Monday, December 6, 2010

Moving On from DECC; WCHA Weekend Dec. 3-4

Bulldogs Split with Pioneers 4-5 OT and 2-1

It was a great run and now the DECC is no longer the home of Bulldog Men’s Hockey. Denver was the last visitor and provided two exciting, yet different, games in a split for the weekend.

Friday night’s game was an ultimate example of the ups and downs of a roller coaster ride.

UMD came out flat and it showed badly until early in the second period. Down 3-0 on two, if not three, soft goals, goalie Aaron Crandall pulled for Kenny Reiter, the Bulldogs finally came to life. UMD steadily worked their way back into the game and eventually took the lead 4-3 with four straight goals.

But knowing the way the game started and UMD’s seeming penchant for overtime, those of us in the press box had a feeling that this might go to extra time. Jason Zucker provided the opportunity for UMD’s 8th OT game of the season with his goal at 18:38, completing his hat trick.

The problem to going to overtime that night was the way DU scored. Three of their four goals came from the extended goal line at or near the boards. Looking at the period shot sheets it is difficult to find the goals because one does not expect to look to the corners for the scoring goals, but there they are.

So off to overtime again where the Bulldogs have made their living this year. It was joked before the game started that the game doesn’t actually start for UMD until overtime…how true.

Taking a 5-0-2 overtime record this season into OT, the feeling in the DECC was which Bulldog would become the hero tonight? In the end it was the lack of drive and defense that did in the Bulldogs as they fell 5-4 in overtime.

The winning goal came from Drew Shore camped all alone right at the top of the crease. He took a pass from Zucker and easily slipped the puck past Reiter to stun and silence the DECC crowd. The best quote of the night came after the goal from someone in the press box, “Of course he was open at the crease, UMD was protecting the corners.” A sarcastic, and very true, indictment on UMD’ defense Friday night.

Redemption came swiftly when the teams squared off again Saturday night in a well played, hard fought match that was expected from these two nationally ranked teams.

UMD turned the tables on DU and took the lead 2-0 entering the third period. In true UMD fashion this year, Denver scored one goal in the third and pushed hard for the tying goal. The big step forward for the night was that UMD didn’t allow the tie to occur, hanging on during a frantic finish for the 2-1 win.

The players of the game have to be Mike Connolly and Kenny Reiter.

Connolly pretty much single handedly worked the penalty kill late in the second and scored a shorthanded goal off his own rebound. His effort and skill netted the Bulldogs the game wining goal.

Reiter should be commended for shaking off the Friday night whatever that was for the goalies, and put in a great effort in keeping the Pioneers to one goal.

Moving forward, the Bulldogs slid to #2 in the Inside College Hockey Rankings as they put an emotional DECC closing weekend behind them in preparing to face the Gophers in Minneapolis.

Speaking of the Gophers, they were unceremoniously swept by the Mavericks in Mankato. MSU scored first in both games and kept the momentum going for a pair of one goal wins. This is a huge boost for the MSU team that has been struggling through the early season, but now has a 4-0-0 streak going.

In Houghton, the Huskies of MTU are now sleep walking through their season. They were swept up by a mediocre CC team 7-3 and 6-0. It is difficult to see MTU crash after a promising start to the season.

Up in Anchorage, UAA gained a split against visiting Wisconsin. Maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising as we see that Wisconsin is a middle WCHA team this year.

The games in Bemidji provided the big surprise of the weekend when the Beavers swept the upstart UNO Mavericks. Scoring an average of 4.2 goals per game prior to the weekend, the Mavs were held to one goal for the weekend by BSU en route to 3-0 and 3-1. The sweep marks the first for BSU in the WCHA.

In Grand Forks, the Sioux did what was expected and swept the visiting Huskies of Saint Cloud. SCSU is proving that losing some scoring talent and blueliners can impact a team in hurry and make once vaunted goaltenders look “D-I adequate” at best.

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