Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Take The Good With The Bad

UMD Comes Up Short In a Weekend Without a Loss

The plan and execution were good, but in the end it hardly felt like a good weekend for the Bulldogs.

Grun beats MSU goalie Cook for the game winning goal Friday.
Friday night’s 4-2 win in Mankato was reminiscent of the 17 game unbeaten streak. Nothing was fancy about it. The Bulldogs fell behind early, took the lead by locking the play down in the second and third period and skated away with the win. Textbook UMD this season. That was without JT Brown on the trip and an ill Kenny Reiter who was superbly replaced by Aaron Crandall.

The good feelings didn’t last.

Saturday brought another familiar chance as Mankato took an early lead, UMD fought back to take the lead and lock down defensively in the second and third period. All except for a little 0:10 stint late in the third. MSU stormed out with two goals ten seconds apart to salvage a tie 4-4.

The losing part of the tie Saturday night was the poor, maybe horrid, play of the penalty kill. After a 3 for 3 night Friday killing off penalties, the Bulldogs were 3 for 6 Saturday. Hard to find any games where that kind of penalty killing would yield a tie let alone a win.

When I think back to the weekend the word that naturally comes out is split. But it wasn’t a split, UMD took three points. In the end, the way the tie occurred so late and so suddenly that it feels like a loss. Maybe worse. It was a chance to really keep the heat on the Gophers for the WCHA Championship and lead Denver by three points for second place.

Now it is still UMTC, UMD and Denver in the top three spots each with two points more than the next and the feeling of “what’s next?” It is difficult to quantify this tie, but it is at the same level as the 3-2 loss at Anchorage and the 4-4 tie and 5-0 loss to Michigan Tech. They are comparable not because of the magnitude of the score, or heck, it wasn’t even a loss this past weekend, but it is the games left hanging that keep this UMD squad in a funk.

The Bulldogs left Mankato after showing some life even strength and the mettle to keep playing at a high caliber on the road this season (10-2-4). The next test will be to not lose any more games at home where UMD is 10-5-1.

Colorado College is Next. Right back to the somewhat Bulldog friendly confines of AMSOIL Arena to close out the regular season home schedule against the Tigers.

CC is tied up in a pretzel for 4th place with 27 points, the same as North Dakota and Nebraska – Omaha. Those three teams are currently the last teams with home-ice for the first round of the playoffs with Michigan Tech three points behind.

The tigers are the most surprising team of the season. Not for what they have done, but for their deficiencies most notably in net.

We picked CC as the pre-season WCHA Champions based of their returning netminder Joe Howe. Howe has played himself out of the main starter, but his replacement, Josh Thorimbert, hasn’t been stellar either. Which tender will UMD see? Let’s go with it doesn’t matter because they are both prone to bad games and UMD will shoot the lights out. We’ll see.

JT Practices. JT Brown who didn’t make the trip to Mankato due to injury was back at practice today. His availability for the weekend series is uncertain, but it is a good sign to see him back at practice.

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