Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bulldogs Host the North Dakota Mens Hockey Team

UMD Looks to Stop Slump

Via Wikipedia: Bulldog

New weekend and a new focus or goal for UMD. With the WCHA Championship likely out of reach, the Bulldogs still have high stakes on their finish position. With a second place finish UMD is in line for a first round bye in the Final Five.

So the Bulldogs start again, at home against North Dakota. No small task for the Bulldogs as North Dakota has proved to be a challenging opponent for the Bulldogs over the last few years.

Last weekend it was stated here the series in Anchorage was a “do or die” series. A split wasn’t enough “do” and what died was most likely the Bulldogs’ MacNaughton Cup chances. All weekends from here to the playoffs are important for UMD. The Bulldogs are trying to get their season back on track going 3-3-1 since their 17 game unbeaten streak.

The Bulldogs are also looking to bolster their PairWise Ranking (PWR), currently #5, by taking on the #15 North Dakota hockey team.

Jack’s Back. After having his school record points streak broken, Jack has been on a little skid. Connolly made it on the score sheet again in each game last weekend with an assist in each game. What the team needs is to have the playmaker, multiple-point-per-game Jack back.

Jack is still an almost lock to be in the ten Hobey candidates, but his place in the Hat Trick (the final three) may be in jeopardy if his points totals don’t continue to increase. That is ultimately what national voters will be looking at, not the great plays he makes away from the puck that we who get to watch him regularly get to see.

Seniors Key to Successes. College hockey is used to players leaving early, it is now part of the game that every team has to deal with. One characteristic that makes a great team is the senior leadership that has stayed to play out their four years.

In the nation, UMD has the highest point producing senior class. In all, the senior Bulldogs have amassed 40 goals (38% of the team) and 83 assists (46%) for 183 points.

TUC Tanking. A major component of the PWR is results against teams under consideration (TUC). Recent weeks have seen UMD’s opponents falling out of the TUC thus damaging the Bulldog’s TUC. Teams in the TUC remaining on UMD’s regular season schedule are North Dakota this weekend, Colorado College and Saint Cloud State.

UMD and UND By The Numbers. Like in so many weeks this season, UMD has the statistical advantage. So again, can the Bulldogs us their talent to win the real games.

StatPack for the upcoming weekend:

Images via Wikipedia: Bulldogs, WCHA, North Dakota

Predictions by Fiskness. After a disappointing weekend in Anchorage UMD will need to play better to compete for the WCHA regular season title. It is likely that UMD is now competing for the 2nd through 5th place in the overall standings. The grind of the season appears to hitting UMD right as the season is winding down. An improvement in the special teams play and more contribution from the defense is needed for this team to be successful. Maybe this past weekend was the wakeup call that you have to go out there and give it your all because you have to score and can't depend on the top lines to do it all.

At quick glance at this week’s matchups in the WCHA. One could probably pick all splits and be safe, but I dig a little deeper and see what I find.

Colorado College at Bemidji State: The Tigers are coming off a win and tie against the in-state rival Pioneers and the Beavers are coming off a win and a tie in Omaha. The Tigers are currently in 3rd place in the WCHA and seem to be playing better hockey, but the Beavers will be able to keep the scoring low enough to earn the split.

Minnesota – Twin Cities at Denver: The Pioneers are desperate after a disappointing weekend against CC. They know the need for points right now and I expect Sam Brittain to see action after an impressive first game back, even if it was a loss. The Gophers should be rested and looking to expand on their 3 point lead in the WCHA regular season race. The Pioneers are good team with a fresh goalie and will get a win this weekend, but only one in a series split.

Nebraska – Omaha at Michigan Tech: This weekend marks the annual Winter Carnival in Houghton, Michigan. The Huskies are streaky and last weekend they earned a split to stay in the hunt for the top half of the WCHA. UNO hosted Bemidji and only got 1 point in a 1-1 tie. The red Mavericks might be the hardest team in the league to figure out this year. This series is a complete guess, I will say that MTU plays strong at home and gets 3 points and the Winter Carnival trophy.

Minnesota State – Mankato at Alaska – Anchorage: In the battle for the last place in the WCHA should be a good series. With only 4 points separating the two teams a sweep by the Seawolves will result in a tie for 11th place. The Seawolves ended their winless streak last Saturday with a big win over UMD. The Mavericks have been playing well recently, but the trips to Anchorage are always tough for teams. This one will be a split.

North Dakota at Minnesota – Duluth: The Bulldogs went to Anchorage last weekend and a few players decided to they wanted to play, while others basically watched their teammates. A 3-3-1 stretch for most teams wouldn't mean a slump, but the way UMD has lost the games is more an issue. UND is rested after a week off and should be ready to go this weekend. UND matches up well against the Bulldogs and have played well in Duluth and at AMSOIL. This weekend might be the bottom for the Bulldogs as UND sweeps.

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