Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Second Half Season Report and Season Wrap

It is well after the Bulldog season is over, but it took some time to fully digest the rollercoaster season that the 2009-2010 Bulldogs took their fans on.

A “mid-term” report was written for what we defined as the first half of the season, 18 games ending with 2009. The second half as we define it is 22 games that were played after New Year’s Day.

Again, we have broken down some of the disciplines and graded them out in the traditional grading format.

Offense: C-. We said earlier that the team will go as the scoring goes, and quite frankly, the scoring dropped off in the second half and the team lost more games than they won. Looking at the numbers, the goals per game in the second half were 2.9 compared to 3.4 in the first half. The most notable fact of the goal departure is the goal drought against teams that would eventually be in the TUC (Teams Under Consideration for the PairWise) including North Dakota, Bemidji State, and Wisconsin.

Barring more pro departures other than Rob Bordson, the core pool of scorers will on the squad next season. The key development in the team would be to become more consistent in scoring against all teams regardless of the game plans to slow down the scoring.

Defense: C. Nothing really jumps out in the defensive corps that says anything more than average. Just as the goalies, the defense did their jobs, but the stats clearly show that this UMD team depended on offense to win. Brady Lamb was a bright spot on the defense this year building on his good year last year. We look to Dylan Olson to make the same gains from his first year to his sophomore year to help solidify this young group.

Goaltending: B. The goaltending was consistent throughout the year. It wasn’t outstanding, but it really kept the Bulldogs in many games. Going into the season, it was unknown what UMD really had in goal. Most knew that games weren’t going to be won by the goalie and that was the truth as evidenced by only one win for UMD when they score less than three goals. All that being said, Kenny Reiter emerged as the #1 goalie with Hjelle serving as a very suitable back-up. Both tenders played well and have more experience to build off of for next year.

Coaching: B. The team produced better than college hockey pundits predicted, but the consistency question reappears again. The age old question of who is ultimately responsible fort he team struggles in the second half, notably the drop in scoring, could very well be debated here.

Best Win. The back-to-back sweeps at home against Colorado College and away against Mankato in January were quite impressive. The second game at Mankato was the only UMD win when scoring less than three goals for the whole year. The “best” win of the second half has to be the 4-0 win against Wisconsin on Jan. 30. That shutout came against a potent offense and stout defense of a team that was on a tear. It was one of few games this year that coaches and players agreed was a complete Bulldog effort.

Worst Loss. The game that really doomed this team to not making the NCAA Tournament was the Saturday night loss to Bemidji State in Duluth. What really made this loss sting was the way BSU used UMD’s script of late a late goal to tie and quick OT goal to win. The Beavers scored against a UMD team trying to hang on with 0:02 left to tie and then finished off the downtrodden Bulldogs 0:36 into the overtime period. This loss seems to be a turning point on the downward spiral for UMD. It was after this loss that UMD went on to lose the next five Friday games before beating CC on Friday night of the first round of the playoffs.

Overall, we give the team a C+. Now this is for the second half after expectations had been raised by a strong first half. The team set themselves up nicely for an NCAA berth, but stutter steps in the season, especially the second half, finished the season at the Thursday night Play-in Game at the WCHA Final Five.

Some may look at the fairness of this grade seeing that the team overachieved based on what the experts predicted. The fact is that going off of the opinions of others is a decent measure, but basing outcomes of the season off of results from the first half of the year is truly more representative and fair.  Looking at the season as a whole, a grade of B+ is applicable for besting pre-season expectations.

The hope is that many lessons were learned in this season. Lessons like the importance of each game, that every game is hard fought and nothing comes easily, and that all players must adjust to what the opponent is taking away and finding ways to still score. If those lessons are learned and put into practice, next season will have even higher expectations.

Prediction Checking. From the mid-season report:

The staff here is still split looking at a 6th or 5th place finish in the WCHA based on the first half performance.
The split decision was really close to the actual finish. UMD ended in a tie for 4th, but was seeded at 5th after losing the tie-breaker with North Dakota.

Closing out the season with the team was the last playoff games played at the current DECC along with many teams making their last appearance there. Look for next season’s schedule here at the HighHorse early next week after the 2009-2010 National Champion is crowned.

Next post will be the 2nd Annual HighHorse Season Awards coming prior to the National Championship this Saturday.

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