Monday, January 25, 2010

Tables Turned

In an absolute gut punch of a weekend, the Bulldogs took what was a promising streak to the top of the WCHA and #3 in the PairWise (PWR) to still top in the WCHA, but losing big points in the PWR to #8. All of this was because of a sweep at the hands of the WCHA members to be Bemidji State Beavers. That punch was delivered when BSU used a UMD drama script in scoring a tying goal in the last two seconds of regulation and then scoring on the first shift of overtime. I think the Bulldogs faced the stark reality that it can happen to anyone, including them. Lost in all the dramatics is that MD lost their first game of the season when scoring 3 or more goals.

It can be summed up by the aforementioned gut punch, but Coach Sandelin said it best, “We didn’t do a lot of smart things with the puck; we played way too loose. We gave the puck away, and they played hard for 60 minutes, and we didn’t get the goaltending we needed in either game. It seemed as though the games meant more to Bemidji’s players than ours. They played well.” And that is the facts.

After seemingly finding the #1 goalie of this team, it is again up in the air. Reiter played decent, but the goals poured in Friday night bringing Hjelle off the bench. Then Saturday night, Hjelle turned in a lack luster effort where he looked out of position and a step behind the whole game.

How important is the goalie when you can score like UMD can? Well, UMD didn’t score this weekend like they have been. Yes, four UMD goals came on Saturday, but for the weekend, Fontaine was absent from the score sheet and each Connolly only picked up a point each from assists. In the end, it is a goalie that can lift a team and propel them to beat highly ranked opponents like Bemidji. “This was unbelievable and I can’t say enough about the character of this team,” said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore. “They just willed themselves to win and our goaltender was our best player.” Again, the facts.

In a Minneapolis Star Tribune article a couple weeks old, it was written that UMD has the easiest WCHA schedule for the second half. With the way it looked last weekend, they will need every gift of easy opponents to stay on top of the WCHA, or even near it.

The bottom line is that the team needs to pull together and find that gel that brought them together as a team and made them play, and win, like a team. Two games does not make a trend, but it could be a start if they continue. The surging second place Wisconsin Badgers are in Duluth next weekend for a two game series against a UMD men’s hockey team. Which one will show up is still a valid question.

Rankings. UMD falls to #8 in the all important PWR as mentioned above. They fall to #9 in both the USCHO Poll and the USA Today/USA Hockey poll. The INCH Power ranking has the Bulldogs at #10, sown six places from last week.

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