Thursday, March 8, 2012

End of Regulation, Report Card Time

Bulldogs Have Areas to Work on Going Into Playoffs

UMD has reached the end of the regular season so it is time for the final grading period before finals, the playoffs.

The last report was easy as there was one loss during that period. This period is definitely not the same. UMD’s record over the last third of the season was 5-4-3. The Bulldogs end the regular season at 22-8-6 for second place in the WCHA.

Prior we talked about the possibilities for this UMD team to take the school’s first MacNaughton Cup since 1992-93 season. And if the championship was not reached, then second place would be a good place to end with the first round bye in the Final Five if the team makes it to Saint Paul. And so here they are, second place in hand and a first round series with Minnesota State – Mankato this weekend.

Our grades and comments for the last third of the season along with previous grades:

Offense: B (currently), A (second grading), A- (first grading). The offense is the least of any worries UMD fans may have. Over the period, the Bulldogs averaged 4.25 goals per game. Scoring is still spread out among players with three players in double digit goals and 10 with double digit point totals.

Of note:

  • Jack Connolly (18-37-55) is still the team points leader and is second in the nation one point behind the leader, Spencer Abbott of Maine. Jack is poised to break the 200 point barrier for his career; he currently has 192.
  • Travis Oleksuk (21-27-48) is tied with JT Brown (21-23-44) for the team goal leader.
  • Just as the last grading period, defensemen Brady Lamb, Scott Kishel and Wade Bergman are 6-8th on the team for points respectively.
  • The Bulldogs scoring offense is again leading the nation at 3.67 goals per game down from 3.96 at the last grading period.
Team Defense: B-, A, B+. The defense is holding up, but has started to look tired as of late. It is a long season and many of the defensemen are not used to being the regulars or are new to the team. The +/- numbers look pretty good, but there are a number of defensive breakdown seemingly every game. Turnovers have also been on the rise and have lead to many opponent goals.

Of note:

  • Scoring defense is 16th nationally at 2.54 goals allowed per game.
  • UMD went from no skaters on the negative side of the +/- to two with negatives.
  • JT Brown lead all skaters with a +27. Scott Kishel and Chris Casto are tied at +18 for defensemen.
Special Teams: D, C, B-. Absolutely the weakest part of UMD’s game. The power play shows life at times, but the team cannot take penalties because the penalty kill is really bad. UMD will have to work hard at staying out of the box going forward because the PK has cost the team more than one game late in the season.

Of note:

  • UMD is the 17th most penalized team in the nation averaging 14.4 minutes per game.
  • The Bulldogs were 32nd in the nation on the PP early in February. Since then, they have improved to 16th at 21.0% efficiency.
  • Of the 58 D-I teams, UMD is 53rd on PK. Wisconsin is the only WCHA team worse on the PK.
Goaltending: B+, A, B+. Reiter is still the man that UMD relies on and he keeps showing he is up to the task. He may not be as dominant as earlier in the season, but part of that is the players in front of him and some is on him. Looking towards the playoff run coming up, Kenny will have to be sharp to allow the Bulldogs to stay in games that will get tighter and tighter as time goes on.

When Reiter wasn’t available due to illness, Crandall stepped right in and secured a Bulldog win. Games like that let the team and fans know that if needed, Aaron can step up and play solidly.

Of note:

  • Reiter now has 3 shutouts for the season, all were in the first part of the year.
  • Team saves percentage is 0.904 and GAA is 2.51.
Coaching: A, A, A. We are convinced coaching is what brought this team up from the rocky start in October, to the unbeaten streak and landed them in second for the WCHA. Coaching will be even more important in the playoffs when players’ emotions run high and sometimes need a little calming down. But this team has been there before, right? Yes, but every college player must be grounded and focused from time to time.

Overall Team: B-, A, B+. Inconsistent play is plaguing this team. From game to game, or even from period to period, you just don’t know which UMD team will show up. When The Bulldogs are “on” they are good, but it is the mediocre play that comes all too often that marks down their grade here.

Looking Back. The WCHA Championship and MacNaughton Cup were well within reach, but some key missteps kept the Bulldogs from the cup. There were good wins like the sweep against a then surging Colorado College team, but it is the losses that seem to stick out in our minds: Saturday at UAA, the whole weekend against MTU and the thud at SCSU when the cup could have been eon via a tie in the standings.

The playoffs, final exams for this team, start this weekend. The next report card will be at the end of the season, hopefully again in April.

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