Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday Musings: Rally Falls Short and Season Ends in Worcester

Well, for a second straight season, UMD wrapped up its season with a heartbreaking 3-2 Northeast Regional final loss to a Boston school. This time, it was Boston College in Worcester, not nearly as controversial as last year's Boston University defeat in Manchester.

Instead, Saturday was a game UMD very well could have won were it not for the exploits of Thatcher Demko, the Mike Richter Award and Hobey Baker finalist who made some incredible saves and kept his team in the game at times where UMD was dominating play. Demko got backing from captain Teddy Doherty, who continued a huge senior season by scoring twice, and Ryan Fitzgerald, who put home his 23rd of the season for a 3-0 lead in the third period.

Wonder if anyone in the building or watching at home thought that would be the game-winning goal when it happened.

UMD got a power-play goal from Austin Farley, then a goal from Karson Kuhlman on a scramble in front to make it 3-2 with more than four minutes left. UMD buzzed on a late power play, but Willie Raskob's stick exploded in the left circle, and Tony Cameranesi's cross-slot pass hopped the stick of Farley on the goal line before BC cleared it to clinch the win.

Ugh. That close.

Demko really made a huge difference, and the Eagles got two timely goals from their captain to get going on the scoreboard and open up a lead. UMD still made it interesting, but BC's opportunism really burned the Bulldogs while Demko held them at bay just enough.

When you see a team put forth the kind of effort UMD did on Saturday, it really is hard to be down on them. A really good team lost by one goal to a really good team. It's truly as simple as that.


It could be a news-worthy offseason for UMD. First off, there's always the looming possibility of early departures in college hockey. Minnesota has already lost Hudson Fasching, Michael Brodzinski, and Nick Seeler one year early. Omaha lost Jake Guentzel. Michigan is going to lose like half its team. It happens.

For UMD, there could be a few. Drafted players like Dominic Toninati and Carson Soucy have decisions to make, and there are free agents on the roster who might decide to turn pro, too. Based on what we know about the Wild and Seeler, it's likely GM Chuck Fletcher will present the pros and cons of leaving early to Soucy, then let the player make an informed decision.

Oh, and head coach Scott Sandelin's contract will expire after the 2016-17 season. UMD is 95-77-23 (.546) since Sandelin signed his last extension after the 2011 NCAA title win. That's up 38 percentage points from his current career number of .508 (287-277-65). Coaches at this level rarely coach the final year of their contracts (yeah, I know Red Berenson did, but he's freaking 76), so it'll be interesting to see what happens there.


Lots of talk about the terrible regional attendance. This is not a recording.

It was not good in Worcester, especially after Providence was eliminated. You might not believe this, but Providence is basically as close to Worcester as Boston is, so the Friars fans were out in full force on Friday. Many more of them than Boston College fans in the building, and the place really emptied out after the UMD-Providence game ended.

Attendance in Cincinnati didn't look good. Attendance in Albany didn't look good. Attendance in St. Paul was embarrassing.

A few thoughts.
  • Whoever it was in the NCAA that decided the XCel Energy Center was a good place for an NCAA regional needs to rethink their philosophy. They've yet to have a well-attended regional there, regardless of Minnesota's involvement. This was deplorable and should end this "regionals in NHL-size buildings" bit forever.
  • The Cincinnati bit also needs to end. It doesn't work, even with Michigan and North Dakota playing there. Wait until Miami makes the tournament and has to play there and is joined by Notre Dame. It'll work about as well there as it did in Toledo.
  • Worcester is a bigger building, and they tarped off the upper deck with nearby Providence and Boston College playing. Nothing will ever draw better than that in that particular building.
  • Manchester gets another regional next year, which will be great if New Hampshire makes the tournament. Otherwise, ugh.
  • Anyway, ticket prices are insanely high. They price out all but the most dedicated fans of participating teams, especially when you factor in the cost of travel on short notice (oh and it was Easter weekend). $86 for all sessions in Worcester. $90 in St. Paul. $60ish for single sessions. It's too much. Obviously these regional hosts are making money, because otherwise they'd stop bidding on regionals. They don't, and places like Worcester, Manchester, and Bridgeport are hosting constantly. But if someone doesn't look at this problem, nothing else that is done will matter.
Sandelin was on Beyond The Pond on KFAN Saturday and said he likes the format of neutral-site regionals, but "you have to find the right ones." He referenced Fargo last year (they host again next year), and while that looked great on TV and received rave reviews, it's a rare building in the West that doesn't house a Division I program but is close enough to one to sell out when said team (North Dakota, duh) makes the tournament. Is Fargo close enough to St. Cloud, the Twin Cities, Duluth, etc. to draw well if North Dakota has a down year?

I'm in favor of letting home sites bid on regionals, but what happens to UMD if the Bulldogs host a regional at Amsoil Arena and miss the tournament? It's an issue here, too.

(How about buildings with actual press boxes first? Worcester doesn't have one, and neither does Manchester. I don't need an XCel Energy Center-size press box or anything, but it's nice to not be calling games from a makeshift press row set up in the nosebleed seats of an arena.)

In all seriousness, we're going to keep talking about this, and it's just not likely anything is done. There are no quick fixes, no easy answers.

(I've been in favor of letting top seeds host regionals before, but the problem with that is arranging transportation and lodging for three teams on very short notice. How tough would it be to find 100+ hotel rooms in, say, St. Cloud on three days notice? The answer is "very," and the benefits are outweighed by the logistical issues that would crop up.)

The discussion on Twitter is good, for the most part, and I hope someone can figure something out. Right now, what we have is just not acceptable.


Offseason is underway. I presume we will have a press conference with Sandelin at some point this week to wrap up the season. Might get a few more answers on potential departures at that point.

Keep following on Twitter for quick updates on departures, recruiting, and contracts. Always my favorite things to talk about!


Joe Bulldog said...

Great job this season, as always.
Just curious on your response ("Argh") to Matt Wellens' tweet with the link to the blog with the quotes from Andy Welinski and Willie Corrin?

Bruce Ciskie said...

Didn't see that until now, thanks. I love what they said. I think there's too much of a "get out of here and move on to the next thing" mentality in sports, not just hockey. These are typically the best years of a young person's life and should be relished, not rushed through.