Saturday, February 28, 2009

Must Win?

"Two teams want to win, when that happens only one team can" (something like that, thanks Denny G.) unless there is a tie of course. Because of the 2-2 tie in last nights game it makes tonights game a must win for both teams. If the Bulldog's win you should see a nice jump in the standings and in the Pairwise. If the Gopher's win, they will be tied in the standings with the Bulldogs and will have the tiebreaker. From what I can see if the Bulldog's lose tonight it will probably mean a "big" drop in the pairwise. I am hoping for some points out of tonights game.

This really is playoff hockey now. A 3-point weekend would be great for UMD. I think UMD does this just to drive me and the other UMD fans crazy.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Statement Weekend

There has been much discussion this week about expectations of this year's UMD team, their ability to finish off the lesser teams and the fate of the coach, Scott Sandalin (see section below). It has taken some time, but I think I have clarified my position on these issues. As far as the expectations of this years edition, I have grown accustomed to a UMD team that is up and down and ultimately is fighting for home ice into the last weekend (maybe), fighting to get to Saint Paul for the Final Five and having an outside chance at the NCAA tourney (again, maybe). It has been a tortured (exaggerated) existence being a Bulldog fan, having to put up with the sisters of the poor or Gopher rejects calls and jeers. When it all comes down to it, I am sure it is the same for all of the "lesser" Minnesota D-I teams compared to our FSN anointed Overlord, UMTC (or Minnesota as they like to be called like they own the whole state). I don't want to belabor the point and run the risk of being called a whiner by fans of the Overlord. But this is our time to rise up and put to rest the past years mediocre finishes and take control of home ice destiny by finishing the Gopher's chances of Mariucci round one. This is a statement weekend for the Bulldogs; is this season a bark and growl or a whimper and die?

Calls for Sandelin's job? Not here will you find those! Just at a blog put out by a Howie at will you find that this is the year that has been the most disappointing. That this is the year that the Dogs are underachieving. That this is the year to dump Sandy. I say that it is Sandy that has helped make this season successful. Where were these calls in the past when a Frozen Four team heavy on junior class talent goes 15-17-5 as seniors? Has the shine from the Spencer Penrose Trophy been dulled enough now that the calls start to come? As I said to Andrew Fiskness, the other contributor to the HighHorse, change for the sake of change is not wise. And Howie's pick for successor is marginal at best. Norm was a great player, but let's dump Sandy for a first time head college coach? No way this year! And what delusion to call for the head of the esteemed AD and national champion football coach Bob Nielson? Howie, go take a leap into Kitchi Gammi and clear your head!

Onto the hockey!

To stay or not to stay... This stat is one that shows the difference between UMD and UMTC: of the current Gophers on the roster, the total number of goals against the Bulldogs is 6. That includes four games last year between the squads! Where have the goals gone? To the professional ranks as the senior classes of hockey players at UMTC are very small in recent years due to early departures. But where would this UMD team be in the standings if Niskanen and Raymond were seniors?

The Iron Alex in net. Both teams rely heavily on their Alex in net as Kangas has started 51 straight games for UMTC and Stalock has started 67 of the last 68 for UMD.

Kan-gas out of gas? It was just last weekend that the objective and non-senile dynamic duo (sarcasm very strong) of Shaver and Sonmor (UMTC radio guys) were discussing what went wrong at the end of last season for the Gophers. they were bent on blaming too much use of Kangas and he got fatigued in the end. HE HAS STARTED EVERY GAME THIS SEASON! THE GOPHERS ARE 1-6-1 IN THEIR LAST EIGHT GAMES! What will be the excuse this year? As a side note to the Kangas tiring issue, CC scored 5 goals in route to a 5-4 win last Saturday night on only 19 shots...or is it the defense in front of him?

Intermission. Cue the Common Man elevator music. Really though, the stats are outrageous for the Dogs at the intermissions. When leading this year during the 1st intermission they are 9-0-0 and when leading during the 2nd intermission they are 11-0-2.

This Week's WCHA Games. Michigan Tech is idle and Anchorage plays their true rival (not Mankato) the Nanooks of Alaska.

  1. Colorado College at North Dakota: This is plain and simple, a NoDak sweep towards the McNaughton Cup.
  2. Wisconsin at Mankato State: Wisconsin may have found the bottom again after the beating at home against Denver last weekend. Split this weekend with MSU.
  3. Saint Cloud State at Denver: Is it too late for Denver to win this conference? Yes, but they do help the Bulldogs immensely with a sweep this weekend.
  4. University of Minnesota - Duluth at University of Minnesota - Twin Cities: Enough has been said above (some will likely say too much, but it that time of year) about this series. Sandy will have the maroon clad Bulldogs ready against whatever color the Gophers decide to wear (the Gopher stats include records for each of the three colors they wear). UMD's Alex will show UMTC's Alex how a goalie leads a team on and UMD will sweep. I will be in attendance Saturday night with broom at the ready!

Crazy that there are only two weekends left in the regular season! Let's make them count.

Time to get off my HighHorse and be a fan. Go Dogs!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shoot Outs In the WCHA?

After reader AC's post it did bring up the question of shoot outs and would that help the conference standings. Yesterday I looked at the WCHA standings this year and see UMD with 6 ties, MTU with 7, others with 5 and 4 and it makes me thinks for the 1st time that maybe shoot outs are needed. So I looked at the CCHA standings and see what impact they have had on this season.

From the research I did, I discovered that only 2 places in the standings have been impacted by the shoot outs as of today. If there was no shoot out Miami and Michigan would be tied for 2nd, but since Miami has 2 shoot out wins they are in 2nd and Michigan is in 3rd. The other is the 6th to 8th places. Right now Northern and Omaha are tied for 6th and Ferrris is in 8th. Take away all there shoot out wins and they are all tied for 6th. All other CCHA teams are in the same place in the standings regardless of shoot outs or not.

I will have to look at this again and maybe even look and the Women's WCHA and see how ties and shoot outs played out for the standings. I will say for the first time I am leaning towards the idea that shoot outs might be a good thing. I never thought I would say that.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Ties Have It

It is official, Michigan Tech has the record for most ties in a WCHA season at 7. Tonight's UMD-MTU game at McInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton, MI did indeed end in a tie, 2-2. That also gives the Bulldogs 6 ties in WCHA action, so look out Huskies, your record may be taken away by the Dogs! As described by the Duluth play-by-play team, the Dogs were out muscled in the third period where they gave up their lead, but managed the tie even with an excellent scoring chance with :05 left in OT that "just jumped the Bulldog stick." As Coach Sandelin stated "We didn’t play very well in front of (Stalock). I get tired of saying that.” So I was correct in predicting the 3 point weekend, but incorrect about which night was the win.

A big sigh of relief on breaking the Friday road woes! Let's keep it going into Minneapolis next weekend.

So where in UMD now in the PWR? Before the end of the NoDak-Anchorage game, UMD stays at 13, UMTC plummets to 19 on the heels of CC sweeping them, CC jumps up to 16, and Wisconsin drops to 17 after being swept again (a super sweep?) by Denver. That rounds out he PWR rankings of the teams in the middle of the WCHA race.

As the WCHA standings are now with NoDak playing currently at Anchorage, teams 3 through 7 are separated by 5 points. UMD holding 4th, two points behind Wisconsin and one point ahead of Saint Cloud State.

Two weekends left with important games all the way, but extremely important games next weekend in Minneapolis. The Bulldogs must help themselves and keep winning, period.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Name Your Cliché

Backs are against the wall...110%...there is no tomorrow...the first fish is the hardest one to catch, after that you have confidence that you will catch more. They can go on and on (feel free to comment with your favorites), but what do they really mean? UMD is in a spot where they need to "win, baby, win." At first glance, the schedule is conducive to winning playing the bottom two teams in the last three series. But what have the Dogs done against the bottom teams? This year one point was gained by UMD on a trip to Anchorage and three in a home series with injury ridden Michigan Tech series that co-blogger Andrew Fiskness and I discussed as points left on the table that would be pined for later. But let's continue back in history to last year. The reason that the Bulldogs were in the running for an NCAA spot is that they beat quality teams. Not necessarily sweeps, but splits with upper echelon teams. The reason that the Bulldogs didn't make an NCAA appearance last year is that they didn't have enough wins, i.e. they didn't clean up on the "easy" points. The fate of an NCAA berth rides on the aptitude of the Dogs being able to finish the deal in these last three series.

Oh, the Friday night woes! As stated above, UMD needs to win to keep their chances strong for an NCAA berth and that needs to start tonight, which is a Friday on the road. UMD has not won a regular season WCHA road game since December 2, 2005 in Mankato. What about non-WCHA regular season games? Only twice since Mankato has UMD won on the road on Friday, at St. Cloud State in the WCHA playoffs 2007 and at UMass - Lowell early in 2008.

Weekend off turns out to be important. UMD's Pairwise Ranking (PWR) will rise with Bulldog wins, as stated, and other teams wins and losses. Minnesota State Mankato is off in regards to WCHA competition this weekend, but have a game Tuesday against Nebraska-Omaha. The Bulldog's Teams Under Consideration (TUC) would benefit greatly from Mankato winning and reentering the PWR teams being considered. Likewise, a run from Northern Michigan would have the same positive swing, but that looks unlikely this weekend as they play Miami (Ohio).

WCHA match ups this weekend. Again, and for the rest of the season, every game is like a playoff game for the Bulldogs. Here is how I see them panning out:

  1. North Dakota at Alaska-Anchorage. It is difficult to see anything but a NoDak sweep in this series. Another strong second half push from the Sioux!
  2. Denver at Wisconsin. Is Bucky for real? This series should shed some light which of these two will have a shot at the McNaughton Cup, if either at the rate the Sioux are fighting. A sweep earlier this season by Denver at home was at a much different time for Badger hockey as they were 0-4 after the weekend. At Madison, Wisconsin will win one game, but not both. Don't rule out a tie for Bucky in the second for a three point weekend.
  3. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities at Colorado College. A tough one to call as both teams are equally weaker than at the beginning of the season. I believe UMD's best scenario in this series is a split (although our poll currently has a CC sweep being most beneficial to UMD) to keep them both in the sights, or rear view mirror, of the Bulldogs. I say split.
  4. University of Minnesota - Duluth at Michigan Technological University. A rivalry series, or so declared by the WCHA brass. I wish I could be there as I have been absent from UMD's trips to Houghton for multiple years now. UMD needs to break their Friday night road slump and they need to make hay when the sun shines (cliché noted). The Huskies have been down, but always pesky for the Dogs in recent years. I see another three point weekend for UMD with the win not coming on Friday. This total will just muddle up the middle of the WCHA standings just in time for a Bulldog trip to the Twin Cities, a real rivalry series.

Here's to another week of the game we all love. And, as always..... GO DOGS!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

RPI Feb 15

The WCHA standings are a jumble and everyone win, loss or tie in conference play creates big changes in the rankings. After Fridays night, with the Bulldogs players watching the weekends games the Sports Garden the Bulldogs moved up to 11th. After Saturdays games down to 14th. Why is this?

Well for one on MSU was swept by UND. This took knocked the Mavs out as a team under consideration. This hurt the Bulldogs, as there TUC is not good with the Mavs out. They need to beat some good teams. The only one left on the Bulldogs schedule is UMTC.

The 2nd point is the Gophers beating UAA as the Bulldogs so far this year have not beat them so the COp was lowered. I am guessing that the last weekend series at the DECC against UAA needs to be a 4-point weekend for UMD to be in the upper half of the conference and to make it to the NCAAs.

The next weekend is huge for UMD. They are really going to need a sweep at Tech. They need the points to move up in the standings and they need for the COp against the other WCHA teams. I forsee a 2 or 3 way tie 5th through 7th and wins are going to be needed to break ties.

After seeing the RPIs after this weekend play I am not as confident about the Bulldogs chances. There will be only one way for them to get into the NCAAs and that is by winning. They will not be backing in this year.

These last 3 series are now the playoff. Go Dogs.

Friday Night UAA and UMTC

As it seems many games that I have been to the last few years in the WCHA end and you say that weas a sloppy game and not very fun to watch. Friday's game was that. The Gophers started off the first period hot. They out shot UAA 13-3, although most of those shots were perimeter shots.

The Second period UAA took over and controlled the play. Once the Gopher's first line was neutralized they didn't not have much punch. UAA grinders cam up big with a nice spare with 1.4 seconds left in the 2nd period. Kangas left a 10 foot rebound up the middle that was buried in the back of the net.

Third period the Gophers cam out and got and early one, but the Seawolves responded to tie it up. This was an ugly period and hard to watch. I noticed a few times when Gophers players gave up after a bounce that didn't go their way. A better UAA team could have put the gophers away. With all of the talent that everyone says the gophers have they sure didn't show it.

My last comment is that I didn't even notice Aaron Ness on the ice until mid-way through the third. He has a long way to come yet to be the player he was hyped to be.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Weekend off? Not always good.

The UMD Bulldogs hockey squad is off this weekend sitting at #13 on PairWise Rankings (PWR). What can be better than a good rest before the final push to the playoffs? Well, ask the North Dakota Fighting Sioux the same thing and you might here some gripes. In the projections of the NCAA Hockey Tournament on USCHO, the Sioux went from in the tourney to outside looking in. And its not because they lost, won, or tied last weekend; it is because they were idle.

Bulldog surge in PWR Ranking? Thanks to UMass-Lowell and Northern Michigan picking up the pace, UMD's Teams Under Consideration (TUC) numbers are on the rise and thus the PWR. Go Hawks and Wildcats!

Big games this weekend in the WCHA: OK, let's just say all games this weekend are important to UMD's chances for home ice, a spot in Saint Paul and the NCAA's

1. Alaska-Anchorage at Minnesota. Can the Gophers turn around their dismal 2009? Can the Seawolves continue their mini hot-streak? Likely there will be a little of both, I believe. Look for a split.

2. Michigan Tech at Saint Cloud State. Let's not mince words, Tech is #2 in my book of teams I pull for, but this year has been brutal due to injuries in Houghton. The wildcard in this series is which SCSU will come to play, the inept team (the real SCSU) or the one that pulls off some wins. As much as I would like to see Tech take at least 2 points, I see SCSU leaping over UMD by taking at least 3.

3. Minnesota State at North Dakota. As much as Maverick fans want to believe that MSU has a shot at the upper half of the WHCA after their 4th and 5th wins against Minnesota in 39 tries all time. Right place at the right time taking advantage of a falling Gopher. Here, NoDak is on the warpath and only getting better, especially at the Ralph. Sweep for NoDak is predicted and needed to provide more space in the standings between the Mavs and UMD.

4. Denver at Colorado College. A Denver win in their one game this weekend would be a great help for UMD in the standings and it will happen this weekend.

As stated before, UMD is idle this weekend and can only watch from the sidelines. We will have to see how the college hockey landscape has changed after the weekend.

Go Dogs!