Friday, February 03, 2017

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Bulldogs Settle for Series Opening Tie Against Omaha

Relatively quick blog, instead of the 1,500-word masterpiece (😏) you're used to reading from me.

Weird game Friday. UMD and Omaha combined for one whole shot on goal (by Omaha) in the first ten minutes. The first period ended with shots 5-3 UMD, and there was no real great flow to a game we expected to have a lot of pace and intensity to it.

That pace quickened in the second and stayed that way most of the game, and it was a goal by Ian Brady early in the third that gave Omaha a 2-2 tie with the Bulldogs at Amsoil Arena. UMD's Alex Iafallo scored in the shootout to give UMD an extra point in the NCHC standings.

Senior captain Dominic Toninato scored twice in the second period for UMD, his first two home goals of the season. He also missed on a late partial break that could have given UMD the win, but it was good to see Toninato take advantage of a couple great chances in the middle frame. By no means has he struggled this season -- he's probably been UMD's best center from the outset of the season -- but the offense hasn't come like most of us had probably expected.

Lots of good to solid performances on this night. Toninato had two goals and six shots. Iafallo had the shootout goal and four shots in the game. Freshman Joey Anderson had eight shots on goal. Hunter Miska made some spectactular saves among his 23 on the night. Jared Thomas won 11 of 15 faceoffs.

The power play got only the one Toninato goal late in the second on four chances, but it produced 11 shots on goal. UMD's penalty kill, victimized by six power play goals in Omaha, surrendered one in two chances Friday, but its successful kill included a minute of always-dangerous four-on-three time for the Mavericks.

UMD got things cranked up in the third period. Looked like UNO wore down a bit, and the Bulldogs were all over Omaha goalie Evan Weninger, who was rock-solid with 37 saves. UMD outshot the Mavs 14-10 in the third, then 5-0 in standard overtime. They stop counting the stats after that, but shots in the three on three overtime were 5-0, UMD.

The first period was a big box of strange. Never thought we'd get through ten minutes with just one shot for either team, and no one really remembered what that shot looked like. Both teams seemed to struggle handling the puck and advancing it in a way that anyone could make a play.

But once things cranked up in the second, it was just as enjoyable as expected. In the end, UMD was probably the better team, but Weninger and a little luck allowed Omaha to grab a point and tie North Dakota -- a 3-1 loser to St. Cloud State in the other NCHC game Friday -- for fourth place in the conference.

UMD is now two points up on Denver, but the three points available Saturday are absolutely essential. DU plays Colorado College home and home next week while the Bulldogs play against air.

That's about it for now. More before the game Saturday. Also, check out the UMD women as they go for a sweep against North Dakota Saturday afternoon. 3pm start, with $1 tickets available, or you can get in free by bringing a non-perishable food donation to the game. UMD won Friday 2-0 behind goals by Lara Stalder and Sidney Morin, along with 24 saves from sophomore goalie Maddie Rooney.

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