Friday, February 19, 2010

Trip to Grand Forks to Prove Pivotal

It has been two weeks, or there abouts, since UMD laced up the skates for a game. It is an important series with playoff implications abounding. My previous article from yesterday had my prediction about the finishing order of the WCHA after looking at all remaining games. From that analysis two main points emerge:
  1. UMD was listed in a tie with SCSU for third. I mistakenly said that the tie-break would go to UMD. The implication of that is the 4th place possibility looking ahead to the Final five. Top three is important so a team doesn’t have the possibility of three games in three days. But this may be cart before the horse. 
  2. Of the “wild card” teams I wrote about that the possibility of turning it on this time of year with the talent they have, UMD plays both in the next two series. The Bulldogs are at North Dakota this weekend and home against Minnesota the next.
With as tight as the standings are, every game is turning into a must win to keep pace with the teams around UMD. The next four games are going to be intense and could go any way for any number of reasons.

The fact still remains that the Bulldogs need to pull together and shake this funk they are in (2-4-0 in the last six) and play like the solid team they were earlier in the season. The funk leading into UMD’s run in the playoffs last year (being swept be Alaska – Anchorage at home) is not a habit to make.

Power is King. UMD is currently second in the WCHA for power play at 22.2% while North Dakota is also second, but in the penalty kill department. The Sioux kill penalties at 86.3% and were 7 for 7 against SCSU last Saturday night.

All together the power play is the catalyst to this Bulldog squad. The Bulldogs are 1-5-0 when they do not score a power play tally. On the flip side, when the UMD penalty kill goes 100%, the team is 6-0-0. The bottom line for special teams is that the power play has to pick the coring roll like earlier in the season.

Where Does It Go? I can’t see any other way then a split this weekend. A good showing by the Bulldogs is important, but the effort needs to translate into wins for the Bulldogs to stay at the top of the pack, or at least in the top three.

Around the WCHA. It is a full slate of conference games this weekend as we are three weekends away from the end of the regular season.
Saint Cloud State at Wisconsin: Important series concerning the championship of the WCHA and placing for the playoffs. SCSU had a bad outing last Saturday against UND, losing 8-1. That may show SCSU’s downside that I have been writing about most of the season. I believe SCSU has overachieved all year and now they are going up against a strong Badger team. UW is tied with UMD for third in the WCHA right now and the Badgers will pass UMD with a sweep over SCSU. 
Colorado College at Minnesota: It is the next chapter of the enigma season for the Gophers underachievers. Minnesota may get one point, but likely this is a sweep for CC.
Alaska – Anchorage at Minnesota State Mankato:  I really don’t know which way that this one is going to go, but I do know that UAA plays UMD for the last weekend of the regular season. The meaning of that? I don’t have answer here either. This weekend is a three pointer for MSU.
Michigan Tech at Denver: Denver is on the march to the MacNaughton Cup and they will continue with a sweep this weekend.

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