Pregame, head coach Scott Sandelin lauded his eight-man class, saying "Some have been great contributors. Some maybe don't feel like they have been but they have. Every guy's a valuable member."
Even better: This wasn't their last home game. UMD's win Friday guaranteed one more series on home ice, which we'll talk about in a smidge.
In UMD's 3-1 win Saturday, senior defenseman Willie Corrin opened the scoring with his first goal of the season in the first period, and classmate Charlie Sampair gave UMD the lead for good early in the third.
Corrin has been more confident in the offensive zone as of late, and on his goal, he drove down the left boards with the puck and cut to the front, where his initial shot was stopped by Miami goalie Jay Williams before he put the rebound home.
Miami was able to assert itself defensively more on Saturday than Friday. The RedHawks did a very good job cutting down on scoring chances, holding UMD to just 21 shots on the night and pestering the Bulldogs throughout the night.
I thought captain Sean Kuraly led the way for Miami from the start. He was strong in all three zones, and was a beast on the penalty kill for Miami as UMD was held to one shot in two scoreless power plays in the first period. Freshman Jack Roslovic was very good as well, after being hard to find for a chunk of Friday's affair.
Miami tied the game in the second period, as Kiefer Sherwood was set up at the doorstep by Kuraly and Roslovic. That goal came in the final two minutes of the second period, but it wasn't tied for long.
Less than two and a half minutes into the third, Tony Cameranesi stole a puck near the blue line and got a shot on Williams, who made the initial save but kicked the rebound into the left circle, where Sampair was able to drive it home for a 2-1 lead. Sampair is close to his 100th career game (96 after Saturday), and it'd be great to get him there. He struggled to get in the lineup as a freshman, and suffered a season-ending injury as he was really gaining traction in his sophomore season. 100 might not be a ton of games for a four-year guy, but for Sampair, I believe it's a meaningful accomplishment.
Sophomore goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo made that lead stand up, making a great save on Kuraly late when Miami went with six skaters. He made 20 saves on the night and 40 on 41 shots in the series, securing the NCHC goaltending title with a 1.69 goals against, edging out North Dakota's Cam Johnson, who finished with a 1.80 goals against in league play after allowing three goals on four shots in the first 12 minutes of UND's eventual 5-4 win over Western Michigan Saturday.
Kaskisuo is up to a .926 save percentage on the season, including .932 in 23 NCHC games. He is currently two-thousandths of a percentage point ahead of Alex Stalock (.924 in 2008-09) for the best save percentage in a single season in program history.
(His .917 from last year ranks third, behind Stalock and Josh Johnson, who was a .922 goalie as a senior in 2006-07).
I'm checking with UMD on this, but the Bulldogs' team save percentage of .922 is likely a single-season record as well (.920 in 2008-2009 is the highest I can find).
By the way, Kaskisuo's last six starts: 4-2 record, 1.16 goals against, .959 save percentage.
Seems that's pretty good.
The mission last week was to get home ice. That's accomplished, but there is a lot more work to be done.
The math wizards at College Hockey News say UMD is better than a 50/50 shot to make the national tournament, but I guarantee you that chance reduces to near zero if UMD doesn't win this weekend.
It's Miami again, and this time it's a best of three to move on to Target Center and the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. If UMD wins the series in two straight, I believe the Bulldogs would need only one win at Target Center to secure an NCAA bid, but that depends on who else advances in the tournament.
(The home teams in this weekends' playoff series are 14-0-2 against the visiting teams, including UMD's 3-0-1 mark against Miami. Normally, I'd be inclined to pick some upsets this weekend, but I don't know where I would start on that venture.)
The Bulldogs have gotten hot here, but the hole they were in was pretty deep. To keep playing beyond this weekend, UMD must stay hot.