Friday, March 12, 2010

Tiger Taming

Here it is, the playoffs are upon the WHCA. In an up and down season, the Bulldogs fought their way, and then hung on, to finish in the upper half of the conference, earning a home playoff series. Their opponent is Colorado College.

UMD has had the opportunity to play CC four times this season giving each team a good idea of their opponent. The season series ended with UMD on top with three wins, with a sweep at the DECC.

CC has had a season similar to UMD’s. They started hot and have cooled off from there going from an entrenched upper half team and likely NCAA participant to now being on the road for the first round and needing help to have a shot at the NCAA tourney. And similar in this case is used loosely. UMD sustained their early season success longer than CC and finished off strong enough to host a playoff series. And again, let’s not forget that Bulldogs swept the Tigers in early January.

Last Weekend. Both teams are coming off of splits into this series. UMD, unlike CC, won their last outing. The Bulldogs beat the Seawolves 6-3 while CC lost to their rival Denver 7-3.

Tales that the Tape Give. Looking at the amassed stats from this season some keys to the series for the Bulldogs jump out. CC has a penchant for early period goals. The Tigers have tallied goals in the first minute of a period eight times this season and in the first two minutes of a period 20 times this season. UMD will have to be ready to play from the first puck drop because getting the first goal seems to be important to this Bulldog team. UMD is 12-3-1 when getting the first goal.

Special teams still play a large part of success for both of these teams. CC kills penalties better than UMD and the Bulldogs convert on power plays more often than the Tigers. In league games, UMD is first in PP at 24.8% compared to CC’s #3 ranking with 21.1%. For PK, again in conference stats only, CC kills off 82.4% good for fourth and UMD stops 81.4 % for sixth place. Combine special teams together, for whatever significance that stat brings, and UMD ranks at 5th in the league while CC is 8th. What it means is that UMD needs to keep converting power plays and playing good defense, especially when a man short.

One more stat to chew on, UMD has killed 23 of their last 24 penalties dating back to the Saturday night loss at North Dakota. During that streak, UMD kept opponents shutout on power plays for four straight games.

Friday Nights are Right? Friday games have been a documented struggle for the Bulldogs as of late. The Bulldogs have lost their last six Friday night games. A Friday loss is not a good way to start a best of three series, in fact it could be a killer. It is of the opinion of the HighHorse that Friday’s games will likely be the tell of how the series will end. As a side note, the Bulldogs are 13-4-0 in Saturday games and 1-1-0 in Sunday games this year.

It Takes Three. The mark of three goals is still important for UMD who are 19-1-1 when they achieve that mark. When held to less than three goals the Bulldogs have only one win.

The number three is also important to home playoff series. The last four home playoff series have needed the Sunday game. The good news is that UMD has won the previous three home Playoff series with a Sunday win. The last loss was against Michigan Tech in 1996 in OT.

Overall Thoughts. I will go out on my limb and predict that UMD will be aggressive and take care of this series in two games on their way to Saint Paul for the Final Five.

In the Other WCHA Playoff Series.

#10 Michigan Tech at #1 Denver: It is just not Tech’s year, unless they are playing UMD, and they aren’t this weekend. DU sweep this weekend.

#9 Alaska – Anchorage at #2 Wisconsin: This same match-up ended in a three game upset in 2004, but no this year. I won’t say that it won’t take three games, but I will say that Bucky Badger will win the series.

#8 Minnesota State Mankato at #3 Saint Cloud State: I know that the Huskies will not admit it, but I would be willing to bet that this is the one team that they would not choose to play from the bottom half in the first round. In fact, MSU has done quite well at the National Hockey Center going 7-1-1 there in the last nine played. With the way the Mavs carried play last weekend I see this series as the best chance at an upset, MSU in three games.

#7 UMTC at #4 North Dakota: This series seems cut and dried Sioux win, but those Gophers have been pesky, and streaky, as of late. As much as UMD needs UMTC to stay a TUC for the PairWise, this series doesn’t look good for the Gophers. I will not rule out the need for three games, but I will say that the Sioux will take the series.
We at the Hockey HighHorse are looking forward to taking in the games this weekend and are not planning on this being the last weekend of UMD Hockey for the season.

No comments:

Post a Comment