Friday, January 06, 2017

Bulldogs Welcome Back Gold Medalist Joey Anderson, Kick Off Second Half

For UMD's seven Canadian-born players, Thursday night was probably a little bittersweet. The home country fell in the gold-medal game of the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, but yet one of their own won gold in the process.

UMD freshman Joey Anderson returns to the team Friday after being absent since Dec. 15 for USA Hockey training camp and then the tournament itself. He missed the home-and-home series with Bemidji State to take part in the camp and take his shot at the 23-man roster, and he didn't just scrape by and barely make the team. Anderson became a mainstay on the U.S. penalty kill, and his work on the top line was exemplary, even if he didn't stand out on the scoresheet.

Team USA twice rallied from two-goal deficits against Canada in Thursday's game at Montreal, then used a Troy Terry shootout goal to win 5-4 and claim its fourth gold medal at the WJC, first since 2013 (Seth Jones, Johnny Gaudreau, Jacob Trouba, John Gibson, etc.).

The question now: Will Anderson, whom I believe is due back in town inside of six hours before faceoff, be in the lineup for Scott Sandelin's No. 1 Bulldogs as they open the second half against Colorado College?

Anderson told Dave Starman, who worked the World Juniors for NHL Network and did a great job and will be in Duluth for Friday's broadcast on CBS Sports Network, that he texted UMD's coaches saying he wants to play.

Well, duh.

That, however, was before Anderson played 24:35, including 7:49 in overtime to lead all U.S. forwards, in the gold-medal game.

Sandelin spoke at his press conference Wednesday about Anderson, and he gave every indication he was prepared to hold Anderson out of the Friday lineup, especially were the U.S. to play for gold.

(His press conference came before the Russia game, where Anderson also saw plenty of ice time as the game went a full ten-minute overtime before the Americans won in a shootout.)

"He and I talked," Sandelin said. "I didn't even ask the question because I know the answer (he wants to play). We'll see how everything goes. These are pretty emotional games, pretty high intensity. Playing four games in a row in four days, we'll see. Might be okay. You hear a lot of guys who do that, they want to keep playing. We'll see how the travel goes, but I'm probably leaning towards him having one night off and getting back at it Saturday."

Keep in mind, not only has Anderson played high-intensity games the last two nights, but he's played big minutes and played in big situations. It isn't an easy decision for Sandelin, and there isn't any kind of rule he can rely on. When Anderson arrives, I'm sure there will be a conversation. Perhaps it happens via phone before Anderson even gets to Duluth. If the player feels strongly about playing, I tend to think he'll play. Sandelin can read the situation and limit his minutes if necessary, and UMD has plenty of forward depth to pick up the slack should that be an issue.

Either way, it's fantastic. Love that the U.S. won, love that Anderson played such a big role. The World Juniors is a wonderful tournament and a great experience for these kids. Even if they're tired now, they'll be better players for having been a part of the event.


Colorado College is the next opponent for UMD, and at least for your humble correspondent, it feels like UMD hasn't played in a month. Friday will be just the fifth game in 42 days for the Bulldogs, who went into break in first place in the NCHC. UMD is guaranteed to stay there at least another week, regardless of this weekend's results, as Denver -- a point back of the Bulldogs -- is out of conference this weekend against Arizona State.

The Tigers are in last place, three points back of seventh-place Miami, as the second half opens. Colorado College, however, should be riding a high after taking the championship at the Florida College Classic last week, thanks to a 3-0 win over Merrimack and a 2-1 overtime victory against Cornell in the title game. Before break, CC played two overtime games at Miami, losing a shootout in one and falling in five-on-five overtime in the other.

The Tigers' defense is improving. CC allowed 25 goals over five losses starting with a 6-2 defeat to Omaha Nov. 5. It's given up just 11 goals in six games since, so while the Tigers are only 2-3-1 in those six games, it's clear that third-year coach Mike Haviland is getting better play from his team.

Up front, sophomore forward Mason Bergh has nine goals, including four on the power play. Freshmen Nick Halloran and Alex Berardinelli each have eight points (five and three goals, respectively). Sophomore Westin Michaud of Cloquet has four goals, though only one of them has come in conference play. Freshman goalie Alex Leclerc has taken the reins in goal, posting an .884 save percentage in over 750 minutes. But over this six-game stretch, Leclerc's up to a .939 save percentage now, including 49 saves on 50 shots in Florida.

"They've got some nice players," Sandelin said. "Some nice freshmen. They compete. They've got good team speed. They've got a good mixture, some small, speedy guys. I thought they were very tenacious on the puck in the two games (Florida). If our guys go into it without the respect factor for their team, we're going to have a huge challenge on our hands. We've got to go in with the right mindset."

So, in short, look out. If UMD isn't ready, there's a good chance the Tigers can shock the top-ranked team into playing. Don't be surprised if one of these games is a meat-grinder.


One more reminder: All games going forward can be heard only on 92.1 The Fan out of the Twin Ports. To listen live online (desktop and mobile devices all work), click here. Streams will be activated 15 minutes prior to pregame each night. Hit me up with questions.

No comments: