Thursday, December 3, 2009

The First Big Weekend

Here we go! Staying away from the clichés, it can be simply put that if UMD is to be in the upper half of the WCHA, or in the race for the championship, these next 6 WCHA games are important. They are importance is evident when you look at the opponents and the game locations.

The teams on the schedule in order are North Dakota, Denver, and Colorado College, the other teams in the top four of the WCHA with the Bulldogs. The location of all six games is the usually friendly confines of the DECC.

UMD has been a team nationally recognized for their work and wins this year by consistently being ranked in national polls. This next stretch will determine if the Bulldogs are where they should be, or maybe they could make strides towards the upper echelon of the WCHA and the nation.

North Dakota comes to town. It was a memorable game last time UMD and UND played. It was the 3-0 UMD win in Saint Paul during the Final Five last year. Those memories should be put aside when the skates are laced up Friday because Und will be bringing a good offense and a very good goaltender to Duluth. The Sioux have five players with 10 or more points in a fairly even distribution. No big stars here, but many well-known key players who can get the goals. Goalie Brad Eidsness is currently posting a 1.89 GAA and is solid in net.

Trend or Mirage? The Bulldogs are off to their best start in 14 years and are currently third in the WCHA. Coming off of 3 straight wins, the Dogs will have to work hard to make it four. The solid start and rising stock in the national spotlight will be put to the test in the games against the Sioux, Pioneers, and Tigers.  UMD will have to put up or fade into the pack in the WCHA.  The good news is that they have the offensive arsenal to put up the big numbers and that will help the young netminders get the valuable game time against the really good teams. 

What are those Numbers?  UMD is 5-1-1 on Fridays and 4-3-0 on Saturdays. Maybe more importantly the Dogs have lost only twice at the DECC, and as said, the next six are at home. Additionally, 16 of Justin Fontaine’s 20 points, 16 of Jack Connolly’s 21 points and 12 of Mike Connolly’s 14 points have come at home.

On the flip side, UND is 6-1-0 of Fridays and 2-3-2 on Saturdays. The Sioux are riding a two game unbeaten streak that they definitely want to extend after the being swept in their last WCHA series at Denver two weeks ago.

We will see which are trends and which are mirages. We at the HighHorse see a split this weekend. We are split ourselves about which one the Dogs will win, though. What we do agree on is this will be a very important stretch of games for this year’s Bulldogs!

Other WCHA Action this Weekend:

Saint Cloud State at Alaska – Anchorage: The streaky (and split-a –plenty) Huskies make the long trip to Alaska this weekend. In the end each team will win one because neither are good enough to sweep.

Michigan Tech at Wisconsin: As much as it hurts, both because I am a MTU fan and that they beat UMD this year already, Tech is a doormat in this league. Badgers are getting better and they will sweep.

Minnesota State – Mankato and Minnesota: First of two home and home WCHA series this weekend. Minnesota should be feeling the urgency to right the ship and that urgency will make the grip on their sticks tighter. The Gophers will not sweep this one, but MSU will not take more than two points.

Denver and Colorado College: A big rivalry home and home series that pit the two teams tied for first in the WCHA. It would be easy to say split for so many reasons, but this will be a Denver sweep turning the tide on CC and starting to make it clear that they have been a mirage for the first part of this season.
Stay tuned this wintery weekend, recent results have been surprising in the WCHA, so all predictions may not be worth their weight in snow.

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