Friday, December 11, 2009

The Main Ingredient

The age old hockey question is finding that one key ingredient to make an OK team a really good one…or at least a contender. As UMD proved last season, the goaltender can be just that kick. Denver University is also going from the same script. The Bulldogs last season appeared destined for sub-expectation finish. The play of Alex Stalock said, “Get on my back.” And that is exactly what propelled UMD into the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament.

Denver is not an underachiever this season, but their consensus pick to be WCHA Champion is mainly for the reason of Marc Cheverie. With his 1.77 GAA and 8-1-1 mark, the Pioneers are poised this weekend to take over first in a move that would likely secure it for the remainder of the season. Having swept North Dakota and split with CC the last two weeks makes the case on its own.

What stands in DU’s path is a UMD team that scores and wins, especially at home. A team that can puzzle you as much as they can blow you away with their prowess for the back of the net. Putting together a complete game is still the goal of this year’s Bulldogs, and it is a must if they want to stay in the race for McNaughton Cup.

Game Plan. Scoring is a must. It has been hit and miss as of late and that is because opponents are keying on the main Bulldog scorers. What to do? Get used to it and make adjustments. From here on out it will take a team effort to free the Connollys, Fontaine, and Bordson. Or, while those four get the attention, others have to pick up the slack as in recent weeks with players like Kyle Schmidt.

Give Me a D. The rotation at goalie between Reiter and Hjelle has worked as well as one could want thus far. It has to be close to making one of them #1. Hjelle is not fully where you want a number one goalie to be yet, but Reiter is still letting too many weak goals. I for one want to see more of Brady Hjelle. What is for sure is that both netminders could use a big boost from solid defenseman play, which ahs been coming around as the year has progressed.

End of the Year Exam. The Bulldogs are finishing the 2009 portion of their schedule this weekend. Three points would be a great way to finish it off, but a split is most likely. Hopefully it will not take the last second heroics of last weekend.

Other Series in the WCHA.

Wisconsin at North Dakota: The Sioux are trying to get into their holiday break without dealing with more injuries. On top of the players missing, North Dakota is playing the top teams in the WCHA. Wisconsin has definitely been coming on as of late, but they will only get no more than one point this weekend.

Colorado College at Saint Cloud State: SCSU has also been surging as of late, like the Badgers. For SCSU it has been ever increasingly solid play in the net. Home games for the Huskies will help their cause and will get them a split in this series.

Minnesota at Michigan Technological University: This is being dubbed by the HighHorse as the Cellar-Dweller Showdown. Last season goalie Alex Kangas hit his rock bottom in a split at Houghton being pulled from net in each of the games. He recently talked to the St. Paul Pioneer Press explaining his emotional and physical reality check he had at MTU before the up and down end of the Gopher season. Let’s face it MTU is not what they were last season, and that is saying that they are bad. But they do get pumped up to play the Gophers just as they do against UMD. It will not be a sweep by the Huskies, but Minnesota will not leave the UP with more than two points.

MSU at Bemidji: Beaver sweep.
Enjoy the last full weekend of 2009 play!

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