Friday, February 26, 2010

Nearing the End with a Rivalry Weekend

A Gopher fan and co-worker stopped by my office this morning to give me his take on this weekend’s UMD/UMTC series. He stated, “If the Bulldogs don’t get at least a sweep this weekend, they are done.” Interesting statement in that it is likely on many people’s minds in Duluth, but I would dare say that most would never verbalize it. This steak UMD is on, 2-6-0 in the last eight, is moving into the real mental block category. They can’t seem to score, or play consistent defense, and special teams have fallen off the map. This UMD squad is extremely talented, but for some reason they have hit an invisible wall.

Hit a wall… That is exactly what topic our writers’ meeting at the HighHorse went to this week. It seems as if the team is either mentally spent or they are physically tired. Which ever, it is strange as they just came off of a weekend off before the weekend losses at North Dakota. It was even suggested that when the team gets to a high level in the WCHA, they can ‘t handle the pressure of being the favored team and not the underdog.

Either way, or maybe neither way, it is time once again to lace up the skates and play for the future of the season by focusing on the only on the game at hand.

Power Play Ups and Downs. The power play will always be a key to this UMD team’s success. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs are on a 4 for 39 streak in power plays. That stat still leads UMD to be the 6th overall in the nation for power play efficiency at 21.4%.

Returns and New Faces. Mike Connolly who received a black eye and a concussion in the third period of Saturday night’s game returned to practice on Wednesday and is expected to play this weekend.

A new face on the Gophers since the last meetings of these two teams is Jacob Cepis who joined the team midway through the season. Cepis has been very successful after transferring from Bowling Green in scoring and setting up important goals for the Gophers in their resurgent 2010.

Last Call? This is the last scheduled meeting of the Bulldogs and Gophers at the current DECC arena. Next year’s series will be in the new arena. Of course, this series could also be a preview of the first round of the WCHA playoffs depending on how it all shakes out. And I have given up on predicting the final standings of the WCHA!

Other Action Around the WCHA. Saint Cloud State has the weekend off and Alaska – Anchorage is playing their rival Alaska in a non-conference series.

Denver at Minnesota State Mankato: The MacNaughton should be in Mankato for this weekend series. No, not for the Mavericks, they will have to wait for that event for a later year. It will take two wins for Denver to clinch the regular season title assuming that Wisconsin wins all their remaining games. Denver will take care of business and sweep for a conference championship.

North Dakota at Colorado College: the Sioux are mounting a push for home ice. Currently tied for the last home ice spot with CC, this will obviously be a pivotal series for both teams. CC is slumping and will relinquish the 5th place spot in route to giving up 3 points to the Sioux.

Wisconsin at Michigan Tech: Other teams can do it, why can’t the Bulldogs? Wisconsin will sweep the Huskies.

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