Saturday, January 09, 2016

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Frustration Mounts for Bulldogs After Offense Stymied Again

OXFORD, Ohio -- Shut down by Jay Williams, and shut out until deep into the third period, UMD was able to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat. Tony Cameranesi wired a wrist shot that caught the upper part of the net and came right back out, allowing UMD to tie Miami 1-1 here Friday night. The RedHawks got a second NCHC standings point when Louie Belpedio scored in the final minute of three-on-three.

(Tip of the cap to Belpedio. He didn't get back from Finland until late Wednesday, but shook off jet lag and played, in my view, a super game. That isn't easy to do. At the postgame press conference, one of the reporters jokingly asked him what time it was for him. Say what you want about these being young kids and great athletes, and you'd be right, but I still found it very impressive that he was able to play as well as he did with seemingly no restrictions on his minutes.)

That said, it was not an easy game to play. UMD was missing on passes, failing to catch some catchable passes, and there were times that it looked like Bulldog players were maybe trying to do a little too much instead of making the simple play and -- as coaches are prone to say -- taking what the adversary is giving. You have players so bound and determined to get something good going that they potentially put themselves in a bad situation while trying to make it happen all alone.

Cameranesi's goal -- which I have to admit to not knowing it went in, even though it literally happened right in front of me -- was a great individual play, but it was an example of someone taking what was given to him. Cameranesi didn't make any ridiculous decisions in bringing the puck down the right wing and letting a shot rip. He took space that wasn't contested and took a shot from an angle where he didn't have a lot to shoot at. It was a great play.

Unfortunately for UMD, it was the only goal it would score on a night where the goalless drought finally ended at 177 minutes, six seconds.

There were chances. Blake Young was stymied on a good one in the second (I thought he drew iron, but there's no record of a shot off the post for UMD in the game).

(In my defense, it was also the other end of the rink from me. Great building, but if I had to nitpick one thing, it would probably be the fact that the visiting radio person is positioned basically on the goal line the visiting team shoots at twice. Makes it really hard to see the other side of the ice, especially the far right corner up to about the half-wall. Anything happens around there and I'm guessing as to what it is.)

Anyway, there were chances. Kyle Osterberg (no goals now in ten straight) had a partial breakaway and was stopped. Alex Iafallo (one goal in 14 games) had a good wraparound chance that was thwarted. Dan Molenaar had a good shot on a four-on-two rush in the first period that was stopped, and while Williams couldn't find the rebound, he fell on it before UMD could get to it. Dominic Toninato had a couple opportunities he couldn't bury.

It was a microcosm of the first half. An impossible bounce led to Miami's goal, as Chris Joyaux got one through Kasimir Kaskisuo's five-hole after a series of unfortunate events prevented UMD from what appeared to be an easy clear.

Right now, little mistakes -- and missed clears count as that -- are magnified because it seems like every little stupid thing that happens ends up behind Kaskisuo. That's part of the frustration of this stretch, and no, the Christmas break didn't help.

Outside of Joyaux's goal, which I'm not sure I can describe even after seeing the replay a couple times, UMD was stellar defensively against a dangerous team. Miami freshman Jack Roslovic made a pretty sweet individual effort to generate a first-period opportunity, knifing through a couple guys, but Kaskisuo was up to the task. Besides that, the Bulldogs held the RedHawks very much in check.

There weren't a lot of soft clears, and breakouts were fairly steady. Positional defense was pretty solid, and when the pairings got messed up by Willie Raskob taking a two and a ten in the third period and missing the rest of the game, it seemed guys adjusted well to the increased minutes and odd partnerships (one pairing to keep an eye on, in my view, is Carson Soucy and Neal Pionk ... UMD might have something there if it becomes a necessity to not have Pionk paired with captain Andy Welinski).


I know you guys are frustrated with the lack of offensive output, just like the team is. Trust me, if you think you're mad about this, just imagine how the guys trying to play through it are feeling. I just sit upstairs and call the games, and if what I'm feeling sometimes during a game is any sign, you can't fathom the frustrations of the players.

They have to play through that. And while there may have been small signs of frustration at times Friday night (trying to split defenders in the offensive zone instead of passing or dumping the puck, banging of sticks, the "look to the heavens" move after a save, and barking at officials could all be taken as signs), the composed defensive effort of this team would tell anyone paying attention that they aren't letting offensive frustrations affect the performance in other areas of the game. That alone is a good sign. Just not a good enough one. Goals would be a better sign, and there just weren't many happening. Again.

It's the same old story, same old song and dance, my friends. The Bulldogs get glorious chances. There's no question that, while the margin may not have been what it was in games against Omaha or North Dakota, UMD had the better of scoring chances last night. They work their tails off to create opportunities, then nothing good happens. Cameranesi makes a great pass to Osterberg, who comes flying off the bench, and he can't finish. Iafallo fakes his normal cut from the sideboard to the front of the net and instead tries a wraparound, and Miami goalie Jay Williams makes a great save with his left skate. There were two or three times where a UMD forward tipped a long shot and it went wide, because of course it did. Blocked point shots never go in the net for UMD, which has happened to UMD a few times this season.

I keep holding out hope that at some point, the fortunes will turn and this team will start to reap the benefits of all the hard work. It's amazingly cruel to think that wouldn't eventually happen.


Two other games were played for NCHC standings points Friday night. St. Cloud State held off Colorado College 2-1 in St. Cloud. Mikey Eyssimont and Patrick Russell scored for the Huskies in the first period, and that was enough for Charlie Lindgren (26 saves) to get his 14th win of the season. Cody Bradley had the Tigers' goal. SCSU led in shots 36-27, including 15-7 in the first period.

The first visitor to win at Omaha's Baxter Arena is: Denver. The Pioneers rode early goals from Will Butcher and Blake Hillman to a 3-0 win over the Mavericks. Butcher and Hillman scored 19 seconds apart in the first period, then Butcher added another in the second. Tanner Jaillet stopped all 35 shots he faced as UNO outshot DU 35-19.

Non-conference, Notre Dame blitzed Western Michigan 7-1. All of the Fighting Irish scoring came in the first 40, as they led 7-0 after two and outshot the Broncos 38-9 while doing it. The love was pretty spread out for both teams. Notre Dame had seven different goal scorers, and 15 of Western Michigan's 18 skaters were a minus on the night (no one worse than a minus-three). That series concludes Saturday in Kalamazoo.

First place North Dakota is idle from league play, instead playing an exhibition Saturday against the U.S. Under 18 Team at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Reminder, I'll be on KFAN's Beyond The Pond with Brandon Mileski and friends Saturday at 10:45am. You can hear it on FM 100.3 in the Cities, 92.1 The Fan out of Duluth, other FAN Radio Network stations around the state, online at, or on the iHeartRadio app.

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