Monday, February 08, 2016

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Rally Late for Dramatic Win, Weekend Sweep

For UMD, Saturday was probably not the crispest 60 minutes of the season. The Bulldogs appeared indecisive with the puck at times, passing wasn't sharp, and things looked a little disjointed at times.

But the season long mantra has been "stick with it," and UMD did just that on Saturday. About 36 minutes after a controversial video replay decision overturned a go-ahead goal, senior captain Andy Welinski got a shot through traffic and by Colorado College goalie Jacob Nehama to tie the game 2-2. 53 seconds later, a Dan Molenaar shot was stopped by Nehama, but Alex Iafallo hammered home the rebound for his third goal of the weekend to put UMD ahead to stay.

Welinski's goal was set up by a Sammy Spurrell faceoff win. Spurrell's line (Charlie Sampair and Austyn Young) played well, with Sampair setting up Spurrell for a scoring chance on the shift before the fateful faceoff. Young contributed a couple good chances as well, so it was fitting this trio was on the ice for the equalizer.

Iafallo's goal came off good work in the offensive zone by Jared Thomas and Tony Cameranesi. Molenaar was able to get a shot off, and Iafallo went to the net. Two of the three goals he scored on the weekend came off driving the net and getting to a loose puck (the other was an empty-net goal).

UMD coach Scott Sandelin put together two new lines over the weekend. He had Thomas center Iafallo and Cameranesi, and Dominic Toninato centered Austin Farley and Karson Kuhlman. Three of the six (Iafallo, Farley, Kuhlman) scored goals in the series, Cameranesi had three assists, Toninato had two assists, and Thomas added an assist, so all six players got on the board in one way or another.

Not only that, but Spurrell's line gave UMD a number of quality shifts both nights, and the Cal Decowski line (with Adam Johnson and Parker Mackay) had a solid weekend while being held off the board outside of a Johnson assist Friday.


It was what this team needed. And spare me the "It was just Colorado College" stuff. Since falling to 0-13 Nov. 27, CC was 6-6-1 heading into this series. UMD was 4-6-2 in the same span.

And Colorado College didn't just improve while playing the dregs of society. The Tigers swept Miami, tied North Dakota, won at St. Cloud State, and beat Omaha at home. Colorado College's record isn't good, but a 13-game losing streak will do that to anyone. These are two significant wins for UMD, for a number of reasons.

--> Friday night (CC took a 2-0 lead in the second period) was the first time this season UMD won a game where it trailed at any point. Saturday was the second. To put that in perspective, UMD's second win last season came after the Bulldogs conceded the game's first goal. It took until win No. 10 for it to happen this year.

--> Iafallo hadn't scored with a goalie in the net since Dec. 4 before scoring the go-ahead goal Friday and the winner Saturday. He also scored the empty-netter Friday for a three-goal weekend.

--> With the wins, UMD takes sole possession of fourth in the NCHC. The Bulldogs know they will be no worse than tied for the last home-ice spot when they reconvene in Grand Forks next weekend. UMD has 25 points, Miami (no games in hand) has 22, and Omaha (two games in hand that will be played this weekend) sits in sixth with 19. Omaha will hold the tie-breaker on UMD if it sweeps Western Michigan this weekend and ties the Bulldogs for fourth (UNO will have eight league wins and UMD has seven).

--> UMD broke a string of futility at home. Over its previous four games at Amsoil Arena, UMD went 0-3-1 and was outscored 10-3. The Bulldogs improved to 6-5-2 overall at home this season, which isn't world-beating but is a step in the right direction.

I'm sure everyone's sick of hearing "stick with it," but UMD showed this weekend that there is serious value to doing exactly that.

Give CC credit. I thought the Tigers tightened up a bit defensively Saturday and forced a few mistakes they couldn't get UMD to make on Friday. No, the Bulldogs weren't as sharp as Friday, but I firmly believe at least some of that is a credit to Colorado College more than it is a discredit to UMD. But the Bulldogs did a good job shaking off the controversial disallowed goal (Welinski's shot went in, but it was ruled that Farley prevented Nehama from playing his position) and getting a close win anyway.


Now, it's time to move on. Quickly.

Bemidji State visits Tuesday night, as the teams make up UMD's scheduled home opener from Oct. 9 that was postponed by a freak power outage.

It's a short turnaround for UMD, but a huge game. UMD is responsible for two of the NCHC's three losses to WCHA teams this season (18-3-2 record). One of those was Oct. 10 in Bemidji, as the Beavers scored a late goal to win 3-2. The Bulldogs can't afford another non-conference loss.

After a slow start, BSU has rallied and now has an identical 11-11-5 record to UMD's. The Beavers haven't played since the North Star College Cup, beating Minnesota Jan. 30 and losing to St. Cloud State in the title game the next day. They had to Lake Superior State after Tuesday's game, while UMD will take this weekend off.

Before that, though, business. Get this win, get over .500, hopefully get healthier on the bye (juniors Kyle Osterberg and Willie Raskob will hopefully both be back for the North Dakota trip), and hopefully UMD can get on a run before the season ends.

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