Friday, November 5, 2010

Highway 2 Revisited

Bulldogs Travel Through Bemidji Towards the Sioux

A telling weekend starts tonight as UMD again travels along US Highway 2, this time passing through Bemidji, on their way to Grand Forks.

The weekend is important in this young season to see where this Bulldog squad really is on the national scene. UND is the first team with a winning record and the first ranked team they face.

All this is will happen in the house of horrors for UMD, Ralph Engelstad Arena where the Bulldogs are 1-10-1 in their last 12.

The Sioux record is telling in their up and sown season leading to their 4-3-1 start. UND is 2-3-0 against nationally ranked opponents and 1-1-0 at home. The Sioux are looking to make a statement this weekend after being swept two weeks ago at Maine and splitting last weekend at home against Denver. But maybe that is just who they are, either the typical slow starting Sioux teams of past years, or, dare I say, an average to above average UND team. Without question, it is an opportunity that UMD can ill afford to pass up.

More Pluses. Two outstanding Bulldog Freshmen lead the team in plus/minus. Forward JT Brown and defenseman Justin Faulk are tied with Junior Travis Oleksuk with a +5. Great achievement eight games into the season for Freshmen, especially with Faulk who works the blueline.

Power is Key. After their first game, the Bulldogs are 27 for 29 in killing power plays. On the road against a team like NoDak, killing penalties will be a key to the weekend.

Make it a Good One. Bulldog forward Justin Fontaine celebrates his 23rd birthday on Saturday. Fontaine is currently second in scoring on the team with 4-8-12 in eight games.

Outlook. The Ralph is always a challenging place to play the Sioux, especially for UMD. This is a good time, if there is such a thing, to play at Grand Forks. It will be a successful weekend for the Bulldogs in taking a split and their first loss of the year.

Around the WCHA.

Colorado College and Denver (home and home): The first series in the race for the Gold Pan is on this weekend. Denver is coming off of a split at North Dakota and CC is coming off of a home sweep from UMTC. Both teams are still trying to find their place in this early season. Both teams have had impressive wins and baffling losses. I would think DU sweep, but this is the Gold Pan and it is home and home, so a three pointer for Denver is in order.

Bemidji State at Saint Cloud State: The way Bemidji can clog things up and the Huskies ineptitude to score, this series should be a low scoring series. BSU will come away with one point and still no wins in the WCHA.

Minnesota State – Mankato at University of Nebraska – Omaha: In the renewal of the Maverick series, these two Maverick teams are headed in opposite directions. Purple Cows (Mankato) are up in the WCHA standings thanks to six conference games already (most games tied with UMTC) and they have been against fellow bottom feeders. The Red Cows (UNO) is surprising many with their hot start in the new WCHA. The Red Cows sweep the Purple Cows this weekend.

University of Wisconsin at University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: A toss up this weekend. I think that both teams are figuring out who they are this season and they both will be middle to upper half of the conference. Both teams haven’t really played any good teams so records are deceiving. And just as the Gophers are figuring things out, they lose a player, Zach Budish, for the season. With the uncertainty I have to say split, but don’t be surprised if Bucky comes away with three or more.

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