Friday, January 29, 2016

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: UMD Power Play Shoots More Blanks as Winless Streak Hits Five

MARQUETTE, Mich. -- Maybe it was just hope, but I really thought UMD had hit rock bottom last weekend in Denver. Friday's effort was strong, but Saturday was just not good enough as Denver held on late to win 2-1.

"I thought we didn't play confidently," head coach Scott Sandelin said of his team's performance in that game. "Our game, we need to get our feet moving, and we really didn't have that. They kind of had the jump."

But UMD didn't hit rock bottom. I know this because Friday's 4-3 loss to Northern Michigan here was another step down the ladder toward rock bottom. Maybe this is it. I won't try to guess.

It was another game for UMD that simply wasn't good enough.

The Bulldogs wanted to play tighter defensively, but NMU scored twice -- including Robbie Payne's winner on a power play late -- off scramble plays in front of the net where bodies got to the front and UMD couldn't close out.

(This isn't meant as a rip on the goaltender, but without the benefit of replays, I'd say it could be argued that Kasimir Kaskisuo allowed a couple regrettable goals along the way. None of this should excuse more shoddy defensive zone play.)

Defensive zone play was a culprit on Friday, goaltending played a role, but the UMD power play might have been the most to blame. Scoreless in four chances, shotless in three of them, and somehow UMD missed a wide open net on the power play for the second time in three games.

I don't get it.

Most galling, the teams were playing four-on-four in the final minute and UMD had Kaskisuo pulled. NMU took a penalty with 29 seconds left, giving UMD a four-on-three power play that became a five-on-three with the empty net. The Bulldogs got two shots off in that 29-second sequence. One was wide, and one was blocked. Nothing on net.

It was a terrible setup by UMD. At a time in the game where urgency should just be a given (I mean, they're down a goal with less than a half minute to play), the Bulldogs showed none. Andy Welinski and Neal Pionk went back and forth up high, and at no point did the puck get picked up by a forward until half the 29 seconds had bled off the clock. It was a situation that screamed for someone to take the bull by the horns and make something happen, but that's not how it played out.

With how the power play has struggled, I guess it was fitting to see the game finish up that way.


Not sure what else to write. Nothing about this game was good. The crowd was small and quiet. The goal horn is loud and annoying, and I swear the damn thing is right by where I sit. The officiating was hideous. I didn't think UMD played all that particularly well. UMD lost.

The guys are frustrated. The coaches are frustrated. I'm frustrated. You're frustrated.

What can I say to make you guys feel any better?

Well, I asked on Twitter. Lots of "what's going on?" type questions. "What's it going to take to turn the season around?" That stuff.

Honestly, and this isn't an excuse, I think the whole season to this point is starting to catch up with UMD. Not only are we talking about kids, but we're talking about human beings. How many times can they dominate a game and get kicked in the face in the end before it starts to affect their confidence?

Now, as Sandelin noted regarding Saturday's loss in Denver, the Bulldogs are starting to look like a team that just isn't sure of itself. Everyone around it can deny, but UMD is morphing into a team that's waiting for something bad to happen because that's all it's seen as of late.

As long as there's season left, there's time to turn this around. I firmly believe that. But I'm also not a moron. There isn't a lot of time. UMD has kicked away some real opportunities to win games and build a resume, and now I don't know what needs to happen to fix what's wrong.

I screamed about the importance of scoring three goals. And then we gave up four.

I talked about scoring five on five. We did that three times Friday. So did the adversary.

Basically, it looks like I'm wrong a lot.

We'll be back Saturday night to try again. For now, I'm going to drown my sorrows in SmartWater while I watch women's curling on TV and something on Netflix.

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