Friday, January 13, 2017

Bulldogs, St. Cloud State Both Seek Redemption After Tough Weekends

Undoubtedly, last weekend was not what UMD was looking for.

"I don't want to sit here and talk about everything we did wrong," head coach Scott Sandelin said this week. "I want to give CC credit."

Sandelin did that, noting their left wing lock, played to near perfection, caused UMD all sorts of problems.

"We just never got going."

As I wrote on Monday, any complaining or bellyaching about how UMD played or how the officials officiated or how the ice was or anything else had to be predicated by giving the Tigers credit. Feeling good about themselves after a Florida College Classic championship, Colorado College waltzed into Amsoil Arena and played the way it wanted to play. The Bulldogs struggled throughout both games, never seemed emotionally into what was going on, and got the result that level of play would warrant.

But let's be fair to UMD. It was one bad weekend after a long series of good to great weekends. Even the great teams have them. North Dakota got swept at Denver and later lost and tied at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff before going on to win the NCAA title.

If we believe this UMD team has a chance to be a great team, the occasional hiccup is still inevitable. And if the group tackles adversity week to week the way it has tackled adversity during games, there is zero reason to be concerned.

Some examples:

Oct. 7 at UMass-Lowell: Trailed 4-1 midway through the second, rallied to earn 4-4 tie
Oct. 28 vs North Dakota: 3-0 lead became 3-2 in final minute of second, scored only goals of third in 5-2 win
Nov. 4-5 at St. Cloud State: Trailed 3-1 both nights, won both games 5-3
Nov. 12 vs Western Michigan: After late goal gave WMU a 4-3 win Friday, UMD won 2-0 Saturday
Dec. 10 at Denver: After 4-3 loss Friday, UMD won 3-1 Saturday
Dec. 17 at Bemidji State: Gave up goal :44 in, trailed into second period, won 2-1 and didn't allow a shot in back-to-back BSU power plays over final 3:37 of regulation

Sandelin wants to see some emotion this weekend, which he said was lacking last week.

"It was just kind of dead. Very flat. Maybe a combination of not playing enough over 30 or 40 days. We gotta find a way to get back to it. We had a good, very simple talk Monday about getting back to what we need to do, focusing more on the things we need to get better at.

"Hopefully our guys learned the lesson," he said. "Our league is tough. Certainly, we didn't play well enough either night to win two games, but we had opportunities. We have to be better this weekend for sure."

Senior forward Kyle Osterberg noted classes at UMD resumed this week, and that return to "routine" might be a little bit of a boost for most guys. After all, athletes are creatures of habit.


St. Cloud State, meanwhile, also had a disappointing start to 2017. The Huskies went into break with a 2-1-1 mark over their last four games, including a win and tie at Western Michigan. They've come out of break 1-3, swept by Miami last weekend and having split games at the Desert Hockey Classic the weekend prior.

"It's been good and bad," SCSU coach Bob Motzko said this week. "It's just like our team. We're in every game, it's tight. We don't score like we did a year ago. We don't have an All-American goalie like last year (Charlie Lindgren), but they've given us a chance in every game. I like our hockey team, I like it a lot.

"We're just not there yet, but we're coming."

Sophomore Mikey Eyssimont leads with ten goals, followed by Duluth Marshall graduate Judd Peterson with nine. Freshman Jack Ahcan, a World Junior gold medalist along with Motzko (head coach), video coordinator Matt Chapman, and of course UMD freshman Joey Anderson, has 13 points in 16 games.

The goalies, Jeff Smith and Zach Driscoll, have basically split time, each playing in 12 games and being separated by just 30 minutes played. Smith has a 2.98 goals against and .891 save percentage, Driscoll a 3.13 and .889. Smith started both games at Miami with Driscoll ill, but Motzko said he was back in practice this week and we don't know which goalie will get the nod in the series opener.


Motzko, by the way, had nothing but praise for UMD's Anderson, who played top-line minutes and was used in many key situations in the World Juniors.

"There was one moment, he's in the hall, and I put my arm around him and said 'Except for Duluth, I love you'. He's a special kid and hockey player. One of my favorites. Last year on that (Under 18) team, (Clayton) Keller and (Kiefer) Bellows got all the accolades for what they did, but I got the feeling Joey was the straw that stirred that drink.

"I found myself using him in the big games the most, because I could trust him. I hate to say it, but you guys got a special one up there."

Motzko was grateful for the chance to work with this team, one he said he knew during evaluation camp in the summer in Michigan had a chance to be special.

Sandelin told reporters Wednesday UMD will "do something" Friday to honor the members of the World Junior team that are part of the Bulldogs and Huskies.

Also, it's Hall of Fame weekend, with the UMD Athletic Hall of Fame inductions set for Saturday. All six inductees -- former men's hockey star and Hobey Baker winner Junior Lessard, Tim Battaglia (baseball and football), Barry Fermanich (baseball and basketball), Lindsey Dietz (basketball), Dave Hicks (skiing and golf), and Angie Jones (softball) -- will be honored on the ice after the first period of Saturday's game. For the radio folk, Lessard will be with us after the second period Friday, and Battaglia after the second period Saturday.

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