Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Dawn

A bad weekend doesn’t slow down the onslaught of games. It doesn’t speed them up, either. This is evident in listening to what the players are saying. To sum it up, they want to get back on the ice and get back on the right track. And that is good because some teams have the tendency to pack it in and ride the spiral down.

Talk is good and team meetings are good, but now the time is up and it must be put together on the ice. The trouble is that it is a very good team coming to Duluth, the Wisconsin Badgers, to play the next two games with UMD. It will be a real test of the physical and really the mental side of this Bulldog team. The weekend games will be very telling of the place UMD belongs in the WCHA.

Holding On. The Bulldogs held onto sole possession of first place in the WCHA in thanks to other teams that could have taken first place splitting their games. Nonetheless, it is now in the hands of UMD to keep first place by completing a good weekend series against Wisconsin who is two points behind and tied for fourth place in a jammed up WCHA.

Streaks That Crumble, Continued. I wrote about the UMD streak of scoring three and not losing falling last Saturday night against BSU. What may be more alarming is that the UMD streak of holding, or al least not relinquishing, a lead going into the third period. It was a good run going 36-0-3 when the Bulldogs had the lead going into the third period. It is may be one of those things that just ends or is it another red flag to the down side of last weekends lack-luster performance against the Beavers.

Who’s On First? Who’s In Net? UMD goaltending was called out by Coach Sandelin after last Saturday’s game. He stated that both in games goalie play was not good. Reiter was pulled from Friday’s game and Hjelle was just off all Saturday night. It will be interesting to see if UMD goes back to a rotation after riding a Reiter hot streak out of Holiday Break or if something happened in practice this week to warrant going with one over the other for the series. Which ever way it goes, much of UMD’s successes, or failures, will be pinned to keeping the puck out of the net.

Power Disruption? We look forward to seeing how the leading scorers of the Bulldogs rebound after a neutered weekend. Maybe that is a misuse of the word neutered, but scoring is the hallmark of this year’s team. If scoring is going to be troublesome, the wins are going to dry up.

The people I talk to always ask how I think the Bulldogs will do on a given weekend. I always have trouble in that department as evidenced by last weekend’s predicted split. I don’t really have an inkling of how they will do this weekend. What I do know is that the Badgers come in with a great offense and a great defense. Also, the Bulldogs are coming off of their first time being swept this season. I will decide to sit back and follow the games and see where they lead.

Around the WCHA this Weekend:

It is a full weekend of conference play. First through fifth place, the top half, is separated by two points. The bottom half is separated from the top half by four points. With the matchups this weekend, we should see more clarity of where teams will place out.

Saint Cloud State at Colorado College: The Huskies are garnering lots of national attention for their nation high 8 game winning streak. During that time they have jumped up to second place, one point behind UMD. CC is a team that coaches and the media did not expect much out of this year, but they have shown flashes of greatness in consistently staying in the top half of the WCHA. I have liked what I see from CC and have not been impressed with SCSU. But I do believe the Huskies are putting something together and CC has not been the same since being swept by UMD. In Colorado Springs so I see a split.

Denver at North Dakota: North Dakota is currently in sixth place. Not a familiar place for them in the WCHA, especially after the calendar switches. The Sioux are a team that rolled into Minneapolis and laid an egg against the Gophers, so I have no idea what is up with them. Maybe the win at Cornel is the turning point, maybe not. They are playing a top tier team and it is in Grand Forks. Denver has been wavering of late, but these two teams always have great games when they meet. It will be a three point weekend. For whom, I do not know, but probably the Sioux.

Minnesota at Alaska – Anchorage: Minnesota was on a nice little streak until they met SCSU last weekend. They are taking the long trip to Alaska and that leads me to call a split here. That and the Gophers haven’t brought it all together yet.

Mankato at Michigan Tech: The Huskies have only two wins in the conference, one against UMD and the other against SCSU, teams in first and second place. That being said, they were swept by Alaska most recently. It pains me to say it, but MSU will sweep at snowy Houghton.

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