73 shots isn't going to help the percentages.

But at some point, one has to wonder if the overall confidence of the team becomes more fragile if there isn't a breakout game to be found.

Sandelin was talking last week about the offensive struggles and correctly noted that this isn't a team that's built to win games 8-2 all the time. He said that before St. Cloud State put that 11-1 whooping on Western Michigan on Saturday. Reality is that UMD will win most of its games in 3-1, 3-2, 4-2 variety. That's just the way the team's constructed, combined with how the sport works right now. The days of teams winning games 8-4 are generally over.

(This is a bit of a subtweet, or subblog if you will, towards those who like to remind us how many points Bill Watson accumulated in a single season. Those days are gone, though not forgotten. The game has evolved, not all of it good, and scoring is what it is, unless the rules committee does something like make nets bigger, which would be rather silly if the NHL isn't following suit.)

But to win games 3-1, you have to score three goals. UMD hasn't done that in its five-game winless streak. There are more things the Bulldogs can do, even more than they did on Saturday. There's more work that can be done in front of the net, taking the goalie's eyes away and increasing the chance said goalie will give up rebound chances. There are times UMD is too tight in the crease area, decreasing its chances of pouncing on rebounds. In fact, I'd argue the forwards have either been too tight or too loose in front of opposing goaltenders as of late. Too loose means you have games like Cowley's on Friday, where he was entirely too calm and relaxed. Too tight means you miss on the chance to get pucks back to the net after the goalie kicks them out.

It's up to the Bulldogs to figure out the happy medium, because it does exist. Cameranesi showed what happens on Saturday when you get where you need to go at the netfront.


Colorado College awaits UMD this weekend. After an 0-10 start that featured games against Boston College, UMass-Lowell, North Dakota, and Denver, the Tigers took last week off. Second-year coach Mike Haviland has a very young team, with 14 freshmen -- including former Cloquet/Esko/Carlton star Westin Michaud, who is out for the season after tearing an ACL in October -- and only four seniors.

The Tigers are 0-10 and have been outscored 38-15. On average, they've been outshot in games 36-27. You think UMD's been unlucky? Well, CC's got them beat.

Opposing goalies have a generally unsustainable .941 save percentage against UMD through 11 games. Through ten games, opposing goalies have a .944 save percentage against Colorado College.

"They've played some very, very good teams," Sandelin said. "They've been in a lot of those games. They're hoping for something good to happen. They've got some good players. They're a young team. When you look at Rothstein, Bradley (there are two of them now), they've got guys who can make a difference."

UMD has to attack the Tigers' goaltending. Junior Tyler Marble and freshman Jacob Nehama have basically split the games so far (Nehama has played 317 minutes, Marble 274), and neither has been consistently good. Marble has a .901, and Nehama is at .897. UMD's Kasimir Kaskisuo, by comparison, has played all but 22 minutes this season and has a .910 save percentage.

The Bulldogs are due some luck. Maybe this is the weekend. But as much as I abhor the phrase "You make your own luck," there is a shred of truth to it.

You can't make luck. You can't manufacture luck. But you can be in better positions for something to bounce your way. I do believe that when it comes to the netfront, UMD can do more than it's been doing. And it can do smarter things that will help create the necessary traffic to score goals. I also think UMD can shoot smarter from distance, putting pucks at an elevation and in places where they can be tipped and/or create better rebound opportunities.

CC has some talent in the back, led by Teemu Kivihalme, the son of former UWS forward Janne Hassi. Cole McCaskill is a promising freshman, and Andrew Farny can play, too. But Kivihalme is only a sophomore, and Haviland has five freshman defensemen who have played at least five games so far. UMD's speed is tough to prepare for, because the Bulldogs tend to be faster on the ice than they are on video. They need to attack CC's defense and get them on their heels. The ability to do that and get to the net and create havoc will be a huge key for both games this weekend.


Got a great question Wednesday via email, and decided I'd answer it here.

Scott emailed and asked "Can you tell me a little bit what has happened to CC? I understand they were never a power, but what has happened to get to this?"

Well, they have been a power. They won a couple national titles many years ago, then were an NCAA Tournament regular through around 2008ish and a Frozen Four team in 2005.

That said, the program has been in a nose-dive for a little while now. Some of it starts with goaltending. The Tigers simply haven't gotten consistent goaltending for quite a while now, and that's the lifeblood of any program now. If you don't have goaltending, you don't have any real chance to win over the long haul. CC's simply had some guys not pan out there, going back to when they had Joe Howe (good in spurts) and Josh Thorimbert (same) a few years back.

Colorado College's last elite goaltender was Richard Bachman, who backstopped the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament in 2008 as a freshman. He won 25 games and posted a .931 save percentage on the season. But playing on home ice in the NCAA regional, Colorado College lost a first-round game to Michigan State despite outshooting the Spartans 42-23.

Bachman's save percentage fell from .931 as a freshman to .914 in 2008-2009. That year, CC was swept in the first round of the WCHA playoffs by Alex Stalock and UMD. The Bulldogs went on to win the Final Five and make the NCAAs, while CC hasn't been the same since.

The Tigers made the NCAAs in 2011 despite 18 losses, but were basically a .500 team in Scott Owens' last five years on board. Seeing the writing on the wall with a couple middling recruiting classes and the program fading into irrelevancy in the fledgling NCHC, the school made a coaching change. Haviland, as Sandelin noted on the coaches' show, is trying to rebuild the program. But that won't happen right away. It'll take time, and there's no better evidence of that than the 14-man recruiting class Haviland has brought in this year.

In Owens' defense re: recruiting, he did bring in two gems on the blue line in Jaccob Slavin and Gustav Olofsson. Unfortunately, the two players combined to play three years in college. Olofsson turned pro after the 2013-14 season, his freshman year, signing with the Minnesota Wild. Slavin left after two years and signed with Carolina (as of this writing, he's expected to make his NHL debut Thursday night for the Hurricanes, playing possibly with former UMD star Justin Faulk).

But that's what high-end players do. They leave early (at least most of the time). Other players haven't panned out, and CC's depth is really lacking as a result. Haviland brought in some promising youngsters, including Trey Bradley and Trevor Gooch up front and McCaskill, Farny, and Jake Emilio on defense. It's not going to get fixed overnight, but I do sense from watching the Tigers' games two weeks ago against Denver back that this team is similar to UMD, in that they could break out if they get a bounce at some point.

Also got another question via Twitter this week:

Adam: "dropping quickly in polls and low in pairwise. Should I be worried about frozen four hopes?"

Not now, no way.

Providence started 4-5-1 last year, including losses to non-NCAA teams Ohio State and Vermont. The Friars did OK.

Union slipped out of the gates in 2013-14 and even got swept at home by Lake Superior State. The Dutchmen did OK.

Yale lost five in a row at one point in 2012-13, scoring six goals in the losing streak. I'd argue the Bulldogs ended up OK.

Extreme examples, sure, but every team has adversity, and every team struggles at one point or another. I'd argue UMD needs to find its game quickly, but we're nowhere near panic time. That said, if you booked a flight to Tampa already for next April, you're a huge gambler. Even if this team ends up being great, there are just no guarantees in the NCAA Tournament.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Game 11: Denver at UMD

Five losses in a row is not optimal. No need to dissect the importance of this affair.





Iafallo - Toninato - Johnson
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Osterberg - Thomas - Young (Austyn)
Young (Blake) - Decowski - Sampair

Corrin - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
McCormack - Pionk

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Deery

Levin - Shore - Terry
Moore - Marcinew - Lukosevicius
Heinen - Gambrell - O'Connor
Arnold - Janssen - Staub

Hammond - Zajac
Plant - Butcher
Hillman - Neville

Jaillet - Cowley

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Lackluster Effort, Worse Execution Lead to Fourth Straight Loss

From the start Friday night, it didn't look like UMD had "it" against Denver.

Passing was off, the net drive was non-existent, and there wasn't enough physicality*.

(* - outside of an early boarding penalty against Charlie Sampair. I know some disagree, but I thought it was a dumb penalty, and Sampair was lucky the player he hit -- Adam Plant -- was only a foot or so from the boards, or it could have been an early shower for Chuck.)

UMD paid for these things with a 3-0 loss. The Bulldogs have now dropped four games in a row, and possibly worse, have not led for one second in any of the four games. Worse, the games have only been tied for 43 minutes and 29 seconds out of a possible 240 minutes. That's nearly 200 minutes (196:31, to be precise), or seven full periods, of playing catch-up hockey.

To put that in perspective, UMD trailed for 35:20 in its first six games, a total of 370 minutes when you count the two overtimes against Notre Dame.

Not hard to see why the Bulldogs are struggling. It starts with scoring the first goal, something that seems so simple but has become oh so complicated for this team. UMD is 0-4-1 when conceding the first goal, and its only loss when scoring first came in the opener at Bemidji State, a team that by the way hasn't won since that night.

Denver freshman Jarid Lukosevicius scored two power play goals Friday, one about five minutes in, and one late in the second period. The former came after Sampair's penalty, and the latter on the third of three DU power plays in the second period. UMD was actually close to surviving a second period where nothing of any note really happened, but Lukosevicius and Grant Arnold scored 40 seconds apart for a 3-0 lead that broke UMD's back for the night, basically.

We've been preaching even-strength shots quite a bit, as it shows how UMD has been controlling possession in games. Going into Friday, the Bulldogs were outshooting opponents 25-17 per game at even strength. Friday, shots at even strength were 18-18.

UMD hadn't been a good faceoff team. Naturally, the Bulldogs won 29 of 47 draws on a night where little else went right.

The Bulldogs looked like a frustrated bunch late in Friday's game. If they can avoid getting frustrated Saturday, it could certainly help lead to a sharper performance. Teams tend to not play well when they're frustrated, because it leads to too much negative energy. Even anger can be spun into a positive in an athletic arena. Frustration can't.
Honestly, I don't have much else to say. Things aren't going well at the moment, and hopefully better things are in store in Saturday's series finale. What happened Friday was generally unacceptable, and I have a hard time imagining it will happen again Saturday.

That's all I have. Keep your chins up.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Game 10: Denver at UMD

UMD coaches and players have preached patience this week, to an extent. Bottom line, the series in Omaha was full of bad bounces and great UNO goaltending, and the shot totals show a dominant UMD effort where the Bulldogs deserved a better fate than they received.

We'll see if they can duplicate the effort and get a better result. If not, you Corsi people can go to hell. :)



Iafallo - Toninato - Kuhlman
Farley - Cameranesi - Young (Austyn)
Osterberg - Thomas - Johnson
Sampair - Decowski - Spurrell

Soucy - Welinski
Corrin - Pionk
Raskob - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Deery

Levin - Shore - Terry
Moore - Marcinew - Lukosevicius
Heinen - Gambrell - O'Connor
Arnold - Janssen - Staub

Hammond - Zajac
Plant - Butcher
Hillman - Neville

Cowley - Jaillet

UMD Must Show Confidence Not Shaken by Omaha Sweep

No question the Omaha trip was a frustrating one for UMD. Call it a hot goalie, bad luck, ineffective finishing, or a combination of the three, but the Bulldogs scored four goals on 84 shots and were swept out of Baxter Arena by the Mavericks.

Instead of licking their wounds, UMD got together Monday and set out to move on as quickly as possible.

"I thought Scott Sandelin's speech to the team Monday was one of the best I've seen him give," assistant coach Brett Larson said. "When you go out and get 160 shot attempts to their 80, go out and score a couple power play goals, Grade-A chances are heavily in our favor, it's tough to be mad at you. We all hate losing, but it was hard to be mad at the group after the weekend."

Sandelin said multiple times Wednesday that the Bulldogs "did a lot of good things" against Omaha, "everything but score enough goals." Obviously, the return of senior forward Tony Cameranesi from a shoulder injury is going to help. But it's not the cure-all.

More than anything, UMD needs to keep doing what it did in Omaha, minus some puck management errors and defensive lapses. Even then, it's not fair to blame those factors by themselves. Over 120 minutes, it's just not realistic to expect mistake-free hockey. Errors -- mental and physical -- are going to happen. They're inevitable. Coaches make corrections and move on to the next game, where errors -- hopefully different ones -- will happen.

Driving home from Nebraska on Sunday, I have to admit being quite a bit peeved at the weekend result when we set off from our hotel near the arena. Even the announcer hates when UMD gets swept, after all. But by the time we pulled into our driveway, it was more disappointment about the result, because it is simply not fair to be disappointed by that effort. The effort was good, and there were many more positives than negatives to take from the series.

Larson, who was on a recruiting trip and not in Omaha (typically, one assistant goes with the team on a road trip, and the other will go somewhere to recruit), echoed those sentiments this week. He said the coaches got together to watch the video Monday and quickly realized they couldn't be mad about the players' effort.

"You can sit here and skirt it," Sandelin said. "You can sit here and try to go around it. You meet it head on. We did a lot of good things."

Sandelin wants more "moxie or patience" around the net, but otherwise not many adjustments from the Omaha effort.

Cameranesi has been skating, so his conditioning should be pretty solid. I don't expect him to take a lot of faceoffs initially, instead ceding that task to fellow senior Austyn Young, who will center a line with Austin Farley and Cameranesi. If that's how things start, it would open the door for Dominic Toninato and Alex Iafallo to reunite after two-plus games on different lines.


Nothing will likely change until UMD's shooting percentage does. The Bulldogs scored goals on 8.9 percent of their shots on goal last year, but are only shooting at a 6.9 percent clip in 2015-16. Toninato -- who scored 16 goals on 87 shots last year -- is shooting at half that percentage so far this year. Iafallo has one goal on 30 shots, Karson Kuhlman one on 24, Adam Johnson none on 24.

Willie Raskob's goal Saturday was his first in 24 shots on goal. Cameranesi's shooting percentage is down slightly so far this season, as is Jared Thomas'.

Did I mention UMD's shooting at a 6.9 percent clip right now? 6.9 percent!

These are, frankly, unsustainable shooting percentages. I'd say the same thing if the Bulldogs were shooting at a 17-plus percent clip, like Harvard is right now. Of course, they'd be averaging something like six goals a game with that shooting percentage, so let's be honest: If that were the case, we'd all be booking April flights to Tampa.

For UMD, there is something to be said for being a little smarter with the puck in the offensive zone, trying to work around the defense and make goalies more uncomfortable, but it was doing so many of those things in Omaha (especially on Friday) and getting nothing out of it.

I hate to blame luck, but a lot of it comes down to that. These players have generally proven themselves at this level. They simply aren't going to perform like this all year.


The opponent this weekend doesn't care about UMD's three-game losing streak. But don't think Denver coach Jim Montgomery has avoided the topic with his players. His team has been far from perfect so far, and with the margin for error only shrinking as conference play kicks in, expect Denver to come in here and go for the throat while UMD is at least perceived to be a little down.

Montgomery spoke this week about the immense respect he has for UMD. Forwards Trevor Moore and Danton Heinen are among the most explosive players in the country, and defenseman Will Butcher has taken a huge step forward so far, averaging over a point per game while trying to help cover for the loss of All-America blue-liner Joey LaLeggia.

Things haven't gone as smoothly as Pioneer fans hoped. Heinen has shown flashes of brilliance (Montgomery indicated there's been some inconsistency with his game so far), but the coach is still tinkering with line combinations and has actually played Heinen -- a Boston Bruins draft pick that one NHL guy I trust a great deal said could play with the "big boys" right now -- at all three forward positions so far.

Montgomery talked about stepping into a hornets' nest this weekend, and while he says his team isn't happy about being 5-3 and still trying to find some consistency up front, his team shouldn't be as unhappy as UMD. The Bulldogs get Tony Cameranesi back from injury, and I expect a spirited effort from the home team, which is under .500 at 3-4-2 in a season full of expectations.

"I don't know how they're on a three-game losing streak," Montgomery said. "I've watched those games (against UNO), and I thought they were in control of both those games."

Honestly, I don't know, either. But you are what you are. Let's see if UMD is still a sub-.500 team after a pair of critical NCHC home games.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Swept Out of Omaha

Meandering blog on my day off. Hope you can follow along and make it to the end.

By now, you're well aware that UMD lost 4-2 Saturday in Omaha, marking the Mavericks' first NCHC sweep at new Baxter Arena. Freshman goalie Evan Weninger wasn't tested as much as he was Friday, but he was rock solid again with 35 saves as UMD outshot the Mavericks 37-21, 84-49 on the weekend.

I could shower you with "Patience and it'll come" stuff, but I know you don't want to read that. I'm not going to panic, though I know some of you are and maybe you think I should be. But I also won't go all "cheerleader" on the bit and act like things are all wonderful when the team is 3-4-2 and off to a 0-2 start in league play.

I'm not an idiot. I know things aren't rosy right now. But here are a few important and unimportant points to consider.

--> It's only nine games. Yeah, it's the quarter-pole of the season, but while many of you might think the sky is on the verge of falling, I'd think the same if the Bulldogs were playing at peak efficiency right now. As the coaches have said numerous times, it's a process. That process might not lead to super results in the early going, but the goals this team has can't be reached in October or November. While it's true you can blow title hopes by playing poorly early in the season, there's no way to reasonably argue this team has played that poorly. Not even close.

--> For a comparison, the 2003-04 UMD team went into the season with very high expectations after a hot finish to 2002-03 that saw the Bulldogs barely miss the NCAA Tournament. The 03-04 team started 0-2-1 and was 4-5-1 after ten games. Sitting at a meh 9-8-2 through 19 games, UMD ripped off 13 wins and a tie over the next 14 games. Made the Frozen Four that year. We won't talk about what happened there. The next year, under even higher expectations, the Bulldogs started 5-0-1 before mediocrity reared its ugly head and UMD finished under .500.

--> Last year, UMD went under .500 four times in October before getting hot in November. My point? Every team is different.

--> I will say that I'd like to see someone on the current team take the bull by the horns and step up in times of need. That's not to say guys aren't playing well, but when things aren't going right, who's going to be the one to stop the bleeding? Tony Cameranesi did it in the Saturday game at Notre Dame, which was fantastic, but without him last weekend, it was a missing element against Omaha. Maybe Cameranesi is that guy once he's back, but there are others on the team capable of it. Let's see if others prove capable.

--> Let's give credit where it's due. Weninger was awesome, especially on Friday, and he was strong on his fundamentals all weekend. He outplayed UMD's Kasimir Kaskisuo, who had his moments in both games, but also allowed goals I bet he'd like to have back. Also, UNO got a big weekend from Jake Guentzel, who was all over the ice and even got his name called by this idiot announcer while serving a 10-minute misconduct on Friday. That's how good he was.

--> Speaking of Weninger, saw a few tweets from UMD fans on Saturday -- before I basically stopped looking at tweets from UMD fans -- talking about how they were sick of the "hot goalie" excuse. I'm sick of hot goalies, but if you want to ignore how good goalies are in college hockey right now, you're burying your head in the sand. Weninger entered the weekend with a .955 save percentage, played two games, was really good, and his save percentage went DOWN. Not far (to .954), but it went down.

--> "How did the goalies UMD has faced fare against the Bulldogs and against everyone else?" Well, I'm thrilled you asked. Weninger's save percentage on the weekend was .952, compared to .954 overall. Bemidji State's Michael Bitzer was .933 against UMD, .897 against everyone else. Minnesota freshman Eric Schierhorn posted a .912 against UMD, and he's at .925 overall. Notre Dame's Cal Petersen was .929 in two games against UMD, and .909 overall. Finally, UMass-Lowell's Kevin Boyle was a .926 against UMD, and he's at .949 overall. I'm not too much into stats, but it doesn't appear UMD has been significantly worse statistically than could be reasonably expected against this batch of goalies.

--> UMD opponents have posted a .931 save percentage in nine games. UMD goalies are at .898, a number hurt slightly by the two open net goals allowed last weekend, but one that isn't nearly good enough. You can bet this will get addressed this week (purely my opinion). These losses aren't Kaskisuo's fault, but on the other hand, UMD can't live with every mistake it makes ending up in the back of the net, and that was basically life in Omaha. The Bulldogs aren't ever going to play mistake-free hockey. No one does, and as long as goals are hard to come by, the goaltending has to find a way to be better.

--> On average, UMD is outshooting opponents 28-19 at even strength. It's been outshot at even strength twice (opener vs Bemidji State and the Saturday UMass-Lowell game). UMD has been plus-10 or better in that department five times in nine games. The margin over the weekend was 59-33. I'm not saying definitively that things will turn around, but the possession UMD is generating is not going to be for naught over the course of a long season. Maybe it starts turning around against Denver. Maybe it doesn't.

--> That's about all for now. I'm not going to tell you not to panic, but I really don't think you should panic. There are things to figure out, for sure, but there is nothing happening that can't be corrected.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Game 9: UMD at Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. -- Away we go from Baxter Arena, where UMD tries to avoid what would qualify as a losing streak. The Bulldogs have dropped two straight after a 4-2 loss here on Friday night, and UMD hasn't held a lead in either game. More disturbingly, perhaps, is that the games have only been tied for 21 minutes and 42 seconds out of 120. That's a lot of time playing catch-up hockey, something Scott Sandelin preaches about regularly.

A poor first shift doomed UMD on Friday night. Brian Cooper scored on a lost defensive coverage 24 seconds in, and Omaha actually pressured for more after that before the Bulldogs got their footing. An empty power play, however, was quickly followed by a bad turnover in the UMD zone that led to Fredrik Olofsson's goal that made it 2-0.

1-0 after that start would have been manageable. 2-0 was going to be tough sledding.

UMD didn't help its own cause. The Bulldogs missed the net 19 times on 84 shot attempts Friday, along with drawing iron once. Freshman goalie Evan Weninger, who has a .955 save percentage in five starts for UNO, made 45 saves and got plenty of help from his friends, as the Mavericks blocked 17 shot attempts.

Total attempts on goal: 84-38 UMD. Shots on goal: 47-28 UMD. Even-strength shots on goal: 32-19 UMD. Score: 4-2 UNO.

(Last two games in Omaha, including last year's series finale at CenturyLink Center look like this:

Total attempts on goal: 169-69 UMD. Shots on goal: 87-46 UMD. Even-strength shots on goal: 67-36 UMD. Score: 8-3 UNO.

Let's buck this trend, eh?)

You guys aren't stupid. You know the result matters more than anything in the short-term, and I'm not going to try arguing that point. But Sandelin and his staff have preached this is a process, and if you're going to give them that, you have to understand, then, that a game like Friday will be won by UMD much more often than it's lost.

And even UNO coach Dean Blais, wily veteran he is, has to understand his team caught a few breaks to get those three points. Similarly, he has to understand that his team will have games where it plays like UMD did on Friday and loses anyway.

Sometimes you're the bug (not Austin Farley), sometimes you're the windshield. Or something.

Big-picture, I'll take my chances with most of UMD's game Friday. Yes, the start has to be better, but not every game is going to be a 60-minute virtuoso. Doesn't happen. Hell, you think Blais was thrilled watching his team take silly penalties and get outshot 36-15 over the last 40 minutes? I doubt it.

Anyway, on to Saturday. Only one lineup change for UMD. Same for UNO.



Osterberg - Thomas - Iafallo
Farley - Toninato - Kuhlman
Johnson - Decowski - Young (Austyn)
Sampair - Spurrell - Mackay

Corrin - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
McCormack - Pionk

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Pope - Guentzel - Ortega
Randolph - Vesel - Parizek
Olofsson - Alferd - Spinner
Lane - Nogard - Peterson

Cooper - Messner
Snuggerud - Gallo
Brady - Buchta

Weninger - Blankenburg - Thompson

Friday, November 06, 2015

Game 8: UMD at Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. -- Beautiful Baxter Arena is the site for this series. Similar in layout to Amsoil Arena, only the press box is above the suites instead of being below them like it is in Duluth. Still fantastic sightlines, outside of a pole I might have to maneuver around to see play in one of the corners.

$82 million dollar rink opened two weeks ago, and has yet to see a UNO loss. Hopefully that changes this weekend.



Osterberg - Thomas - Iafallo
Farley - Toninato - Kuhlman
Johnson - Decowski - Young (Austyn)
Young (Blake) - Spurrell - Sampair

Corrin - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
McCormack - Pionk

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Olofsson - Guentzel - Ortega
Randolph - Vesel - Parizek
Pope - Alferd - Spinner
Morelli - Nogard - Peterson

Cooper - Messner
Snuggerud - Gallo
Brady - Buchta

Weninger - Blankenburg - Thompson

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Bulldogs' Road Success Tested in New Venue

SOMEWHERE IN, Iowa -- Greetings from I-35. Yes, my wife is driving.

As far as you know.

Anyway, UMD opens NCHC play this weekend at Omaha, and the Bulldogs will get to see the brand-new Baxter Arena, which just opened two weekends ago for a visit from Air Force.

"At least they're one of the teams that won their first game in their building," cracked UMD coach Scott Sandelin, referencing UMD losing to North Dakota in the Amsoil Arena opener, and numerous other teams losing their first games in new buildings (including Sandelin's alma mater, North Dakota, when it opened new Ralph Engelstad Arena).

"The neat thing is I think it's gonna be a great atmosphere," Sandelin said. "It's a little smaller venue than their last one, so it's hopefully going to be a lot like our building. I'm sure the people are very excited. It'll be fun. I think that's what kids want to play in."

Baxter Arena has only been "used" once, a UNO sweep of Air Force Oct. 23-24. The Mavericks have played three of their first four series on the road, including non-conference sweeps of Minnesota State and Vermont, and last weekend's sweep at the hands of Western Michigan.

(We'll have time to talk about this in December when UMD plays the Broncos, but that team is going to beat some people up this year, including possibly the Bulldogs. They are just as big and tough as usual, and they have a great freshman class and some criminally underrated skill guys like Sheldon Dries and Nolan LaPorte. Much of the media is going to regret picking them seventh in the preseason poll, as understandable as that pick was.)

UMD is coming off a tough weekend of its own, losing 6-3 Saturday to UMass-Lowell after a Friday victory. Sophomore forward Jared Thomas of Hermantown is quick to point out that, while UNO is probably a bit irritated over getting swept, his teammates aren't exactly thrilled with their weekend outcome, either.

"They had a tough weekend, too," Thomas said, "so Blais is probably working them hard this week. They'll be ready for us. We'll be ready for them. We weren't satisfied with how we played Saturday."

Assistant coach Brett Larson agrees.

"We're not happy, either, after losing a game Saturday night," he said. "A lot of teams will say 'Let's go in and weather the storm,' but we have a different attitude. We want to try to match their intensity. We respect them a lot, but we want to go in and match that emotional level and compete with them right from the first faceoff."

The Bulldogs are no strangers to hostile environments. UMD is 22-15-2 on the road since the start of the 2013-14 season. Its play away from home helped spark a school record 17-game unbeaten streak in 2011-12. In recent years, it's no secret some of UMD's best work has come on the road.

"The number one thing that makes us that way is we're not afraid to put our fourth line on the ice," Larson said. "We've got a lot of faith in our fourth line. Having that depth, and having third or fourth lines that I think would be second or third lines on a lot of teams, gives you a lot of confidence when you go to play on the road."


That depth will be tested this weekend. Senior forward Tony Cameranesi is not on the trip and will not play in the UNO series. Cameranesi suffered an upper-body injury in the third period of Saturday's game (watch it here, courtesy of the wonderful @UMDHockeyGIFs Twitter account) and did not return.

Watching the GIF, it appears he hurt himself trying to finish a check along the corner boards while forechecking.

Cameranesi skated this week, which is certainly a good thing for his conditioning, but he wasn't cleared for contact and didn't do much in practice besides skating. It was pretty clear he had little chance of making the trip and playing.

Larson said it was a pretty easy call to keep him out -- "considering where he was at physically" -- and noted that this weekend is important, but not the endgame.

"It's hard for a lot of people to think about, but it's a process. We're building toward something. This weekend is huge, no doubt, but the rest of the year is even bigger than this weekend."

"I just told him to keep skating," Sandelin said. "He'll be back, hopefully, for Denver."

Not having Cameranesi for this series stinks. It's a matchup I would expect him to thrive in, because Omaha prefers to play an up-and-down game with lots of pace. Of course, it's not like UMD doesn't have speed and skill guys up and down the lineup, and like Larson said, the depth is strong.

Expect Jared Thomas to center Alex Iafallo and Kyle Osterberg to start off Friday's game. Dominic Toninato should work in between Austin Farley and Karson Kuhlman, with Cal Decowski (ahem, CAL DECOWSKI!!1!1!) centering Adam Johnson and Austyn Young. It's an opportunity for chemistry with new linemates for a lot of guys, but I do see benefits.

Osterberg has been playing very well so far this season, and I think his grit complements Iafallo's speed very well. Thomas has been solid on faceoffs lately after a rough start (28-16 the last four games, including 17-7 last weekend). Decowski's experience lends well to him playing a third-line role with a high-skill player in Johnson and a hard worker in Young, who might see some power play time this weekend in Cameranesi's place. Young's a versatile guy with offensive skill who has played a lot of third- and fourth-line minutes and penalty kill, where it opportunities to flash offensive ability are more limited.

"Last year, mentally he had a better approach," Sandelin said last week of Young. "He was a pretty gifted offensive player, and never really got a lot of opportunities. I think last year he realized he needs to be a different kind of player. He's a good faceoff guy, he's got a good stick, he has the ability to score goals.

"He's worked hard, and it was nice to see him get a couple goals."


This should be a fun weekend. Beyond the atmosphere we already talked about, the teams just tend to play a fun, watchable brand of hockey.

Omaha features a couple local stars. Former Duluth East center Jake Randolph is a sophomore and is off to a good start with five goals in eight games. 2014 Mr. Hockey winner Avery Peterson from Grand Rapids is pointless in seven games, but scored ten goals as a true freshman. It stands to reason the Minnesota Wild draft pick will get going eventually.

Randolph plays center and wing, and generally is part of a potent second line for UNO. The top line includes the very talented and explosive Jake Guentzel and Austin Ortega. UMD will need to corral and contain those two to have a lot of success this weekend.

UNO's goaltending took a hit with the graduation of star Ryan Massa, who carried the Mavericks at times last season. After a hot start to the year, Kirk Thompson and Evan Weininger were lit up last weekend in Kalamazoo, allowing ten goals in two games, including a 6-1 loss on Saturday to finish the sweep. UNO looked leaky on defense, giving up a lot of chances in front of the net, and UMD's ability to win races and battles in front of UNO's net will be a huge key this weekend.

I wasn't convinced UMD used its speed enough the last two weekends, but both series were against tougher defensive-minded teams. This should be a different style of hockey, and we'll find out if it lends itself more to UMD's speed and skill.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Monday Musings: Second Period Dooms UMD in Split

I sensed quite a bit of consternation on Twitter after UMD's 6-3 loss to UMass-Lowell on Saturday night. Disappointment is one thing, but fans seemed pretty ticked that the Bulldogs dropped the second game of the series.

Surely, the three-goal second period Lowell hung on the hosts left a sour taste, but I was intrigued by some of the responses I saw. Maybe people are just listening to me when I talk about the importance of non-conference games toward the PairWise.

Saw one fan call it the "worst effort I've seen in years." Now, I'm not saying the second period was pretty. It wasn't. But we've seen UMD lose games 8-2 and 5-0 to unranked teams at Amsoil Arena. I can't imagine Saturday's defeat to a team that will be legit top five for at least a chunk of this season would qualify as similarly putrid.

As for the game itself, UML was simply a better team on Saturday than it was on Friday, and UMD couldn't consistently match that level of play. The Bulldogs had spurts, like the start of the second period after Kyle Osterberg's late first-period goal tied the game 1-1. UMD started strong in the second period, carrying the play, but Tony Cameranesi took a slashing penalty that put the RiverHawks on the power play. 35 seconds before Cameranesi was scheduled to be released from the box, freshman defenseman Neal Pionk blocked a shot, dumped the puck down the rink, and headed to the bench. He got tangled with a Lowell player and took a needless slashing penalty.

UMass-Lowell scored on the five-on-three to take the lead, added another goal (both from defenseman Dylan Zink) on the five-on-four to make it 3-1, and controlled much of the rest of the second period, eventually adding a Joe Gambardella goal for a 4-1 advantage. It wasn't a good period, but clearly those two UMD penalties -- Pionk's was especially silly, and it looked like he found the bench for a stretch of the second period as a result of it -- made a big difference in how the game played out.

In the third period, the Bulldogs tried to rally. Off a pretty silly UMass-Lowell penalty, Austin Farley tallied to make it 4-2. Then 52 seconds later, Brenden Kotyk blasted one by goalie Kevin Boyle to cut the lead to one. UMD buzzed for a couple shifts after that, but UMass-Lowell got two insurance goals and salted the win away.


This was good October hockey. Both teams can bring it, and both did for large chunks of the weekend. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs' lapse on Saturday was enough to cost them, but there were a lot of good things about the weekend.

UMD scored a pair of power play goals, doubling the season total to four. No, a 12.5 percent power play isn't going to scare anyone, but if the puck movement and shooting continue, UMD will be just fine with the man advantage.

The penalty kill struggled Saturday, but overall the numbers are good, and improvement was there over the weekend. Scott Sandelin wanted more aggression out of his killers, and they generally gave it to him, limiting UML's chances and putting more pressure on the RiverHawks. The back-to-back power play goals were a killer, but the first came off a scramble down low where the puck got kicked up high, and the second was on a great shot from a very tough angle. At first, I think many of us thought Kasimir Kaskisuo gave up a clunker, but the more I saw it, the more impressed I was by Zink's shot. It was really good and hard and in a perfect spot where Kaskisuo had virtually no chance.


Finally, UMD opens NCHC play this weekend in Omaha, as the Bulldogs play in Baxter Arena for the first time.

Sorry. Can't help myself.

Anyway, Omaha is 6-2 after getting swept in Kalamazoo by what could be a criminally underrated Western Michigan team (picked seventh in the league). The Mavericks started 6-0 despite being outshot -- sometimes badly -- five times, and they turned around and got swept while outshooting WMU in both games.

Why? Because hockey. That's why.

Dean Blais has another dangerous group, led by dynamic forwards Austin Ortega and Jake Guentzel. Local products Jake Randolph (Duluth East) and Avery Peterson (Grand Rapids) are off to strong starts, while the blue line is led by Brian Cooper and Luc Snuggerud.

Goalie Kirk Thompson was off to a nice start, but got lit up a bit by the Broncos, so we'll see what Blais does in goal.

Baxter Arena -- named for a local auto dealer, not the dog in "Anchorman" -- seats close to 8,000, around half of what UNO's old home, Century Link Center, could hold, but rarely did for hockey. UNO has basically sold out the season in its new digs, which I look very much forward to seeing for the first time on Friday. I'm told it's similar in design to our building, only bigger. And it looked like they had a great atmosphere for the home opener against Air Force. Surely, they'll be pumped to play for points, though I'm intrigued what a Nebraska home football game Saturday night does to our crowd in Omaha, less than an hour away from Lincoln.

We'll watch the status of senior forward Tony Cameranesi this week. He left Saturday's game in the third period with an upper-body injury. Coach Scott Sandelin told Matt Wellens Cameranesi was day to day, which jives with optimism I've heard regarding his status. We'll see if he can get on the ice for practice and hopefully play in Omaha. I trust the UMD staff won't unnecessarily risk his long-term health for points this weekend, so trust that if he is playing, it's because he's been cleared to do so without major risk.