Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ending on a High Note, Long-Distance

Cohesive, resilient, confident…all things that one wants to see in their favorite hockey team. But which of them, if any, describes the UMD Bulldogs as they jet off to the 49th state to take on the Seawolves of Alaska – Anchorage? The season is still a story in the making. A season story that has two distinct sections that can be looked at two different ways.

One way to bisect the season is looking at the calendar and splitting the season into the winning first half before 2010 and the losing second half. The second way to look at the season is games against the “better” teams and the “worse” teams…in essence, TUC teams and not TUC teams. Either way, it has been a high flying ride at times and a rocky ride at other times. And it all comes down to the games in Alaska determining the final seeding of UMD in the WCHA playoffs.

Anyone Out There? Moving into the playoffs on a good note is important. Not too many teams can do what UMD did last year after getting swept by the Seawolves at home for the last series. A repeat, I fear, has very slim chances to succeed.

To win, a team needs to score and there has not been much of that going on in recent years by the Bulldogs. The only current Bulldogs to have tallied a goal against UAA ever are Justin Fontaine (4), Jordan Fulton (1), and Drew Akins (1). That should lead to no surprise that UMD is currently on a 0-4-2 streak when facing UAA.

Scoring, Part II. UMD has been playing better hockey as of late, but the goals are still fewer than the averages indicate. In this series scoring and taking leads into the period intermissions is of utmost importance. UAA is 0-14-0 this season when trailing after one period and 0-18-0 when trailing after two periods. Not even a tie in there is amazing. It is also interesting to see that intermissions are the key, because the Seawolves are 4-14-2 when their opponent scores first.

What Makes this Series a Struggle. Many factors are working against the Bulldogs. It is a long trip with major time zone difference, some players are fighting injuries, and others are sick. UAA is also very similar to two teams that UMD has faced this season with varying results, Mankato and Michigan Tech. UAA is a grind it out defensive oriented team that can shut teams down if they are on their game. Evidence their 8-0-1 mark when leading after two periods.

What Makes this Series a Success. The Bulldogs have had their struggles as indicated in this article. I believe that UMD has been broken down and are now building themselves back up for the playoffs as shown last weekend in two games that were very well played even though not many goals were scored. Games like the two coming up will show how far they have come and indicate how far they can be expected to go into spring.

Around the WCHA this Weekend. A full slate of games to end the regular season.

Michigan Tech at North Dakota: With the Sioux two points behind UMD and holding the tie-breaker, the sweep this weekend by UND will necessitate at least three points by UMD to keep at least fourth place.

Saint Cloud State and Minnesota State Mankato (home and home): SCSU is two points ahead of UMD in the standings and they hold the tie-breaker. It has to be at least a three point weekend for Mankato for the Bulldogs to pass the Huskies. As much as I want it to happen, I see this series as a split.

Wisconsin at Minnesota: This series is interesting for UMD’s prospects. The Bulldogs could theoretically move as far up as second place because they have the tie-breaker over Wisconsin assuming a Gopher sweep. At the same time, UMD could use Gopher wins to keep them in the TUC. Honestly, though, this series will be a sweep for the Badgers.

Denver and Colorado College (home and home): Denver is the only team to have their first round match-up solidified. Again, CC winning would keep them as a TUC which would benefit the Bulldogs. Even so, Denver will take their rival who can still change their playoff destination for three points.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently I block certain things out of my memory...0-4-2 against the Seawolves!! That gets me worked up!!!