On a beautiful Spring day in Saint Paul, most people longed to be outside.
|UMD Wednesday Frozen Four Practice (Doyle Freemyer)|
What can one expect out of an open practice before such a big event? Groundbreaking plans aren’t going to be revealed, the only real news that could occur is if a player were to get injured. No Bulldogs were injured in the practice, at least obvious ones.
The players were focused, but still having a good time in between drills. They skated relaxed and had a focus about them knowing the gravity of the upcoming game on their season long goal, a national championship.
After the practice, the media got a chance to ask questions of which some were repeated (why the blond hair?). In all we got a look into the mindset of the Bulldogs players and coach.
“This time of year you need everyone buying into the system of what we’re doing,” said senior wing Justin Fontaine. “We showed in the regional we were able to do the things that counted. Our forwards and defense steeped up and blocked a lot of shots and kept it simple.” Keeping it simple is a key against the Irish and their resurgent defense.
UMD is the only home state entrant (how far from Minnesota is Grand Forks?) and the Bulldogs are excited to be playing in a building close to the campus and in a place they know. “We are just really excited to be here. We know we have a good following,” said senior captain Mike Montgomery. “We are excited to go out there and showcase our team.”
Kenny Reiter added, “I don’t see that we have any added pressure being the home state team. There are four good teams in the tournament. We are comfortable with the support we are going to have. We are just approaching the Frozen Four with a business-like attitude.”
The location goes along with having ample senior and junior leadership to having an advantage against Notre Dame. “We’ve came up short the last two years,” said Fontaine about returning for his senior year. “It was an exciting time to come back early August to come for our goal and that’s being here (at the Frozen Four).”
So the foe today is Notre Dame. What has Coach Sandelin done to get his team ready? He focuses on the play of his team. “We’ve pretty much have been a team that concerns ourselves all year with how we need to play.” But Sandelin also added, “Notre Dame poses some different things. They’re very good defensively, so that’s going to be a challenge. I thought watching the games in the regional that they played extremely well. I was very impressed with their team after watching the Miami game the week before.”
Outlook. We are going to rely on experience of key players, familiarity of the building/atmosphere and special teams edge (see our Stat Pack) leading to a Bulldog victory tonight at the Xcel.
As Mike Montgomery said, “It’s a good time to be a Bulldog.”