Here on the first day of 2010 and watching the end of the Winter Classic NHL game, we at the Hockey HighHorse take time to look back and give some “mid-term” grades as the second half of the season starts up tomorrow. In no particular order we will look at some facets of this season’s UMD squad.
Offense: B+. Who can argue with the 6th, 9th, 16th, and 35th leading scorers in the NATION as Jack Connolly, Justin Fontaine, Rob Bordson, and Mike Connolly. Looking at the WCHA games it gets better as JConnolly and Fontaine are tied for 1st, MConnolly 4th and Bordson at 5th. That foursome (fearsome?) combines for 55% of the total UMD output. Now look to the future where Coach Sandalin has vowed to keep a Connolly-Connolly-Fontaine line together at least to start 2010, and we may have some fireworks. But maybe not. Teams have been successful in slowing the Big Four down when they make a game plan to do so and thus a question of consistency arises (see Worst Loss below).
As far as the team as a whole goes, 12 members have goals and are scoring 3.44 goals per game. This team is a far cry from the scoring woes of two seasons ago and should eclipse last year’s team in scoring.
Defense: B. The addition of players like Dylan Olsen and drew Olson paired with the hard-nosed, experienced play of Chad Huttel, this crew is on pace to improve and become very solid.
Goaltender: A-. Between the two netminders, Kenny Reiter and Brady Hjelle, they had less than two games total of college experience coming into this season with only one start and that was for Hjelle. There have been ups, downs, soft goals, and outstanding game by them both thus far. But in looking what they are to replace from last year, Alex Stalock, they are deserving of the grade! We look for the team and staff to continue to play both goalies while focusing in on one main goalie for the stretch run.
Coaching: B. Scott Sandalin and his staff have done a good job getting this season’s team ready to play and playing well. This is one area where the consistency question pops up. Does it fall on the players or the staff? Likely both.
Best Win. We always love to see the sweep at Mariucci over the Gophers and the last second heroics and OT winner in the Saturday North Dakota game, but the best win of the season is the most recent one. The 6-3 win against Denver was as close to a complete performance as we have seen this year and is the “best” win so far.
Worst Loss. This one is too easy and hopefully a great second half can erase it as much as possible from the rankings. The 3-2 defeat to the hapless Michigan Technological University Huskies has the potential to be the nail that keeps UMD out of the NCAA’s, or home ice in the WCHA tourney for that matter. Rebounding the next night for a 8-1 drubbing was good, but the Friday defeat just should not have happened.
Overall, we give the team a B. They are definitely beating the expectations of the coaches of the WCHA and the pollsters on the various college hockey publications. The sheer talent that the team brings is what makes it an exciting ticket to have. What is troubling is the inconsistency both inside of games and from game to game. The coaching staff and many others have talked about not having the “full 60 minute effort” yet and that too is troubling. But if they can get it together, the second half should be a wild ride like last spring.
The staff here is still split looking at a 6th or 5th place finish in the WCHA based on the first half performance.
We also want to note that this is the start of the year in which we will say farewell to the old DECC at the end of December.
Have a Happy New Year as we look to tomorrow’s start of the Catamount Cup in Vermont.