Saturday, November 21, 2015

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.

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