Monday, February 06, 2017

Monday Musings: UMD Tramples Omaha for Five-Point Weekend

UMD coach Scott Sandelin made it abundantly clear before Saturday's game that a repeat of Friday -- a 2-2 tie and shootout win against Omaha -- wouldn't be good enough.

In lauding his captain, Dominic Toninato, for a strong game Friday, he also took time to express disappointment in other players.

"You talk about playing the game the right way, you get rewarded, and Dom got rewarded," Sandelin said. "We didn't have as many (players) as we needed (Friday night). There are some guys who need to get going. We had some passengers, and that's not a good thing. We need everyone pulling on the same chain. It's a little frustrating to see that out of some guys that we count on."

Sandelin wanted a better, more composed performance out of his entire group. He got what he wanted.

UMD used two quick power play goals in the second period to open up a lead, and the top-ranked Bulldogs cruised past Omaha 5-0 Saturday night in front of a standing room only crowd at Amsoil Arena.

After Omaha had three power plays come up empty in the first 22 minutes of the game, the Mavericks finally took their first penalties about five minutes later. The first lasted just 15 seconds before Toninato basically centered a pass to Alex Iafallo off the pad of Omaha goalie Evan Weninger. Iafallo had an open net to shoot at for a 2-0 lead. 1:35 later, Joey Anderson tipped an Adam Johnson center point shot for a 3-0 lead. That goal came 11 seconds into a power play, so the Bulldogs had two power play goals in all of 26 seconds of man advantage time. #Efficiency

Leading 3-0 into the third, there were a couple chances for the Mavericks to get back in the game. Kyle Osterberg took a tripping penalty while trying to deliver a hip check along the boards during an Omaha rush. The Mavericks got pressure on that power play, with three shots on goal, but Hunter Miska held his ground well in net. Shortly after that, Teemu Pulkkinen had a golden chance with Miska down and out in the crease, but the freshman goalie was able to get a glove on the shot for a save you'll probably see in the NCHC weekly highlight package when it comes out Tuesday.

UMD put the game out of reach at 12:50 of the third when Avery Peterson tipped a Brenden Kotyk point shot by Weninger to make it 4-0. Neal Pionk got open on the back door and took a perfect shot-pass from Iafallo at 17:31 to cap the scoring, and UMD finished off Miska's fifth shutout of the season. That ties the school single-season record held by Brant Nicklin (currently UMD's volunteer goalie coach), Alex Stalock, and Kasimir Kaskisuo.


Besides Miska, lots of stellar performances to talk about from Saturday.

Toninato was a beast both nights. I still believe Anderson will eventually return to that line, maybe that happens when Parker Mackay returns from his upper-body injury. But Johnson was very good on Saturday after a bit of a so-so Friday.

(Mackay skated last week and will presumably be able to continue doing that during the bye week. Sandelin was vague last week about a prognosis, but one has to think the Colorado College series isn't out of the question for Mackay. Based on the four-to-six week timeline that was mentioned when he went down, CC is at least a small possibility. Whenever he returns, expect another line shuffle. Maybe Johnson moves back to center, but certainly there will be moving parts.)

I thought this was one of Willie Raskob's better games of the year. Moved the puck well, was involved defensively, and Carson Soucy was a beast all weekend. Outside of a couple flubs with the puck from Nick Wolff early in the game, the defensemen were really good on this night.

Also, the fourth line of Sammy Spurrell, Billy Exell, and Blake Young -- who played for the first time in 11 games -- was on point. Spurrell was ejected in the second period for facemasking, but before that the trio turned in a strong performance. Spurrell won five of seven draws, Young was physical, and Exell used his speed to create a couple scoring chances.


Up next is a vast nothingness. UMD takes a week off before the trip to Colorado Springs Feb. 17-18. Just a shot in the dark, but I'll guess the team doesn't need any kind of reminder of what happened when Colorado College was in Duluth Jan. 6-7. That two-point weekend serves as the only serious blip in what's been a stellar season to date, and it leaves UMD still with precious little margin for error in the NCHC championship race.

The Bulldogs head into break with a five-point lead on Denver for first place, however the Pioneers face the Tigers this weekend for a home and home having won ten straight meetings against CC.

Both those teams were off last week, but when we last saw CC, Tigers goalie Alex Leclerc, who stymied UMD over two games in Duluth, was doing the same thing to defending national champion North Dakota. Over a two-game split at the Broadmoor World Arena, Leclerc stopped 83 of 88 shots -- including a 45-save shutout in the Saturday game. 

So not much has changed with Colorado College. The Tigers are playing enough defense in front of a talented young goalie whose confidence has to be sky-high at this point. Should be interesting to see if they can reverse their fortunes against the rival Pioneers this weekend.

As far as the blog, nothing new here until probably next Monday, barring news. Last bye of the season, so R-E-L-A-X, enjoy having the No. 1 team in the land, and we'll reconvene next week.

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