Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bulldogs Learning Against the Best

UMD Earns a Split Against the Irish 4-3 and 3-5

Lessons learned is the goal of the early hockey season. The first series for UMD provided many lessons, let’s hope that learning was also occurring.

The Bulldogs gained a split against the top ranked Irish of Notre Dame over the past weekend. All facets of the game, offense, defense, special teams, goaltending and mental play provided highlights and low lights for the weekend.

Scoring was present from multiple players. Eleven Bulldogs tallied at least a point on the seven goals for the weekend and four players scored goals. Mike Seidel is the leading goal scorer with three on the year. Also worth noting is that no freshman players recorded a point for the weekend. Offense is off to a good start considering the losses from last year.

Defense was suspect at times and as a group showed their inexperience. Players were put into pressure situations they were not accustomed to, but is what happens when you are the national champions playing the new number one team in the nation. Defense as a whole has some maturing to do, but it seems as though they should come around.

Special teams had their struggles, as would be expected knowing the departures from last year. Power play looked good as they went 3 for 14 over the weekend (21%). The power play also struggled a bit in giving up a shorthanded goal that allowed Notre Dame to tie the game 2-2 Saturday and build momentum that UMD just could not break. Penalty kill did well, but the numbers don’t look good, 7 of 9 for 78%. The percent of penalties killed needs to go up, and it should as UMD gets deeper into the season.

Goaltending for the weekend showed promise, but also concern. Yes, the Bulldogs played the top ranked team in the nation, but they also beat them. So it is concerning that the goalies are below 90% for saves percentage. It goes beyond there, though, Reiter is an abysmal 82.4% and Crandall is at a remarkably low 78.3%. Again, this is early in the season and these averages should even out, but it is not like UMD plays Sacred Heart next weekend. The Bulldogs get the Gophers who outscored Sacred Heart 15-0 last weekend in a two game series.

Saturday’s loss could be chalked up to mental breakdowns. Early in the second, UMD had a 2-0 lead and seemed to be rolling towards a sweep. Then the unexpected happened. A fluky goal unleashed the Irish attack. Or was it the Bulldog’s mentally broke down and let momentum beat them? It is a point of concern because the Bulldogs as a whole seemed to lose the drive to compete in the game giving up goals that were too easy for the Irish scorers. The team needs to find leaders who will take the team out of the funks that inevitably happen in games.

Expectations abound for this season’s UMD team, especially after beating the Irish opening night. The question still remains, did the Bulldogs learn from their mistakes? Next weekend against UMTC will let us all know more.

Elsewhere in the WCHA.

Two WCHA teams completed sweeps this past weekend and no WCHA team was swept.

UMD’s next Opponent, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, swept, or dismantled, Sacred Heart 9-0 and 6-0 in Minneapolis. Ten different Gophers scored in the 15-0 weekend.

The other WCHA sweep occurred in Houghton where Michigan Tech swept American International fro their second 2-0-0 start in two years. The 4-3 and 3-1 wins propelled Huskies over the #58 ranked American International as ranked in INCH’s Great 58.

Unbeaten Alaska – Anchorage gets ready for their second tournament in as many weeks after tying Clarkson 4-4 and beating Saint Cloud State 4-3 in OT.

Speaking of Saint Cloud, the Huskies SCSU gained a split despite losing in OT to UAA by beating Alaska Friday night in Anchorage.

Wisconsin staved off a sweep by coming back from a 2-0 deficit Saturday to beat Northern Michigan 3-2. NMU bested the Badgers Friday 3-2 in OT.

Minnesota State – Mankato used defense to shutout RPI Friday night 1-0 in New York. RPI got the best of MSU Saturday winning 4-1.

The surprise of the weekend comes from Ohio where Bemidji State beat Miami 5-3 Friday night. Who knew BSU could find that kind of scoring especially against the #2 team in the nation. Miami did come back Saturday to split the series with a 3-2 win.

Nebraska – Omaha held their annual tournament this past weekend and rode the rollercoaster of Faulkner’s goaltending to a split. Friday was a 5-1 win over Mercyhurst followed by a Saturday 4-3 loss to Colgate.

North Dakota also hosted a tournament, the annual Ice Breaker, with a split weekend. After sneaking by Air Force 4-3, the Sioux lost to now #1 Boston College 6-2.

Finally, in exhibition play, both Denver and Colorado College took turns shutting out the US Under 18 team. DU was first with a 3-0 win Friday followed by CC with a 5-0 win Saturday.

Next weekend the WCHA looks forward to two series to start the conference season along with some great non-conference matchups.

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