Saturday, January 30, 2016

Game 25: UMD at Northern Michigan

MARQUETTE, Mich. -- Let's forget the pleasantries.

You're sick of reading it. I'm sick of writing it and talking about it. The coaches are sick of talking about it and living it. The players are surely sick of it.

And I don't know how it gets fixed, outside of UMD has to play better, starting in its own zone. I'd say three of Northern Michigan's four goals Friday were the result of shoddy work in the defensive zone, and the fourth was a transition play that was defended very poorly.

Like I said in the blog after the game, scream at the goalie all you want, but playing that way in the D-zone is going to get any goalie beaten, no matter how well he is or isn't playing.

Last Saturday, Matt McNeely got the net against Denver in a move I theorized wasn't so much about the goalie but about the guys in front of him. I'd surmise the change wasn't made for this game for the same reason. UMD has to figure out its own zone and play better. It's capable. UMD was very tight defensively in taking four points from Miami just three short weeks ago. I thought the Bulldogs played pretty well defensively against an obviously dangerous St. Cloud State team the following weekend. It's there. It's been done before. And even if it means offense needs to be sacrificed, UMD has to get back to that form in its own end of the rink.



Iafallo - Toninato - Mackay
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Thomas - Decowski - Johnson
Exell - Spurrell - Young (Austyn)

Welinski - Corrin
Soucy - Kotyk
McCormack - Pionk

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Deery

Adair - Nowick - Shine
Hanson - Sooth - Siemer
Payne - Diamantoni - Pierce
Starzynski - Paskaruk - Black

Klimek - Kaib
Maschmeyer - Urban
Vermuelen - Trenz

Israelsson - Tolvanen - Dahlstrom

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.

Game 24: UMD at Northern Michigan

MARQUETTE, Mich. -- I can think of no better time to start turning this season around. At 8-10-5, UMD is completely off the national radar, an also-ran in the bloated national polls (one-third of the nation's teams are ranked by USCHO, just think about that, then ponder the fact that national polls rank 25 of nearly 340 Division I basketball teams!), and trailing in the PairWise.

This weekend, the Bulldogs do battle non-conference with Northern Michigan, a WCHA team that has been hovering around .500 much of the season and is sitting at exactly .500 right now (9-9-6).

It might be an unfamiliar venue (UMD hasn't played in Marquette since 2010), but it's a familiar feel. The Berry Events Center is an Olympic ice sheet -- 200 feet by 100.

The Olympic sheet -- or "big sheet," as most call it -- has been very good to UMD over the last two seasons. "Good" might be an understatement.

Since the start of the 2014-15 season, UMD is 6-0 in Olympic surfaces, outscoring the adversaries 23-4. Included in that is a 3-0 mark this year, with a 14-1 aggregate.

That average of four goals per game sure is enticing. UMD just can't seem to shake the scoring doldrums this year. I don't know the power play/even-strength breakdown from 2014-15, but last season UMD scored on 8.9 percent of its shots overall. This year, the Bulldogs have 59 goals on 884 shots (7.0 percent). If UMD was scoring on 8.0 percent of its shots this season, the Bulldogs would have 20 more goals.

Think about that. A team that has lost three games by one goal and three more by two (one of those was a one-goal game until a late empty-netter) with 20 more total goals scored, nearly one per game. If UMD merely matched its opponents' shooing percentage of 8.4, the Bulldogs would have 13 more goals, more than enough to still make a difference.

It's scary.

That's how low the margin for error is in this sport, and UMD is consistently -- for whatever reason -- coming up on the wrong side of it.

As head coach Scott Sandelin noted this week, there's still time to get this fixed. But he also correctly stated that "we're running out of time." Sounds contradictory, but both statements are very true.



Iafallo - Toninato - Mackay
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Thomas - Decowski - Johnson
Sampair - Spurrell - Young (Austyn)

Welinski - Pionk
Soucy - Kotyk
Corrin - Molenaar

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Deery

Adair - Nowick - Shine
Hanson - Sooth - Siemer
Payne - Diamantoni - Purpur
Black - Starzynski - Pierce

Klimek - Kaib
Maschmeyer - Urban
Frantti - Trenz

Tolvanen - Israelsson - Dahlstrom

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Game 23: UMD at Denver

DENVER -- Greetings from the Mile High City on a stunningly awesome day. Temps pushing the 60s and no mentionable threat of precipitation. Or cloud cover.

This is what people like me adore about Denver. Latter part of January and it's almost shorts weather, yet when you go walking along trails in the city, you can still find snow cover in areas that don't get much sun.

Anyway, there is a game of significance for UMD Saturday night. The Bulldogs absolutely need three points out of this weekend. It's not about the PairWise, because UMD is far from out of it there. It's not about the league title, because that ship left port already. It's not about home ice, because UMD will remain at least in striking distance of a home ice spot even with a loss in this game.

It's just time. The Bulldogs have played seven teams currently ranked ahead of them in the PairWise (which I only looked at for the purposes of this exercise because dammit it's only January and it's not time yet *pounds fist on hotel desk because this hotel actually provides a desk*). Those seven opponents account for 15 of UMD's 22 games so far.

UMD's record in those 15 games? 3-8-4, with no wins in ten games since Oct. 30 (UMass-Lowell).

No forward changes for UMD in the rematch, which isn't surprising, because who would you take out after Friday's game? There are changes elsewhere.

First off, senior goalie Matt McNeely gets his first start of the season. It'll be just his second appearance (he played the third period of the Halloween night loss to UMass-Lowell) of the season, and his first start since a 6-3 win over Northern Michigan last Feb. 7. His last go before that was possibly his best start in a UMD uniform. McNeely made 31 saves as the Bulldogs beat Minnesota 2-1 at the North Star College Cup, one year ago Sunday (Jan. 24, 2015).

Kasimir Kaskisuo started every game this season prior to this one, and as of this writing I'm of the belief it isn't a health-related move to get McNeely this start.

Also, junior defenseman Carson Soucy is back after a bout with something that kept him at the hotel on Friday night. Junior Brenden Kotyk will be scratched to make room. UMD's blue line was exploited a bit on Friday, I thought, and based on the chart you'll see below, the coaches may think so, too. I don't know that the pairings you see will be permanent, but what it does is create balance across the blue line pairs. UMD doesn't get the choice of matchup when on the road, and having all the top four defensemen together creates a third pair that can be exposed as a matchup problem against guys like, say, Danton Heinen.

It's why "one-line" teams will sometimes break up that top line on the road. They'll talk about how it creates balance, and it's sometimes true, but the other upshot is it makes those top players harder to check defensively. UMD doesn't have that problem up front right now, but having Andy Welinski and Neal Pionk paired together when Soucy was out put quite a bit of pressure on the other four to get the job done against Heinen's line, and that clearly didn't happen to the extent that was necessary.

We'll see what head coach Scott Sandelin has to say about that when I meet with him about 90 minutes before faceoff. Follow Twitter for more updates and discussion (@BruceCiskie) and #ListenToTheRadio.



Young (Blake) - Toninato - Iafallo
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Johnson - Decowski - Mackay
Sampair - Spurrell - Young (Austyn)

Welinski - Molenaar
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Pionk

McNeely - Kaskisuo

Moore - Gambrell - Heinen
Janssen - Shore - Terry
Lukosevicius - Levin - Staub
Arnold - Marcinew - O'Connor

Hammond - Zajac
Butcher - Hillman
VanVoorhis - Plant

Cowley - Jaillet - Ogard

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Bulldogs Can't Hold Two-Goal Lead, Fall in Series Opener

DENVER -- Boy, you probably couldn't have scripted a better start for UMD Friday night in Denver.

By the 6:13 mark of the first period, UMD had a 2-0 lead and appeared to be rolling. Even in the subsequent half-dozen or so minutes, the Bulldogs looked to be in complete control of the affair.

Problem: That still left around 48 minutes of hockey to be played.

Denver rallied, and had the game tied 2-2 before the first period ended. Danton Heinen's second of the game came with just a bit less than seven minutes remaining in the second, and that was enough to give Denver a 3-2 win here Friday.

Honestly, I'd love to sit here and nit-pick the things that UMD didn't do well in the game. There were a few. I thought the Bulldogs were not sharp in their defensive zone, and DU exploited it at times. Breakouts weren't always crisp, and the Bulldogs looked like they had troubles with DU's forecheck, which we all know is very good.

After starting hot in the faceoff circle, things went badly for UMD from about the 12-minute mark of the first on. Denver ended up winning 42 of 70 draws on a night full of stoppages, including taking 14 of 20 in the third period. The large number of stoppages of play gave Denver a chance to further exploit the absence of UMD junior Carson Soucy (illness) on the blue line by getting favorable matchups against Heinen's line. As a result, Heinen led DU with five shots on goal, including four in the second period.

Finally, when UMD took a 2-0 lead, DU replaced goalie Tanner Jaillet (five saves on seven shots) with Evan Cowley. Despite watching Cowley fight the puck for most of the first period, UMD couldn't get enough bodies to the net to make him pay for it, which combined with flat-out missed opportunities allowed Cowley to settle in and DU to surge back into the game.

Cowley made 39 saves and earned star of the night status, but none of the 39 were of the "How did he do that?" variety, at least that I can recall. It's a flimsy narrative to go on, because it's not like we're keeping a statistic of "holy crap" saves a goalie makes in a game. If we did, it would be more subjective than scoring chances. But it was my feeling -- perched in the press box, naturally, where everything looks nice and easy -- that UMD's net drive in the last 48 minutes wasn't quite as good as it was in the first 12.

Of course, part of that is Denver upping the intensity level on its end. They've got guys with scholarships and pro aspirations and pride, and Heinen brought it after his coach, Jim Montgomery, was somewhat critical of him in our conversation this week. Montgomery said Heinen was "putting too much pressure on himself," to the point where the coach said his star sophomore was so desperate to score goals he was "cheating" on his defensive responsibilities and extending shifts and getting caught on the ice too long. If Montgomery will say those things to the opposition's radio guy, I have to think he was just as open -- if not more -- to the player.

He got what he was looking for out of Heinen Friday night. He scored twice, linemate Trevor Moore had two assists, and DU ran its unbeaten streak to seven.

UMD fell to 8-2-2 when scoring first, but the Bulldogs are 1-8-3 when failing to score at least three goals. Oh, and while the power play looked good at times over two chances, it netted zero goals in those chances and now sits at no goals in 23 chances going back to Dec. 11. In all, the power play has scored in just eight of UMD's 22 games this season.

By no means was this a bad performance by UMD. But it's becoming like Groundhog Day for this team. Do a lot of good things, but not quite enough. There's still, believe it or not, a lot of time to get things righted. I don't know how that happens, but the talent's in place, the character's in place, and the coaching is definitely in place.


Weird night in the NCHC. Four of the eight starting goalies were pulled, including both in the Colorado College-North Dakota game. There, UND jumped to a 4-0 lead and chased CC starter Tyler Marble. But on the way back to a tie game and eventually a 5-4 lead, CC chased UND starter Cam Johnson. Rhett Gardner's second of the game came in the final minute and tied the game for North Dakota, and it stayed tied through five-on-five and three-on-three overtime before UND got a shootout goal for the extra NCHC standings point. Hunter Fejes had a four-point night for the Tigers, while Luke Johnson added two goals for the Fighting Hawks.

Also getting a hook from his start was Western Michigan goalie Lukas Hafner, who allowed four goals on 11 shots in St. Cloud. Backup Trevor Gorsuch conceded four more on 20 shots as the Huskies blasted the Broncos 8-2. Joey Benik scored once and had four assists, while Patrick Newell had two goals as part of a three-point night.

Miami went into Baxter Arena and upset Omaha 3-1. Jay Williams made 27 saves and Matthew Caito scored the winner on a power play with 2:03 left after UNO was called for too many men on the ice. Kevin Morris iced Miami's victory with a late empty-netter.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Game 22: UMD at Denver

DENVER -- No question it's "go time" now for UMD. The Bulldogs are stuck at the .500 mark overall and desperately in need of NCHC points to stay afloat in the race for home ice.

It won't be easy in the series opener. Junior Carson Soucy, one of the team's top blue-liners without question, will not play Friday. Senior Willie Corrin will work with Willie Raskob on the second pair, while Dan Molenaar and Brenden Kotyk comprise the third pair for the game.

This is early, because both teams have tweeted their line charts for the game. I'll have access to UMD coach Scott Sandelin at around 7pm Central time and hope to get more insight as to the nature of Soucy's absence. To my knowledge, he didn't miss any time in practice this week, but the team has skated twice now since we got to Denver, and there's also the fact it's virus season (I've had this crud for over a week and I know a couple people who had it for close to two weeks ... it isn't fun). So he's out for this game, and I'm guessing he's injured or sick. I'm a genius, I know. At this point, I have no reason to think this is a long-term concern, so we'll try to see what's up. Follow me on Twitter (@BruceCiskie) for the latest information, or #ListenToTheRadio starting at 8pm Central (92.1 The Fan, The Red Rock Radio Bulldog Sports Network, or iHeartRadio by searching for 92.1 The Fan).



Young (Blake) - Toninato - Iafallo
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Johnson - Decowski - Mackay
Sampair - Spurrell - Young (Austyn)

Welinski - Pionk
Corrin - Raskob
Molenaar - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Moore - Gambrell - Heinen
Janssen - Shore - Terry
Romig - Levin - Staub
Arnold - Marcinew - O'Connor

Hammond - Zajac
Butcher - Hillman
VanVoorhis - Plant

Jaillet - Cowley - Ogard

Attorneys Issue Response to Accusations in Lawsuit Filed by Former UMD Women's Coaches

Ahead of a scheduled pre-trial conference Monday, attorneys for the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota have issued a response to a lawsuit filed by former UMD coaches Shannon Miller, Jen Banford, and Annette Wiles. The lawsuit alleges discrimination by UMD based on gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and age, allegations strongly denied by the defendant.

I have obtained a copy of the response, which was filed Wednesday. The 11-page document answers allegations levied by Miller, Banford, and Wiles.

Specifically, the response to the lawsuit addresses claims made by Miller regarding scholarship money allocated to the men's and women's hockey programs.

According to the statement of case: "Indeed, the total women’s hockey scholarship funding has historically exceeded that of the men’s hockey team. For instance, in 2014–15, total scholarships of $460,785 were awarded for women’s hockey, versus $408,754 for men’s hockey, even though the men’s team had more players."

The statement goes on to refute Miller's allegation of discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation by noting the female who was hired to take over the UMD women's program (Maura Crowell) identifies as gay.

It also addresses claims by Miller that the school's treatment of men's coach Scott Sandelin is evidence of discrimination towards her. The statement says Sandelin's contract doesn't expire until 2017, and notes his 6-2 record in three recent appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Over that same time span, Miller's teams went 0-1 in the NCAA Tournament. It also notes that Sandelin's base salary was $265,000, not "in excess of $300,000" as claimed in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also brings up the contract extension given to football coach Curt Wiese as support of discrimination allegations. The school refutes that, noting Wiese's salary was a fraction of Miller's, and his teams had performed consistently at a high level.

From the statement of case: "Wiese’s pay of $85,000 was approximately 40% of Miller’s, and—unlike Miller—he was not the highest paid coach in his sport’s level of intercollegiate athletics (i.e., NCAA Division II football).  He was not even the highest-paid football coach in UMD’s conference (the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC)).  Rather, Wiese’s pay ranked 8th out of 16 in the conference. Yet, since Wiese’s arrival (as offensive coordinator, then promoted to head coach in 2012) at UMD in February 2008, the football team has gone 86-10 (for an .895 winning percentage—a figure unmatched by any Division II football program), and the team captured two NCAA Division II national championships (2008 and 2010) along with six NSIC titles (2008–12 and 2014) while producing two perfect 15-0 seasons."

Regarding Banford, the statement of case accuses her of hiding a significant fact from her January 2015 disclosure to ESPNw and other media outlets that she was being non-renewed as UMD's softball coach and director of women's hockey operations.

Again, taken from the statement: "A few days after (Assistant Athletic Director Jay) Finnerty emailed Banford the non-renewal letter regarding the hybrid position, on or about December 16, 2014, Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator Karen Stromme met with the softball team and told them that Banford would be their softball coach for the coming season.  Finnerty then spoke to Banford on or about December 17, 2014, and told her that it would be an approximately 60-day process to provide her the new appointment as head softball coach.  Berlo also spoke with Banford on or about December 18, 2014, and communicated that the University fully intended to retain her and that they were working through the details. 

"About one month later, on January 15, 2015, Banford inquired of Finnerty by email as to the status of the new appointment.  Finnerty advised her in person that same day that the appointment was still in process.  Also that same day, Finnerty facilitated the electronic scheduling of a January 20, 2015 meeting with Berlo and Banford to explain where they were in the process.  Banford accepted the meeting appointment.  Two days later, on January 17, 2015, Banford electronically declined the previously-accepted January 20th meeting and apparently reported to the media that her contract as head softball coach had been non-renewed.  Banford supplied the media only with the letter of non-renewal of the hybrid Head Softball Coach/Director of Women’s Hockey position and neglected to supply the media with Finnerty’s cover email.  Thus, on Sunday, January 18, 2015, ESPNw reported that Banford said that she received notice that her Head Softball Coach position would not be renewed.  The online version of the story provided a link to the non-renewal letter, but not the cover email, which Banford chose to hide from the press."

The response also notes that UMD's softball team played its greatest number of home games in the last five years, as the teams that shared Malosky Stadium -- football, track and field, and soccer -- made accommodations for each other, as well as for softball. It also denies Banford's allegations that equipment for players was "held hostage" by the school.

Wiles, you might remember, resigned from UMD after the 2014-15 season, alleging a hostile work environment. The school denies such an environment existed, and the response notes a conversation Wiles had with two other coaches in the spring of 2015 where she admitted she didn't experience a hostile work environment and said UMD was a "great place to work."

The statement of case goes on to detail the friendship between Wiles and UMD Assistant Athletic Director Abbey Strong. It says Wiles severed that friendship in October 2014 after she incurred charges of over $1,000 for wear and tear on a leased Toyota vehicle that was provided to her free of charge. The contract said Wiles would responsible for wear and tear charges and mileage overages, but she wanted Strong to find money in the department's budget to pay for them. When Strong struggled to do that, "Wiles became hostile toward Strong -- not the other way around," the statement says.

"Coaches throughout the Athletic Department were treated similarly with respect to leased vehicles: each coach who received a leased vehicle rather than a monthly stipend signed a lease with Toyota obliging the coach to pay wear-and-tear charges, mileage overage charges, and the like."

The statement also says Wiles -- like Banford and Miller -- are alleging gender discrimination when UMD hired a woman (Mandy Pearson) for the position of women's basketball head coach.

The final page of the statement of case addresses unequal pay accusations.

"Plaintiffs’ allegation that they received unequal pay for equal work is meritless. Compensation for each employee depends on job performance, duties and responsibilities, and market conditions.  An employee’s gender and sexual orientation were not considered in determining compensation."

More to come as the case continues.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

'Road Warriors' Need to Rekindle Magic Away From Duluth

DENVER -- Count Duluth News Tribune scribe Matt Wellens and me as probably the only members of the media who have descended on Denver for something other than the AFC Championship Game Sunday.

Instead, we'll be at Magness Arena for a key two-game NCHC series between UMD and Denver. The No. 15 Pioneers lead fourth-place and 19th-ranked UMD by one point in the NCHC standings, but DU has two games in hand that the Pioneers will be able to take advantage of over the next three weekends. UMD has a non-conference series and a bye mixed in there, so this is one of just two chances for the Bulldogs to gain league points before the stretch run starts with a Feb. 19 game at North Dakota.

The Bulldogs have prided themselves on being "road warriors" in recent years.

No, not them.

Since the NCHC formed for the 2013-14 season, UMD is 18-11-1 in league games away from home, including 3-2-1 this year, and 3-0-1 in the last four (goal differential is 17-3 in those games). Over the same stretch of time, UMD is 10-15-7 in NCHC home games, including 2-4-2 this year, and 0-3-1 in the last four (outscored 10-2 and shut out twice).

And, no, no one really knows why.

"We really haven't performed extremely well at home," head coach Scott Sandelin said this week. "It's unfortunate, because that's a building that we need to take advantage of.

"For whatever reason, we've been a much more consistent team on the road. The results have been much better on the road than at home. Somehow, we have to continue that, and find a way to be a better team at home."

"I think we're a super close team," senior Austin Farley said. "Spending time on and off the ice, you get away from just being in Duluth. Playing in other people's buildings, with other fans, it's fun to go out there and play against them."

"When we go on the road, we play that hard-nosed hockey," senior Cal Decowski said. "We're ready for a battle in other teams' buildings. I think coming in with that mentality, trying to be road warriors really helps."

Decowski might be on to something, but I wish it was easy to bottle up so UMD could use it at home, too. Whether there should be or not, it's undeniable that there's a different mentality that goes along with playing on the road. And in recent years, the Bulldogs have played some of their best hockey when backed against a wall and sent on the road.

--> I know it was "just against Colorado College," but UMD took a five-game unbeaten streak on the road the weekend before Thanksgiving and swept the Tigers by an 11-0 aggregate.

--> Armed with an up-and-down 4-4 record, UMD went to St. Cloud Nov. 7-8, 2014, and took down the Huskies in two straight games, sweeping at the National Hockey Center for the first time.

--> Losers of four straight and threatened with a first-round road trip in the NCHC playoffs, UMD won twice at Miami Feb. 28-March 1, 2013, and eventually earned home-ice two weeks later. We won't talk about what happened that weekend.

There are a myriad of examples of UMD getting the job done on the road, and that better be the case with this team. At 8-8-5 after last weekend's loss and tie against St. Cloud State, the Bulldogs can ill afford to miss many more chances to earn points. Screw the league title, now home ice is very much up in the air.

Maybe there's no better place to go than Denver. Going back to the 2003-2004 season, UMD has played seven regular-season series at Magness Arena. In those 14 games, the Bulldogs are 7-6-1, including 2-1-1 in the last four meetings, a span of time that actually takes us back to the 2011-12 season (UMD didn't go to Denver, somehow, for a full two regular seasons after that).

I don't know much, but I do know this: Three of UMD's next four NCHC series are on the road, and they're against ranked opponents ahead of them in the league standings (Denver, North Dakota, St. Cloud State). This team is good enough to go 4-2 in those six games, and if that happens, and UMD can properly handle business at home, the Bulldogs will be at home to start the NCHC playoffs.

If there was ever a time to get those road fires burning again, now is it.


Nov. 13's game between these two teams in Duluth might still stand as UMD's worst 60-minute performance of the season. The Bulldogs had very little going that night, outside of the first ten minutes or so, and DU got a power-play goal in the first, another in the second, and then a transition goal after that, for a 3-0 win. Goalie Evan Cowley only had to stop 27 shots for the shutout, and a practically listless UMD team made it perhaps the easiest shutout of his career.

(Last Friday against St. Cloud State was bad, but I felt UMD was more competitive throughout the game. The oh-fer on seven power plays makes that game look worse than it probably was five-on-five.)

But that next game against the Pioneers showed some of the potential -- and frustrations -- of this Bulldog team. UMD outshot Denver, a really good team, by a 46-20 margin that was the worst for Denver in roughly two full seasons. Of course, DU goalie Tanner Jaillet stood on his head, and the Bulldogs only got one goal in regulation that night before getting the extra point with a Tony Cameranesi three-on-three tally.

DU struggled through the first half, losing four straight (outscored 20-5 by North Dakota and St. Cloud State) to limp into the break. The Pioneers have found their stride out of Christmas, however. Denver is 3-0-3 since break, with two home ties against Notre Dame, a road sweep at Omaha (UNO's first two losses at Baxter Arena), and last weekend's win and tie against Western Michigan.

"They're playing much, much better," Sandelin said of DU. "They look like a much different team than they did before break."
"Our details and our habits, our preparation in practice has been better," coach Jim Montgomery said this week. "That's allowed us to have more puck possession time in games."

Jaillet has started all six games after rotating with Cowley in the first half.

"The way he's matured, how vocal he is in the defensive zone and on breakouts," Montgomery said. "He's taken another step as far as ownership on our team."

Jaillet, by the way, has a .938 save percentage over those six games, giving him a .922 for the season.

I talked in my Monday blog about how similar these teams are. Needless to say, both coaches are aware of this, and they agree special teams will be a huge determining factor in the weekend.

"The seasons we've had, lack of production five on five, we're almost mirror images," Montgomery said. "For us, the inconsistency on the power play has hurt our ability to win games."

UMD has spent a lot of time working on the power play this week. There have been personnel changes on the units. The players and coaches know this streak of 22 straight scoreless power plays has to end. And as it becomes harder and harder to score five-on-five, the urgency only ramps up for the power play to produce.


For those who have heard my occasional whining about the return of obstruction in college hockey (credit to Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press for really getting the ball rolling on this issue), the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee -- headed by Michigan State coach Tom Anastos and Big Ten/NCAA Supervisor of Officials Steve Piotrowski -- released a four-page memo this month addressing, among other things, interference.

The key part of the memo is this:
The committee’s consensus is that defenders should be allowed to engage/bump/contact an attacking player “immediately” after the puck is released on a dump in, but players are expected to release the attacker and pursue the puck or retreat following this initial contact. The same standard would be applied regardless of whether or not the attacking player was knocked down. However, it ultimately was decided that the ‘immediacy” of the contact continues to be a determination made by the officials on a case-by-case basis.

Therefore, as a reminder, immediate contact may be made against the attacking player who dumps the puck past a defender. The defender is obligated to release immediately so as not to be guilty of interference. The standard is no longer two seconds or two strides after releasing the puck. It should be noted that allowing offensive players more freedom here must not be taken as license to create collisions at higher speed. 
Time after time, we're seeing either late contact or a situation where the defending player doesn't just bump and release the attacking player. That's interference, even when a UMD guy does it.

You want to know why scoring is down? Yeah, goalies and better-coached defenses are making an impact. So are uncalled rules infractions. Either more power plays would come from consistent enforcement, which should help increase scoring, or teams will adjust to existing rules if enforced, and there will be more room to make plays as a result of that.

As I said on KFAN a couple weeks ago, don't make new rules. Properly call the ones that exist. You'll see a difference.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday Musings: Much Better Performance, Marginally Better Result as UMD Draws With St. Cloud State

There was no question in my mind that UMD would bring a much improved effort in Saturday's rematch against St. Cloud State. And I wasn't disappointed.

But despite outshooting a very good SCSU team 39-21, the Bulldogs were forced to settle for a 1-1 tie after Dominic Toninato's one-man rush paid off for UMD in the first period, but Charlie Lindgren shut every other Bulldog chance down.

At the other end, Kasimir Kaskisuo made a couple very nice saves, but SCSU tied it on a tip-in by Joey Benik in the second, and Patrick Russell got his team an extra NCHC standings point with a shot that went off Kaskisuo's glove and into the net during three-on-three overtime.

(I'm not going to rip Kaskisuo, who has a .923 save percentage and a goals against safely under 2.00 (1.87). If it weren't for him, this team isn't 8-8-5. Hell, it seems wrong to criticize him at all, but Matt Wellens was on-point after Saturday's game (read it here) with sentiments very similar to those we expressed on the air during Friday's loss. I don't need to pile on. Kas has higher expectations of himself than most of us would probably think is reasonable, and there's no doubt he's having a good year and will only get better as he gains experience and more knowledge of how the game is played at this level.)

In reality, goalies are as human as everyone else on the ice, and if you're expecting UMD to win that game 1-0 against a really good opponent after Toninato's tremendously tremendous (©Eddie Olczyk) individual effort, it's probably not fair. Simply put, a team with this much returning talent -- along with the improving young guys -- has to score more than two goals in a weekend and not put that kind of pressure on its goalie to be perfect in order to have a shot at the win.

In UMD's last nine home games, it is 2-5-2 while being outscored 22-19. If you remove the two wins (both over Western Michigan), that margin is 20-6. Six goals in seven games on home ice. That's not exactly optimal.

After Scott Sandelin said his team took "three or four too many" penalties on Friday, the Bulldogs took two on Saturday and killed both SCSU power plays. The Huskies were held to three shots in those man advantage opportunities, which is a good sign for the UMD kill. The Bulldogs did a good job defensively, blocking 21 of 51 SCSU shot attempts (Blake Young had five and Carson Soucy four).

Every UMD skater except Sammy Spurrell had at least one shot on goal (Karson Kuhlman led with seven). Overall, it was a much better effort.

Now, it's time to fix the results.

UMD is 1-1-2 since break. Sandelin has said it's "go time" for his team. And while the PairWise still shows UMD at 17th and very much within striking distance for an NCAA bid, the path is going to get more and more difficult the longer the Bulldogs struggle to score goals.


None of this is meant to be a downer on a good effort. UMD controlled the puck and the flow of the game for a large amount of 65 minutes against what I think is the best team we've faced this season.

(No disrespect at all to North Dakota and UMass-Lowell, both of which are very good teams. But SCSU is the most explosive team I've seen. The Huskies have four lines that are more than solid, and that defensive corps is -- while young -- almost as deep as North Dakota's. So SCSU is deeper at forward, comparable on defense, and Lindgren is far from a slouch in goal. The Huskies are for real, everyone. I see them as a very legit national title contender.)

But scoring will be an ongoing topic until it's remedied. If anything else, look at a weekend where Kaskisuo gave up two possibly regrettable goals in regulation time (out of the four he conceded), and imagine where UMD would have come out if it could score three goals a game, a number Sandelin has often mentioned.

There are a lot of notable scoring droughts involving the Bulldogs. By no means do these notes mean I don't think the individuals are playing well. It's not meant as a callout of them, but instead the glut of guys with long dry spells goes to show the problem at hand.

Austyn Young and Austin Farley haven't scored since Dec. 5 (six games). Adam Johnson is goalless since the same date (five games played). Kyle Osterberg went 12 games without a goal before suffering an upper-body injury Friday that kept him from playing Saturday. Andy Welinski has no goals since Oct. 30 (15 games). Jared Thomas was a healthy scratch Saturday and hasn't scored since Oct. 17 (17 games). Alex Iafallo has one empty-net goal and Karson Kuhlman no goals since Dec. 4 (seven games).

Team-wide, only Farley (ten), Toninato (eight), and Tony Cameranesi (seven) have more than a half-dozen goals. Only Farley (20), Cameranesi (19), and Andy Welinski (11) have more than ten points.

Again, a number of these guys are playing good hockey. Welinski and Neal Pionk have strung together some high-quality performances since being reunited on the blue line. I like how Osterberg had been playing since break and hopefully he won't be gone long. Johnson looked great last weekend after sitting out the Saturday game at Miami. Kuhlman, as I already mentioned, really stepped up Saturday and generated great chances, and even when his offensive game isn't great, Kuhlman's effort level and play without the puck is usually exemplary.

The offense is likely to keep sputtering, however, as long as the power play struggles. The Bulldogs haven't scored on the man advantage since Dec. 5, a run of 22 power plays in a row without a goal. Over that time, UMD has gone from 22 percent on the season down to 16.7 now.

The Bulldogs need to solve their power play woes in order to make a run in the second half. It's hard to assess the personnel changes UMD made ahead of Saturday's game with only one power play. While that didn't score or generate a shot on goal, the puck movement was good, and UMD did a better job getting into the offensive zone than it did Friday. But it's hard to get much out of one two-minute power play. Friday was bad, but the goalless run is somewhat deceiving. They had some very good looks against North Dakota, and I thought they did okay against Miami.

It's similar to the team's play five on five. Just need to find a way to bury more pucks, but I fully acknowledge it's much easier said than done.


A rematch with Denver awaits the Bulldogs this weekend. The Pioneers took four of six points in Duluth Nov. 13-14, including a 3-0 Friday win that likely still stands as UMD's shoddiest 60-minute performance of the season.

The Pioneers are unbeaten at 3-0-3 since break, including a sweep at Omaha Jan. 8-9 and a win and tie over this last weekend at home against Western Michigan. Goalie Tanner Jaillet has started all six games since break, allowing 11 goals in six games and posting a .939 save percentage.

Denver defenseman Will Butcher is maturing into a top-flight player at his position in college hockey. He scored twice in the Jan. 8 3-0 win over Omaha and continues to play big minutes on the DU blue line. With sophomore Danton Heinen struggling a bit to score goals, freshman Dylan Gambrell has picked up some of the slack and leads the Pioneers with 21 points. Matt Marcinew leads in goals with seven.

DU's power play is two tenths of a percentage point better than UMD (16.9 to 16.7), while the UMD kill is better than DU's by a slightly larger margin (84.4 to 83.8).

These are similar teams in structure and style, and this should be an enjoyable weekend in a football-mad city (Denver hosts the AFC Championship Game on Sunday afternoon). Clearly, with how hard it is to score five-on-five, it'll come down to who can score on special teams. In the Nov. 13 win in Duluth, Denver scored two power play goals for a 2-0 lead in a game where not much was going on otherwise.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Game 21: St. Cloud State at UMD

Some news on he UMD side. Forward Kyle Osterberg (upper body) is out for the time being. Don't know the timetable, but it might not be just this game that he misses (we hope that's all it is, but as you'll hear in our pregame chat with Scott Sandelin, it seems like a longer-term absence). Also, sophomore Jared Thomas (no goals and just four points in 17 games) a healthy scratch for the first time this season.



Young (Blake) - Toninato - Iafallo
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Johnson - Decowski - Mackay
Sampair - Spurrell - Young (Austyn)

Welinski - Pionk
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Molenaar

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Deery

Eyssimont - Kossila - Russell
Benik - Morley - Newell
Jackson - Peterson - Murray
Storm - Winiecki - Benson

Schuldt - Prow
Widman - Borgen
Nevalainen - Lizotte

Lindgren - Reijola

Friday, January 15, 2016

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Discipline, Battle Level Betray Bulldogs in Home Loss

It seems like the words "home loss" have become all too common. Since opening 2-0 at Amsoil Arena, UMD is a pedestrian 2-5-1 on home ice.

Oh, and those two wins were Dec. 4-5 against Western Michigan. Outside of that, 0-5-1 and outscored 19-5, shut out three times.


The latest setback came Friday night, 3-1 to No. 5 St. Cloud State. Before we get to the nuts and bolts of things, let's give credit where it's due. Too often, we -- and I mean all of us as fans of particular sports teams -- are too quick to tear down those who we feel may have failed (hi, Blair Walsh!). Oftentimes in doing so, we forget to give credit to those who come through in the clutch and do what it takes to win.

St. Cloud State was not perfect on Friday night, but head coach Bob Motzko has to be thrilled with his team's commitment to a 200-foot game in the series opener. UMD was hounded all over the ice by adversarial players, and SCSU used active sticks and good body position to win races, win battles, and break up UMD passes and chances for the Bulldogs to get the puck down low.

But let's go back to Wednesday. At his weekly press conference, UMD head coach Scott Sandelin was asked what it would take to beat St. Cloud State.

"Stay out of the penalty box, number one," he said. "A key to us winning two games in their building last year was us staying out of the box and not giving them opportunities."

In case we weren't listening, he repeated this mantra to me -- almost verbatim -- before the game. Kraig Karakas said he ran into Sandelin Monday night and basically heard the same speech.

I'm guessing he told the players a time or two, as well.

And while discipline didn't reach the levels of embarrassment Friday night, key breakdowns on UMD's part proved very costly.

At 8:33 of the second period, UMD lost a puck battle on the offensive zone (more on that coming) and Kyle Osterberg -- who later left the game with an upper-body injury and is likely out Saturday -- took a tripping penalty. Seven seconds later, Ethan Prow to Joey Benik to Kalle Kossila, and Kossila buried the puck for a 2-1 St. Cloud State lead.

Eight minutes later, UMD captain Andy Welinski took a needless and very much out of character interference penalty (he isn't afraid to play physical, but you don't see that kind of penalty from him often). It didn't lead to a goal, but it did lead to a great rush chance for Dominic Toninato. As he was burying a short-handed goal, referee Timm Walsh was calling freshman Neal Pionk for interference probably 40 to 50 feet behind Toninato in the neutral zone. Goal nullified, game stays 2-1, and UMD goes down two men. It was a killer.

(There was much debate about the call. I did not see the replay provided on the arena video board, as it came after play had resumed and I had to call a five-on-three power play. That took precedence over trying to watch TV. What I saw live action was Pionk trying to hook a St. Cloud player, and it appeared to me he was doing it to slingshot past the guy into the offensive rush. Could you argue it's not a penalty within the context of this game? I saw worse let go. But it's against the rules.

I had to give up watching to follow the puck. So while it could be argued the whistle was maybe a little late, it's hard to argue that Pionk didn't do anything to merit a penalty, given what I saw and how I remember it playing out. It actually looked quite silly, to be honest, on Pionk's part, because it was so insignificant to what was going on 40 feet or whatever it was in front of him.

I'm not fully adamant about this, by the way. I know a few people in the press box disagreed with the call, and I know the UMD staff didn't like it. I'm willing to be shown the error of my ways. It's hard when you don't get to look at the replay. Then I have to react to things the way the officials do on the ice. What the hell fun is that? :D)

Blake Winiecki got one for the Huskies about halfway through the third that took a lot of air out of a building that didn't have very much of it. It was a short-side shot that beat Kasimir Kaskisuo. To be perfectly blunt, it's a shot Kas has to stop 100 times out of 100. It didn't cost UMD the game, but it was not a good goal.

UMD never seriously threatened with Kaskisuo pulled in the final minutes. In fact, SCSU probably had the better of those scoring chances. Cal Decowski, who scored UMD's goal, made a great hustle play to prevent an empty net goal, and UMD blocked a couple shots at the yawning cage.


Discipline was an issue Friday night. I wrote in the series preview that I don't think it's been a huge problem this season, and I still don't. UMD has had more power plays than its opponents this season, and the gap actually ended up growing on Friday.

But look at UMD's losses. There's a bit of a weird trend that's developed. In those eight games the Bulldogs have lost, UMD has averaged 15 penalty minutes per. In eight wins, UMD has averaged 6.75.

I'm not smart enough to understand how such a disparity can happen, and it's still admittedly a bit of a small sample. But it's clear that the Bulldogs are capable of playing clean, disciplined hockey. It's also clear UMD doesn't do it consistently.

Then again, do the Bulldogs do anything consistently well at this point? Even a defense that looked to be in lockdown mode last weekend sprung a myriad of leaks on Friday, leading to SCSU's first goal and some other good chances. The power play, which has shown signs of life, did little to nothing on Friday against a penalty kill ranked near the bottom nationally and under 75 percent on the season. The power play was consistently out worked and outhustled, and the theme of lost races and lost battles carried over into five on five play.

"There's still lots of season left" is starting to wear thin for many of you. I understand that and agree to an extent. I saw lots of signs last weekend that things can turn around, but Friday night felt like a step in the wrong direction. I hope I'm overreacting, and it wouldn't be the first time.


Elsewhere in the NCHC, Austin Ortega scored in overtime to lift Omaha past No. 1 North Dakota 4-3 in Grand Forks, ending the Fighting Hawks' eight-game winning streak. UNO coach Dean Blais pulled a Dean Blais, starting freshman goalie Alex Blankenburg in his college debut. He allowed three goals on 29 shots. Jake Guentzel factored in all four UNO goals, with one goal and three assists.

In Denver, the Pioneers ran their unbeaten streak to five with a 5-3 win over Western Michigan. Quentin Shore scored twice for the Pioneers. Sheldon Dries had two for the Broncos in a losing effort.

Game 20: St. Cloud State at UMD

Away we go on a Friday night. Only UMD Friday home game this month, and the first of just seven remaining home games for the Bulldogs. At Denver and Northern Michigan the next two weekends, and at North Dakota and St. Cloud the two after Valentine's Day.

The mission is clear: Just win, baby.



Young (Blake) - Toninato - Iafallo
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Osterberg - Thomas - Young (Austyn)
Johnson - Decowski - Mackay

Welinski - Pionk
Soucy - Raskob
Molenaar - Kotyk

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Deery

Eyssimont - Kossila - Russell
Benik - Morley - Newell
Jackson - Peterson - Murray
Storm - Winiecki - Benson

Schuldt - Prow
Widman - Borgen
Nevalainen - Lizotte

Lindgren - Reijola

Bulldogs Face Big Test With Goal of Building Momentum

St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko didn't have to look far to find what he thinks is a similar team to this year's UMD Bulldogs.

"I think UMD is very similar to where we were a year ago," Motzko said, referring to an SCSU team that was 6-9-1 at Christmas break and sat at 10-13-1 after a loss to Western Michigan on Jan. 24. From there, the Huskies ripped off a 9-5 run to end the season and make the NCAA Tournament. Included in that was a win in Duluth over UMD Feb. 14 (the Huskies' only win in four games against the Bulldogs last season), followed by a pair of sweeps of eventual Frozen Four qualifier Omaha (one of those came in Omaha in the NCHC quarterfinals).

Once in the tournament last year, Duluth native Judd Peterson scored in overtime as St. Cloud State beat Michigan Tech in the first round before falling to North Dakota in the West Regional final.

"Last year, we were an afterthought," Motzko added. "The second half of the season, things came together.

"I think this is a critical weekend. They (UMD) were picked first, and they're not out of the hunt. Depth-wise, throughout their lineup, they're as strong as any team in the country. We're quietly watching them get back on top where everyone expected them to be."

At 8-7-4, there's no doubt UMD is close. The Bulldogs have shown signs of brilliance throughout the season. A four-game winning streak saw UMD score 24 goals and pick up four blowout wins. But it was followed by back-to-back shutout losses to Cam Johnson and North Dakota, which served to take some air out of the building right before break.

Last week's four-point journey to Ohio (1-1 tie Friday, 5-2 win Saturday) might have represented UMD's best defensive performance this season. While the five-goal effort Saturday may have piqued some folks' interest, I was most intrigued by the play of the blue line. Not only were UMD's defensemen jumping into the play and doing a very good job getting pucks through lanes down low or to the net, but UMD held Miami to 40 shots in two games, including just 15 on Saturday (and six total in the second and third periods).

"I think the guys got rewarded for continuing to play the right way and sticking with it," assistant coach Brett Larson said. "They didn't get individual or selfish. They kept playing a team game, and they were rewarded."

"In the third period (Saturday), they (Miami) had the puck a little more, and we didn't give them a lot," head coach Scott Sandelin said. "The better you are defensively, if you score a goal or two, you have a chance to win a game. Our job is to make sure we limit their chances and where those chances are coming from. We still need to take care of the puck more."

We know UMD has capable goaltending with Kasimir Kaskisuo (.923 save percentage, 1.85 goals against). Throw in this kind of defensive play, and UMD might be able to get on a run.

"We have to stick with it," freshman defenseman Neal Pionk said this week. "We've had a few bumps in the road, but for the most part, I think we're playing pretty well. We just have to bear down around the net and those bounces will come our way."

This weekend, the Bulldogs do indeed have to deal with St. Cloud State. The Huskies are 17-5, yes, but are off a 5-2 loss to Colorado College on Saturday. Peterson, a former Hilltopper, has 19 points in 19 games. Another former Minnesota high school star, Joey Benik, is two points away from 100 for his career. St. Cloud's scoring chart is topped by four seniors -- Kalle Kossila, David Morley, Jimmy Murray, and Ethan Prow, possibly the most underappreciated defenseman in the country.

Motzko on Prow: "We've watched him mature into one of the real high-end defensmen at our level. Great character."

Oh, and while I get Prow is a more offensive-minded defenseman, he has played 18 games and has yet to take a penalty. This isn't a guy playing eight to ten minutes a night and avoiding the penalty box. It's a 30-minute-per-game defenseman doing it. I'm impressed, and you should be, too.

(If you're a St. Cloud State fan reading this, I apologize in advance if this turns out to be a jinx.)

This is a fantastic matchup of two similar teams. Yes, the numbers show St. Cloud is way ahead of UMD in record, league points, PairWise, and offense. But the teams play a similar style, and it's one UMD typically plays pretty well against.

"They're playing really well," Larson said. "Two very skilled, fast teams, that like to play a speed game with a lot of tempo. They can make plays. They get good goaltending. Their power play is hot, so discipline will be a big key. I like the matchup."

"They've got a 29 percent power play," Sandelin added. "They're built around their power play. They've got a ton of skill. They're a puck possession team, we're a puck possession team. It's managing the puck and not giving them easy chances. You have to respect some of their guys and play tight on them."

UMD's discipline -- outside of defenseman Willie Raskob's ten-minute misconduct in Friday's tie at Miami -- has been fine lately. The Bulldogs posted double-digit penalty minutes in five of their first seven games. UMD has kept that number to the single digits in eight of 12 games since, and only once since the opener Oct. 10 has UMD taken more than 20 penalty minutes in a game.

(UMD is mid-pack nationally in penalty minutes taken per game at 11.3.)


Former Grand Rapids star Avery Peterson -- Minnesota Mr. Hockey in 2014 -- is skating with UMD. The Omaha transfer won't be eligible until next January, but he can practice with the team now that the semester break has ended. Peterson is enrolled at UMD for the spring semester.

Asked about Peterson, Sandelin said he fills a need in the program.

"We lost a kid through a decommitment that would be in our program down the road," Sandelin said, citing the recent decommitment of Eden Prairie forward Michael Graham, who will go to Notre Dame instead. Graham would presumably have been a part of UMD's freshman class next season.

"He's (Peterson) a big body who can shoot the puck," Sandelin added. "He's played college hockey. He had success in our league. We're looking for good things. It's a huge need for us. Unfortunately, he has to wait a year to play."

Peterson is seeking a hardship waiver from the NCAA that would allow him to gain an extra year of eligibility, basically getting his sophomore season back. If that is granted, Peterson has two and a half years at UMD. Otherwise, the Wild draft pick will be able to play a year and a half for the Bulldogs.

Sandelin said he didn't know how long it would take to hear back on that application, which is being handled by UMD's compliance office.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Break Out and Get Four-Point Weekend

I get the occasional tweet from someone arguing that my tweets and blog mentions of shots on goal mean nothing in the context of UMD's performance in games. I've had arguments with people who think UMD just doesn't take good enough shots and doesn't generate good scoring chances. Telling them that the admittedly subjective count of scoring chances in some games has yielded a 3:1 ratio in UMD's favor in games the Bulldogs have lost doesn't help.

They want goals. They want wins. As I mentioned in my Saturday blog, fans are frustrated and want results.

Well, the "shots don't matter" crowd was impressively enabled by the Bulldogs on Saturday. A season-low 22 shots on goal led to five UMD goals and a convincing 5-2 win at Miami to complete a four-point weekend that keeps UMD in third place in the NCHC standings.

The Bulldogs got goals from five different skaters and three different lines. Defenseman Neal Pionk -- who along with Andy Welinski I thought had a great weekend -- scored off a Miami defender to open things up for UMD at 13:52 of the first. Tony Cameranesi's second goal of the weekend made it 2-0 not three minutes later, and UMD got goals 2:04 apart from Dominic Toninato (off a great play by Blake Young for his first UMD point) and Parker Mackay (intercepted a bad outlet pass from Miami goalie Ryan McKay).

(I whined on the blog Thursday about how we never see UMD score on a point shot that hits an adversarial player. Pionk did just that on Saturday. Warmed my heart to see the hockey gods read the blog.)

Young also set up Iafallo's empty-netter with a strip of Miami's Josh Melnick in the high slot. He didn't get an assist, but he made the play.

The 22 total shots on goal was a season low for UMD, as was the 15 shots UMD allowed to Miami. The game was played similar to Friday, with good defensive zone work by both teams, but fewer pucks thrown to the net. The Bulldogs held Miami to just six shots in the final 40 minutes of the game and 40 total in six periods plus overtime.


That might be the big takeaway from the weekend, and not the offensive breakout.

Over time, goals will come and go. But this team can win with its defense. That blue line is as deep as anyone's, starting with Welinski and Pionk. It's only been three games -- including an exhibition -- since the pair was reunited with Welinski playing his off-side.

"I'm comfortable. I like it," Welinski said last week. Head coach Scott Sandelin, who routinely played his off-side in his career and has told me he preferred it, panned he and the staff were "too stupid" to try this earlier.

Willie Raskob and Carson Soucy continue to be solid as the second pair, and Willie Corrin and Dan Molenaar had a good weekend.

(Molenaar blocked three shots Saturday, while Welinski had four blocks Friday and six on the weekend. Welinski and Pionk were a combined plus-five Saturday, and Corrin was plus-two.)

The way these six are capable of playing, it's easy to forget that UMD also has Brenden Kotyk and Nick McCormack. They've both had their moments this season, and McCormack didn't even make the trip to Oxford. That's how deep that blue line is right now. Talk all you want about the forward depth, the Bulldogs will go places playing the kind of defense they did over the weekend.


The Bulldogs didn't get all their bags to Oxford until late Thursday, despite an early afternoon arrival for the team and staff. Similar foibles on the trip home, but all is well as classes starting at UMD Wednesday.

That means Omaha transfer Avery Peterson can start practicing with the team this week. He is eligible January 2017.

(By the way, off topic a second but somewhat travel-related, I'm pretty sure I could have stood up and yelled "fire" in that airplane Sunday and not gotten the reaction I got when I blurted "He missed it" after I saw the KFAN tweet that Blair Walsh missed that damn field goal. So glad there were UMD players accusing me of making it up. Shows what they think of my character. :D)

(Oh, and props to the Packers. I picked them to win but didn't think they would. That was a pretty impressive bounceback after a hideous start.)

UMD hosts No. 5 St. Cloud State Friday and Saturday. The Huskies beat Colorado College 2-1 Friday to tie idle (from league play) North Dakota for the top spot in the NCHC. SCSU was unable to take sole possession of first on Saturday, as Colorado College pulled a 5-2 upset over the Huskies. Expect some pace hockey this weekend, and UMD's discipline will be a huge key against a team hitting at nearly 30 percent on the power play.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Game 19: UMD at Miami

OXFORD, Ohio -- It was only one goal, but hopefully Tony Cameranesi's twisted wrister late in the third period Friday will help guys breathe a little bit. I don't know how anyone could be playing with a lot of confidence when the Bulldogs were shut out in back-to-back home games before the break and shut out for 54 minutes or so on Friday (177:06 the actual number from the last goal against Western Michigan Dec. 5 to Cameranesi's).

Now, it's time to get some NCHC points. Three would be really nice. As head coach Scott Sandelin said before Friday's game, it's not time to worry about the teams in front of UMD. He's right. It's time to worry about UMD. Just get points and continue to improve the overall level of play. If those things happen, I'll take my chances with things like puck luck, the league standings, and the PairWise.

Quick programming note: With most of the league at nine or 11 conference games played, I put off my NCHC midseason awards a few days. I'll file that during the week, probably Wednesday.



Young (Blake) - Toninato - Iafallo
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Osterberg - Thomas - Young (Austyn)
Sampair - Decowski - Mackay

Welinski - Pionk
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Molenaar

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Mooney - Siroky - Schmit
Lemirande - Greenberg - LaValle
Louis - Melnick - Roslovic
Morris - Kuraly - Gacek

Belpedio - Caito
Dornbrock - Sullivan
Joyaux - Richart

McKay - Williams - McCarthy

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.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Game 18: UMD at Miami

OXFORD, Ohio -- The second half of the season is underway for UMD, as the Bulldogs battle Miami this weekend at Steve Cady Arena.

With students on break for the holidays, Miami drew barely 3,300 combined for a Saturday/Sunday series against RPI last week. Hopefully, even with students gone this series can draw a little better. Watching those games back this week, it looked very empty in here.

Miami gets sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio back for this game. He won bronze with Team USA at the World Juniors in Finland, playing big minutes on the blue line. This week, coach Enrico Blasi said Belpedio would be a gametime decision, as they needed to see how he felt once he got back Wednesday night.

UMD has juggled lines a bit, going with a combination that worked well in Saturday's exhibition win over the US Under 18 Team. Blake Young is in the lineup for the first time since the Nov. 14 tie/three-on-three win against Denver.



Young (Blake) - Toninato - Iafallo
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Johnson - Thomas - Young (Austyn)
Osterberg - Decowski - Mackay

Welinski - Pionk
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Molenaar

Kaskisuo - McNeely

Lemirande - Siroky - Schmit
LaValle - Greenberg - Sherwood
Louis - Melnick - Roslovic
Morris - Kuraly - Gacek

Dornbrock - Belpedio
Joyaux - Richart
Hutton - Caito

Williams - McKay - McCarthy

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Bulldogs Must Find Consistency in Multiple Areas as Second Half Starts in Ohio

OXFORD, Ohio -- Scott Sandelin isn't trying to put down the competition. He's also not unhappy his team scored 24 goals over a four-game winning streak around its Thanksgiving bye.

"We had that four-game stretch where we scored 24 goals," he said this week, "and that's almost half of what we've scored all year."

(Actually, it is half. UMD has 48 goals in 17 games, so take away that four-game run and UMD has 24 goals in 13 games. At the risk of being overly blunt, that's not very good. In fact, it's 2007-2008 territory.)

(For those newer to UMD hockey fandom, the 2007-2008 team scored 74 goals in 36 games, failing to take full advantage of a great season from sophomore goalie Alex Stalock. Don't fret, Stalock was even better the following year, and UMD stepped up the offense with help from a freshman class that included a couple guys named Connolly.)

Yes, scoring was a bit of a problem in the first half of the season. Over 17 games, UMD put up 482 even-strength shots on goal, but only 31 even-strength goals for a hideous shooting percentage of 6.4.

(Counting power play and short-handed goals and shots, UMD's overall shooting percentage is 7.5. It's low, but not as low as the five-on-five numbers are.)

So Sandelin isn't coming down at all on Colorado College and Western Michigan, the opponents during UMD's four-game winning streak.

(CC has since gone 4-4, including a sweep of NCHC rival Miami, the team that UMD faces here this weekend. Western Michigan, meanwhile, has lost three straight since UMD took the Broncos behind the woodshed Dec. 4-5 in Duluth (13-2 aggregate).)

Instead, the longtime Bulldog head coach is lamenting his own team's inability to take advantage of a pleothora of scoring chances on a game-by-game basis in the first half.

"You can look at goal-scoring, no question," he said. "The number of shots we've had and the opportunities we've had, and I hope they continue, it tells you we're doing a lot of good things. But we have to get hungrier around the net.

"Hopefully, we can get the power play clicking more consistently."


The power play, overall, is a respectable 15-for-78 (19.2 percent). It's not in the low- to mid-20s like UMD's NCAA teams of recent years, but it isn't bad by any stretch. But Sandelin hits the nail on the head talking about consistency. Ideally, he'd like to see his team get a power play goal in every game. And while UMD is averaging nearly that per game, it's had some long dry spells. The Bulldogs have had two stretches of three games where they didn't score a single time on the man advantage, going 16 and 11 opportunities goalless, respectively, between Oct. 17-24 and Nov. 7-14.

Obviously, UMD didn't score on the power play either night against North Dakota, missing on nine chances in the weekend series. That drought continues into this weekend's series against a RedHawks team that's allowed a grand total of four power play goals in 64 chances so far (to put that in perspective, it's the same number of short-handed goals Miami has conceded so far).

There are times UMD has struggled against aggressive penalty kills, and the Bulldogs will face another of those this weekend. But UMD also tasted some success on the power play in the first half, going four-for-12 in a three-game run that started Halloween weekend against UMass-Lowell and nine-for-21 in that four-game winning streak. It's that consistency Sandelin and the coaches crave.

That said, for the coach of a 7-7-3 team that was picked to win its league and put in the top five of (admittedly meaningless) preseason polls, Sandelin is far from panicking. He doesn't believe his team's performance so far reflects a .500 squad, and only time will tell if he is proven right on that hypothesis.

"We can pick apart where we want improvement, but I liked a lot of things our guys did," Sandelin said. "Overall, we just need some more production out of key guys."

"Our record reflects that we are a .500 team, but I don't feel we are," senior captain Andy Welinski said.

Sandelin compared his wishes for this team to what he saw out of Lowell, a team where the four forward lines are indistinguishable. It's a hallmark of past UMD teams, including last year's. When that team was "going," you didn't necessarily know which line was on the ice because they all play the same way. That's a trait that's only been shown a few times by the 2015-16 team. If it can redevelop that in the second half, good things will come as a result.

Sandelin: "Probably the only game I was disappointed with was the Friday Denver game (Nov. 13), where we didn't play very well after the first ten minutes. Even the North Dakota series, I thought we were the better team Friday night."


It isn't just an offensive issue. Scoring took all the headlines -- largely because of the UNO and UND sweeps -- but the Bulldogs have a few other areas of their game they'd like to clean up as the second half begins Friday.

For starters, North Dakota's 3-0 win over UMD on Dec. 11 came on the back of three transition goals by the, ahem, Fighting Hawks. Yes, UND is an elite transition team, and if you watch back that game, you'll see that about the only true scoring chances UND got in 60 minutes came on transition plays. It's a sign that UMD possessed the puck well and generally made good decisions. But the bad decisions cost the Bulldogs on that night.

And those aren't the only transition (or, as Sandelin terms it, "rush coverage") problems UMD has encountered in the first half of the season. The Omaha sweep saw UNO score six non-empty net goals, and five of them came off either rushes or transition plays off turnovers.

It seems like nit-picking, because UMD is doing a lot of things well defensively, but this is a huge part of the game nowadays. It's not going to get any easier for teams to score when facing a five-man defensive unit. These teams are so well-coached and well-prepared that you have to find ways to break them down to score goals. It's become obvious that the best way to do that is to catch them before everyone is back. The days of everyone grinding down opponents for goals are still alive and well, but the teams that can make big plays in transition will have a leg up unless they're very shoddy in their own zone.

"We gave up some goals through the year because of that (transition)," Sandelin said. "We need to take care of the puck better. Our rush coverage has to improve."


Admittedly the margin for error in the second half isn't high. UMD trails second place St. Cloud State by ten points and top dog North Dakota by 13. Omaha, with two games in hand, is only one point behind UMD in fourth place, while fifth-place Western Michigan has crawled within two points of the Bulldogs. At this point, UMD may be more in the race for home ice than it is in the race for the league title.

Things do change. I don't expect UND to be a .935 save percentage team the rest of the season, and while SCSU's team save percentage of .927 is also probably going to drop a bit, so is a power play humming along at nearly 31 percent right now. It's just the odds. Similarly, UMD's shooting percentage has gone up since that Denver series, but it's still on the low end of what you might consider "normal," and it stands to reason we'll see an increase, even if only a marginal one.

Unquestionably, things have to change for UMD. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where Sandelin is looking for increased production from. Big-minute forwards Dominic Toninato (6-1-7) and Alex Iafallo (2-6-8) have combined for 15 points. Center Jared Thomas has six points and hasn't scored a goal since Oct. 17 (14 game drought). Junior Kyle Osterberg (2-5-7) has no goals and one point since Nov. 6 (nine games). The eight-member blue line has seven goals this season, but outside of Willie Raskob and Carson Soucy each tallying in the Nov. 20 win at Colorado College, no defenseman has scored since Nov. 7. It's not necessarily their job to score goals in bunches, but going seven out of eight games without anyone scoring is not a good thing.

Sandelin will be the first one to tell you he thinks Toninato has played well, especially as of late. "His last month was a lot better, and when you continue to do those things, you get rewarded. I liked how he was playing even before that (hat trick against the U18 team)." So by no means am I trying to argue that anyone listed above isn't playing well. Thomas is vastly improved in the faceoff circle after a rough start to the season (after going 5-19 on draws in the first three games, he's improved to being basically a 50/50 proposition overall, with a number of 60-plus percent nights). Osterberg is a valuable 200-foot player. Iafallo still has game-breaking speed and is a very smart and responsible player.

Oh, and that blue line is a big reason for UMD outshooting opponents 28.4-19 per game at even strength this season. The Bulldogs' overall shot differential is plus-12.1 per game, easily the best in the NCHC (North Dakota is plus-8.9 and St. Cloud State plus-6.5). Only Penn State -- at plus-15.67 -- is better in Division I.

"We are in a position where we need to go on a run to make a push in the league," Welinski said. "I think we only have three games out of conference in the second half. Every weekend is going to be important for us to get points. We're going to be playing good teams, and we need to figure out how to get points every single weekend."


The first of those weekends is here against Miami University starting at 6:30 (Central time) Friday. The RedHawks have experienced struggles of their own this season.

After winning the NCHC playoff title and earning a No. 1 NCAA regional seed, Miami is 6-10-2 after a split against RPI last weekend at home. In Sunday's game, the RedHawks scored three in the third and outshot the Engineers 15-5 to erase a 2-1 deficit and win 4-2.

"I thought our third period was about as good as we played in a long time," Miami coach Enrico Blasi said this week. "The energy, the executing of the game plan was there for pretty much the entire third period. Real good step forward."

We already talked about UMD's search for improved rush coverage. Part of that is managing the puck and making sure the adversary doesn't have opportunities to rush up the rink with extra bodies. Blasi addressed that this week, too, only in the context of his team making smart decisions against a UMD team that possesses the puck as well as anyone in the country.

"You have to play well away from the puck," he said. "You gotta cut your losses at times, and live to play another day. Understand the situation you're in, and know where the danger's coming from. All in all, I think our guys understand that. Teams like UMD and other teams we'll face force you to make tough plays."

Miami could get a boost on its blue line, as sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio has returned to Oxford after helping the United States earn a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships in Finland. Belpedio didn't arrive here until late Wednesday (at least that was the plan as of Tuesday per Blasi), and Blasi termed him a game-time decision for Friday night.

"We'll just have to see how it goes. There's a chance he'll play, there's a chance he won't."

It's all hands on deck for UMD. Senior forward Austin Farley, the team's leading scorer with ten goals and 19 points, missed the exhibition game with an undisclosed minor injury but will play this weekend. I don't know the final defensive pairings for Friday yet, but junior Dan Molenaar will be available after also missing Saturday's game.

This isn't the same Miami team that won the NCHC postseason tournament a year ago. Stars like Austin Czarnik, Riley Barber, and Blake Coleman have all moved on, and the RedHawks are led in scoring by freshman Jack Roslovic, who has nine goals and 18 points. In all, three of Miami's top five scorers (Roslovic, Josh Melnick, and Kiefer Sherwood) are freshmen. Senior goalie Ryan McKay has played in 16 of 18 games and has a .911 save percentage. However, fellow senior Jay Williams got the start in Sunday's win over RPI and made 17 saves for the victory.


I'll have my normal review of Friday's game available either late night or early Saturday morning. In addition, I'll publish my annual (admittedly meaningless) NCHC mid-season honors this weekend for your review and hate mail.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Avery Peterson Transferring to UMD

Big news midweek, though it won't affect UMD's on-ice product for approximately one year.

Former Grand Rapids high school hockey star Avery Peterson, who left Omaha a few weeks ago, is transferring to UMD. The move has not been announced by the school. Fox 21's Greg Chandler (follow him on Twitter @sportsguygregc for more details) was first on the story.

Peterson scored 11 goals as a freshman for Omaha last season as the Mavericks advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four. He had just one point in 14 games this season before deciding to leave school prior to the end of first semester. While an Omaha World-Herald story on his decision didn't quote Peterson, it speculated he would attempt to transfer closer to home.
(Peterson) has a brother at home in Minnesota who is suffering from a rare illness called metachromatic leukodystrophy.

Evan Peterson was diagnosed with the genetic, neurological, progressive, terminal disease in early 2013. Blais said Avery Peterson didn’t talk about it much, but it was certainly something he struggled with.

“He kept everything to himself,” (UNO coach Dean) Blais said. “He didn’t want to be a distraction to the team, which you give him credit for. Obviously, we’re having a pretty good year without him having a good year production-wise. But that could be all to do with his worries and concern for his brother ... I think part of the reason he didn’t do well was because mentally it was just draining him because of his brother’s condition.”

Peterson may look into transferring to a school closer to home, Blais said. He would have to sit out until January 2017, although he is still young enough to return to junior hockey this season if he’d want to.

... (Jake) Guentzel, UNO’s junior captain, said it was tough to see a teammate, roommate and friend go.

“He talked to us and said he’s just got to do it. His brother is going through a hard time,” he said. “We respect it and wish him the best. I obviously love him. If this makes him happy, you’ve got to respect it.”
Prior to joining UNO, Peterson won Minnesota Mr. Hockey at Grand Rapids in 2014 and became the Thunderhawks' all-time leading scorer. He was a sixth-round pick of the Wild in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Peterson will have a year and a half of eligibility starting next January. He can begin practicing with UMD in a week and change when the spring semester starts. While he has eligibility to play junior hockey for the rest of this season, he isn't expected to do so. Peterson can attempt to gain an extra year of eligibility through an NCAA waiver, and indications are he will at least try to make that happen.

Watch for updates, both here and on Twitter (@bruceciskie).

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Rally for Exhibition Win, Prepare for Grind Ahead

(Whoops, forgot to post this when it was actually Monday. Sue me.)

I've joked with radio analyst extraordinaire Kraig Karakas that he has a lifetime contract with me. As long as someone wants me calling UMD games, I want him sitting next to me while I do it. Saturday night is a good example as to why.

When Dominic Toninato took advantage of one of the luckiest bounces imaginable to get UMD on the board in its exhibition game against the U.S. Under 18 Team, Karakas immediately recognized something in Toninato's reaction to what seemed at the time to be a mundane goal in a mundane game that didn't count in any tangible way.

"I like (his) reaction to that," Karakas said on the air. "He looked a little bit POed that they're losing 3-0 to this team.

"UMD to this point hasn't had that guy, in my opinion, that when the guys are down, says 'Get on my back.' I think Dominic has the skill set and the will to do that."

That was 18 seconds into the third period. UMD had little going, but as you know by now, UMD was able to get plenty going its way in that third period and overtime, rallying to win 4-3 as Toninato capped a hat trick with a power play goal in overtime.

I doubt we'll ever really know if Toninato did the "Get on my back" speech or some derivative of it. But he took control of a game where UMD had little going and put his stamp on it. Yes, it was an exhibition, but it is something that could have an impact going forward.

At 7-7-3 with goal-scoring struggles aplenty, UMD is a team screaming for someone to take control from within. It doesn't have to be a captain, as we've talked about before. It doesn't have to be a senior. But someone needs to do it. And as Kraig said when Toninato scored that lucky goal to start Saturday's rally, he's the kind of player who has the skill and the will to make it happen.

Obviously, the test of this theory comes when times become difficult in games that count. Toninato's already done a good job establishing himself as an improved 200-foot player. Now we need to see the kind of jam in the offensive zone he provided on Saturday.


We know UMD is probably not going to win the NCHC. But with all due respect to the conference and its leadership, that's not what matters in the end. I think most of you are already aware of how difficult it is to win a national championship, and recent trends aside, there is just no way of predicting who will emerge from the rubble come April 9, even once you get a gander at the tournament pairings. And UMD's players will gladly give up a shot at the conference title for a real chance at the national championship, I'd imagine.

My point? Just get in the tournament. Yeah, a team that's 7-7-3 at the midway point has work to do to make that national playoff. But if UMD can string together a run of strong play in a tough league, the Bulldogs will quickly put themselves in a position to make the NCAAs.

Just get in.

It starts with Miami this weekend. The RedHawks are struggling, sitting seventh in the league and under .500 overall. These are games UMD needs ahead of next week's showdown with St. Cloud State. Don't assume anything. Go get the six points and hopefully it'll help the Bulldogs make some headway.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Exhibition: US Under 18 at UMD

Greetings and Happy New Year. Hope your holiday break was enjoyable and fruitful. Glad to be back at the rink, and we're set to go for an exhibition to get the second half started.

UMD coach Scott Sandelin talked quite a bit this week about his team getting an increased hunger around the opposition net. That and transition defense were the big points of emphasis for him as his group reconvened after its time off.

We'll have more on the midseason break and some thoughts on the team going forward during the week.



Osterberg - Toninato - Johnson
Sampair - Cameranesi - Young (Austyn)
Iafallo - Thomas - Kuhlman
Young (Blake) - Decowski - Mackay
Spurrell - Exell (extra forwards)

Welinski - Pionk
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk
McCormack (extra D)

Kaskisuo - McNeely - Deery

Bellows - Keller - Anderson
McPhee - Frederic - Sanchez
Suthers - Pastujov - Walker
Khordorenko - Lockwood (center - right wing on fourth line)

Campoli - Martin
Greenway - Fox
Luce - Hellickson

Woll - Oettinger