Friday, February 17, 2012

Bulldogs Travel to Mankato for Maverick Rematch

UMD Looks to Shake Funk as Playoffs Near

Playing the 10th place team in the WCHA this late in the season shouldn’t cause this much angst for the second place Bulldogs.

The trip to Mankato sets the stage for the Bulldogs who are trying to build back to their early season form coming off their win against North Dakota last Saturday. UMD is currently 4-4-1 after going on a school record 17 game unbeaten streak.

Partnered with MSUM’s recent surge from the basement of the conference and the once seemingly easy series will prove to be another test. The Purple Mavericks are 5-2-0 in their last seven games including a sweep at Alaska – Anchorage last weekend, a place and foe that UMD split with the weekend prior.

The main reason for the recent divergent paths may very well be injuries.

MSUM was ravaged by injuries early in the season. At times the Mavs had trouble putting a full team on the ice having to jockey around players from position to position. Now they are getting into stride with players back and UMD is getting hit with some injuries.

Justin Crandall made the trip to Mankato and may be able to play this weekend while leading goal scorer JT Brown stayed back in Duluth with an upper body injury. If Crandall can’t play, UMD will suit 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

Into every season some adversity must enter. Timing may not be the best for UMD, but the weekend in Mankato presents a good chance to break out of their funk and get back on track for the playoffs.

By the Numbers. Broken record…UMD has the statistical advantage over their opponent, this time the Purple Mavs. Maybe the most concerning stat is the shorthanded goals. UMD is still trying to find consistency on power play. This weekend besides looking for goals on the PP, they need to be wary of MSUM taking to the offensive.

The UMD – MSUM StatPack:

Images via Wikipedia: Bulldogs, WCHA, Mavericks
Of note, UMD’s PP success last weekend (5/13) bolted their national ranking from 32nd to 17th.

Predictions by Fiskness. Last week's WCHA games didn't go as I had expected. In a week where it seemed every series could been a split there were three sweeps and the one sweep I did pick, I am glad that it didn't go as predicted (UMD – UND). With all 12 teams in conference play for the last time in the regular season this weekend, the importance of getting points will be amplified.

Minnesota – Duluth at Minnesota State Mankato: The Bulldogs’ turnovers cost them the game on Friday. UMD rebounded Saturday with a win sparked by the 5 point night by Jack Connolly, but J.T. Brown left the game with an injury and is not expected to play this weekend against the purple Mavericks. The Mavericks have been finding ways to get at least a split in every series since Christmas and last weekend they swept the Seawolves in Anchorage. Mankato is playing a lot more confident and are a healthier squad. Recent streaks considered, Mankato should be able get a split against a now banged up Bulldogs.

Nebraska – Omaha at Colorado College: The red Mavericks are coming off a big three point weekend in the U.P. and look to stay in the top half of the WCHA standings. This team has been streaky since the New Year and their success lies firmly with goaltending. UNO will need to get two good games of goal tending in order to sneak away with points. The Tigers have not played well since the Christmas break, but maybe the return to Colorado Springs can energize the Tigers. These should be two good games resulting in a split.

Alaska – Anchorage at Saint Cloud State: The Seawolves season is one that started great and has gone downhill since mid October. The Huskies are trying to get in the top half of the WCHA and should be helped by playing the Seawolves this weekend. Huskies sweep the series in Saint Cloud.

Bemidji State at Minnesota – Twin Cities: The Beavers are a now the hardest team to figure out in the WCHA. The sweep last weekend for Bemidji at home against Colorado College was a surprise to most. The Beavers positive results recently can be linked to better goaltending. It would be expected the Beavers will put in a good effort this weekend while trying to get into the top half of the WCHA. The Gophers are coming off being swept last weekend at the hands of the Pioneers and are looking to keep the #1 spot in the WCHA and gain some cushion in the PWR. I think Dan Bakala will play well enough to get the Beavers a win and split the series.

Michigan Tech at North Dakota: One point separates these two teams in the standings marking the difference between home ice and traveling for the first round of the playoffs making this a giant series. The Huskies had a disappointing Winter Carnival weekend by only getting one point in a tie against UNO. Maybe the Saturday game where Tech was shut out was an anomaly. The North Dakota Men’s Hockey Team got a big win in Duluth and had nice come back, but still lost, Saturday night. If North Dakota can stay out of the penalty box maybe the ND mystic will be enough to overwhelm the Huskies. I don't think North Dakota will be able to do that for two games resulting in a series split.

Denver at Wisconsin: After losing to the Chargers of UAH in January the Pioneers now might be the best team in the WCHA. A healthy Sam Brittain might be what they needed to make a run for the MacNaughton Cup. The Badgers season is now spiraling downward as the goal scoring even at home in Madison has slowed. This weekend should be a tough one for the Badger's to get back on track. Denver will get the sweep and a tie for first in the WCHA after the weekend.

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