Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday Musings: Colorado College Rallies for Tie, UMD Penalty Kill Saves Standings Point

Lots of frustration on the UMD side of the Broadmoor World Arena Saturday night. The Bulldogs couldn't have asked for a better start, getting two goals inside of the first two minutes and holding a 2-0 lead after one. Dominic Toninato tipped in a Neal Pionk wrist shot for a power-play goal 58 seconds in, then Alex Iafallo raced by the Colorado College power play for a breakaway shortie 49 seconds later.

For most of the first period, outside of Colorado College's three power plays, the Bulldogs controlled the puck, were content to let the Tigers chase, and had their way with things.

(More on this in a second. I'll be circling back.)

Things went quickly south, however, as the penalties racked up. Despite UMD's strong depth of killers, players started to tire from all the chasing, which led to more penalties. In all, UMD took a season-high 35 penalty minutes, and Colorado College had ten power plays on the night, including 4:52 of time during three-on-three overtime that UMD was somehow able to kill.

After that incredible PK work, Iafallo was able to score in the first round of a sudden-death shootout to rescue an extra point in the NCHC standings for the Bulldogs, who are now two points behind Denver for first place.

Unfortunately, the penalties were the big story for UMD. We've seen some small discipline breakdowns over the course of the season, and a good chunk of that is basic human nature. It's going to happen every now and then. But what happened Saturday was the worst we've seen this year. It was a team-wide calamity that never let up, even in the latter stages of the game and in overtime.

Could an argument be framed that the officials applied a different standard after the first period? Yes. Even watching the game back, there are more than a couple instances of UMD players being held, hooked, or interfered with that weren't called. On the Tigers' tying goal, the turnover that led to the rush started with blatant interference on UMD's Parker Mackay that was not called (though similar contact was called against UMD earlier). So I get this can be really difficult for fans to stomach, and I'm sure the players and coaches were livid on the bench and probably after the game, too. And anyone who listened to the game knows I was displeased, too.

But this stuff happens in hockey, UMD knows this (it's happened already this season, multiple times), and the Bulldogs failed to make any adjustments to how the officials started calling the game in the second period. The penalty trouble continued until CC pulled within one in the final seconds of the middle frame.

Carson Soucy took four penalties for 19 minutes, including a major for contact to the head in overtime that we'll discuss, Willie Raskob three for six minutes, Riley Tufte and Avery Peterson each two for four minutes.

And they were all penalties. This is undeniable. By the letter of the law, each call was correct. Again, can you argue the home team should have had more than it did? Yes. But UMD can't control how the adversary plays or how the officials officiate. It didn't do a good enough job controlling what it could control in this game.

Three of the four biggest offenders are older players who simply have to know better. One is a captain. This simply can't happen, no matter how frustrating the circumstances might be.

Talking to a couple guys on the trip home Sunday, I'm not concerned long-term. This will go down as a lesson learned, and the Bulldogs will move on. 


Soucy's major for a check to the head of Colorado College forward Tanner Ockey came in the final seconds of overtime. It carried over to three-on-three overtime, which meant CC had a four-on-three power play for 4:52. At that point, getting the full allotment of three points was out the window, and frankly the thought of getting two points wasn't exactly top of mind.

(By the way, I expect the NCHC to suspend Soucy for the hit, forcing him to miss Thursday's opener against Miami. It was pretty flagrant head contact, and it came late enough in the game that precedent would suggest he'll have to sit a game for it. Plus, it was similar enough to Soucy's hit on Bemidji State's Leo Fitzgerald -- or Myles, or Gerry, honestly I can't remember which one -- that justifiably drew a one-game suspension last season.)

(UPDATE: Sounds like no suspension for Soucy, certainly good news for UMD.)

But somehow, UMD survived that long power play for the Tigers. CC had three shots on goal, two of them from distance by defensemen. UMD blocked five shots and one other attempt missed the net. Particularly exemplary over the long kill were senior forward Kyle Osterberg and junior Karson Kuhlman. Iafallo and Toninato get marks as well, though some of their better work came during the myriad of CC power plays in regulation time.

Assistant coach Jason Herter does a lot of the penalty kill work, and it was great this past weekend. The Bulldogs killed two majors and allowed just six shots on goal combined. Somehow with three guys out on an Olympic surface, CC still got more shots blocked than it got on goal.

With everything that went wrong on Saturday, UMD should consider itself fortunate to have gotten one point out of that game, much less two. The penalty kill saved the bacon. It's a shame so many fans have forgotten how good they were amid panic over the lost point and how it might affect the Bulldogs' Penrose Cup chances.


The penalty trouble wrecked what was probably the best 20 minutes UMD's started a game with all season. All four lines were in on the action, generating gobs of puck possession and quality scoring chances. What was a 2-0 game could have been, by any rights, 3-0 or 4-0 after one, the Bulldogs were that good.

It adds to the frustration over how the game evolved in the second period. UMD was dominating the game at even strength, and it didn't matter which line was on the ice. But the team took four penalties in the second, all of them completely unnecessary. Eventually, the Tigers -- as much as their power play struggled -- were going to cash in. It was just a matter of time.

But Scott Sandelin preached a puck possession game plan, and the players executed it to perfection for 20 minutes. Then the wheels started coming off.


UMD dropped to second in the Pairwise behind Denver, thanks to Denver's gigantic edge in RPI rating after the weekend games. DU is .6033, UMD .6032, and that one-onethousandth of a point is the difference between the No. 1 and No. 2 overall teams in the ranking. If it flips back to UMD's favor, the Bulldogs will regain the top spot in the Pairwise. That's how close those two teams are right now.

If you use the College Hockey News page, you can project future results. If you put UMD down for a loss in each remaining game, it drops the Bulldogs all the way to fourth, still a No. 1 regional seed. Let that one process for a second.

Speaking of CHN, they also have what's called a "probability matrix" that lists the chance of a team getting in the tournament and also the best percentage chances at various seeds in the tournament. A few notes:
  • UMD is 100 percent in the tournament
  • UMD has an 83 percent chance of being the No. 1 or No. 2 overall seed
  • The chances of UMD not being a No. 1 regional seed are less than one percent
  • The 20,000 simulations generated for the matrix do not find any where UMD is seeded below eighth.
  • Denver is also 100 percent in, and No. 5 overall Western Michigan is at 99.5. Murky beyond that for the NCHC. North Dakota is at 37 percent, St. Cloud State 35, Omaha only at 12 percent.
Miami is in town for games Thursday and Friday this week. The short week is necessitated by Amsoil Arena being booked for high school hockey sectional games Saturday (7AA during the day, 7A at night). The RedHawks were swept by Denver this past weekend by matching 5-2 scores. Both games were tied 2-2 before DU erupted for the last three goals of the game. On the season, Miami is seventh in the conference, 1-7-1 in its last nine games. Anthony Louis is still putting up points (33 in 30 games this year), Kiefer Sherwood is having a solid season, and freshman goalie Ryan Larkin has put up a .914 save percentage in conference play.

Not only do we have to watch and see if Soucy is punished by the conference, but senior defenseman Brenden Kotyk missed Saturday's game with a lower-body injury. It's hard to imagine -- no matter how badly UMD might want to win a conference championship -- any chances will be taken with the big man on a short week, especially considering the short week means they'll have an extra day to get ready for the trip to Kalamazoo next week.

UMD will announce the winner of its annual Fan Favorite voting Thursday, and Friday is Senior Night.


Joe Bulldog said...

If Soucy is suspended, it will be the second time a UMD player has been suspended for his transgression, while opposite team offenders (Will Borgen's blindside hit on Neal Pionk and I can't recall the other, an F'n Hawk, perhaps?) go unpunished. Why is that? Also applying a different standard?

Bruce Ciskie said...

I argued for Borgen to get a game. Honestly, the world wasn't going to end if he didn't, and I wasn't terribly upset about it. The only other suspension I've argued for involving a UMD opponent was when Gambrell from Denver speared Neal Pionk after the Saturday game there. He did indeed get a game.

I also argued for Raskob's suspension, which was a worse hit than Borgen's IMO. I haven't seen a good replay of Soucy's, but what I do have access to shows it is not a good hit and probably warrants punishment.

There is no double standard. The league is doing a good job with supplemental discipline. But Soucy is a repeat offender, and this was not a good look on video.

Joe Bulldog said...

Thanks, Bruce. Not saying both Raskob or Soucy didn't/don't deserve the punishment, but it would be nice to know more about how it's decided. As you suggested, if it's late in the game (which also describes Soucy's, besides being not smart and not his first offense), does that become a contributing factor?

Bruce Ciskie said...

The league looks at video of the play in question and makes a determination, based on what was called on the ice and what they see, if it rises to the level of supplemental discipline. They take a number of factors into account and have a pretty high bar, as evidenced by how few players actually get suspended for illegal hits.