Monday, February 8, 2010

Lost Chances Mounting

It is an age old problem. As Denny Green once said, and I am paraphrasing here, when two teams want to win, when that happens, only one team can win. I am not quite sure that two teams wanted to win this past Friday night in Houghton, MI. I know that seems harsh, but really, when one team is dominated on the stat sheet like the Huskies were, it really begs the question if the Bulldogs were ready for the game or even if they were motivated to win?

The Huskies were highly motivated. It was Winter Carnival, their big series that is circled months in advance every year. The thing is that UMD know that too. To come out and play sloppy, be it even for a few minutes of the third as Friday night, is not the formula for winning. Teams that do have letdowns in game can’t rely on one goal to get the job done. It was an uneasy feeling I had when UMD entered teh third period with only a one goal lead at 1-0.

The way things were going, it was just one of those feelings Friday night.  Is that the team that UMD has turned into? The type where you expect bad things to happen? Against MTU this year, for sure. In general, it is starting to be a yes. A strong win Saturday night would have likely dispelled those feelings. But again, the Bulldogs found themselves fighting for every last opportunity and needing special teams to account for all the scoring to do in the Huskies 3-2 for a “salvage” of the series.

In the grand scheme of things, it was a lost weekend. It will be interesting where this team is headed. It looms that there will be a big difference in first round opponent in the WCHA playoffs depending on placing 1st – 3rd versus 4th or 5th. Right now North Dakota and Minnesota occupy the 6th and 7th places respectively. It is not a stretch to say that no one really wants to play those teams in the first round. If UMD is to keep in the top three, they will have to figure out their issues and find the scoring touch that has seemed to be nullified.

Broken Record? It is getting old, the non-consistent performances of the Bulldogs. This is especially true of the forwards and the scoring touch. From Coach Sandalin on Friday’s game:

I’m going to sound like a broken record, but we didn’t come out and get the job done. A five-minute stretch cost us the game. We got sloppy with the puck and couldn’t catch a pass in the first 10 minutes of the third period, and we were ineffective on the power play. “Michigan Tech stuck with it, and their goalie played well [35 saves], and they found a way to win.
And then on the comeback win Saturday:

That was a tough hill to climb, but I never felt we were out of the game. We hung in there but we were facing a great goalie [in Kevin Genoe]. I don’t know how he wasn’t named MVP of the Winter Carnival.
The Bulldogs players and coaches have two weeks now to get ready for a tough and important series at North Dakota February 19-20.

Rankings. UMD is seeing a fall in all polls and rankings after their split in Houghton. USCHO Poll places UMD at #7, one spot blow last week’s result.

INCH Power Ranking has UMD falling 3 spots to #11 stating:

Maybe the Bulldogs want to avoid finishing first in the WCHA to steer clear of a first-round playoff series against Michigan Tech. UMD has been the victim in two of the Huskies’ five wins this season, the most recent coming Friday in Houghton.
A good observation that may not be as much in jest as it seems.

USA Today / USA Hockey Poll has not been release at the time of this article.

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