Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another Top Team, Another Split

Here we are half way through the hockey season. UMD continues its prosperous ways with another split against the top tier teams of the WCHA, this time Denver. After a well played Friday game that saw UMD on the short side of a 3-2 score, they follow it up with an offensive show in a 6-3 win.

Friday’s game saw a furious finish where the Bulldogs had many really good scoring chances with the extra attacker in the last minute. It still didn’t matter. The Marc Cheverie show was phenomenal Friday keeping the Bulldogs out of sync. It was just another example of having the backstop in hockey can make the difference, and it also helps that Denver’s offense can light it up too. And don’t get the idea that UMD’s goalie, Brady Hjelle, played poorly. He played very well keeping DU to 3 that night. Many great shots from DU were coupled with great saves by Hjelle.

Saturday’s game started much differently than Friday’s scoreless first period. In the span of the first 9:00 the score was 3-1 in favor of UMD. It was a scoring output unexpected against Cheverie. It continued from there when UMD piled up a total of 6 against DU in route to a mostly convincing UMD win. What wasn’t convincing about the win is the evolving troubles in the second period. We will talk about that more in the mid-season report card coming soon.

The bottom line is that UMD has had opportunities to play the top teams of the WCHA and nation at home over the last couple weeks. The Bulldogs have not done poorly by any means, but they also did not take the giant step forward that an opportunity like this presents. The McNaughton Cup is getting further and further in the distance, but top three is definitely in the possibilities. And the possibilities for this team are still very numerous.

#1 Guy.  It is good to see that the Bulldogs are moving towards a #1 goalie.  I say good because it was, and still is, becoming very clear that Brady Hjelle is the guy a team wants in net.  Hopefully his play continues at a high rate and his talents continue to develop.  Hats off to Kenny Reiter who will take this as an opportunity to get better and push Hjelle to continue to be that #1 guy UMD needs...or Kenny will take his job!

WCHA Teams-To-Be Update. Bemidji State took a step backwards this past weekend. Playing Mankato in Bemidji should not be a tough task for a top ten team. Either Bemidji has been shown to be a mirage or the WCHA is back to being tops in the nation again because the beavers were handily swept by the Mavericks. That puts BSU at 1-3 against WCHA teams this year. Next on the list for the Mavericks of Mankato are the Mavericks of the University of Nebraska – Omaha, another WCHA team entering next year. Will Mankato’s streak of beating future WCHA teams continue?

Rankings. UMD’s rankings have stayed constant in the USCHO and USA Today/USA Hockey Polls at #12 and #14 respectively. The INCH Power Ranking for UMD dropped one position to #15.

Next up is the Catamount Cup in Vermont starting January 2 against Mercyhurst.

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