Thursday, October 25, 2012

Badgers Come to Duluth to Start WCHA Schedule

Final WCHA Season for UW and UMD Starts Friday

Badgers are back and UMD may very well be thankful for it.  UMD is 5-1-1 in their last seven against Wisconsin, but the recurring theme for this year’s Bulldogs is that this is a new team that is freshman heavy.  So what does the last seven meetings mean?  Not much ever in college sports where team rosters are changing year to year, but this season, even less than other years.  UMD has 26 rostered players, 15 of them are freshman or sophomores.

What we have seen so far is indicative to young teams, inconsistent play.   In each series it is Jekyll/Hyde thing going.  The Bulldogs look good one night and come in flat the next.  The highs and lows will be worked out at some point, but the sooner the better for the well being of the team.
The main items that will help shake the inconsistency are confidence coupled with good coaching.  UMD one of the best coaching staffs that have pushed teams to be better and now they have their work cut out for them again.

The Badgers are still an enigma.  Going 0-2-0 against Northern Michigan was not impressive, but it is also a small sample size.  This will be one of those early weekends where we will just have to see what happens.

StatPack.  One way we can differentiate the teams is by the stats.  Our first installment of the StatPack is as follows:

Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, WCHA, Badger
Of note:
  • UMD’s power play is doing well, but it has been aided by many chances afforded by CCHA officiating and
  • The Bulldogs need to cut down on the penalties if they plan on winning and completing for home ice at the end of the season.

Puck is Being Stopped Here.  The team save percentage is really good for UMD, but it still feels so unsettled at goalie.  Crandall does not seem like the only answer and McNeely has only had one shot so far.  So what can we expect?  One has to think that the weekend will be split and who knows, maybe even Fons will get some time.  Number one goalie is not even close to being settled, but this weekend hopefully shed some (positive) results.

Off We Go!  It is the beginning of the last season for each of these teams in the WCHA.  One last shot at the MacNaughton Cup and the title in arguably the best conference in the nation.

Around the WCHA and Picks by Fiskness.   Last weekend started early with the Bulldogs taking on the Fighting Irish in South Bend on Thursday night.  The Thursday/Friday series was due to a home football game on Saturday.  Viewers of the Thursday night game saw a UMD team that played great defense and blocked many shoots, just like an experienced defense should.  The Saturday game was a different story, as there was numerous turnovers by the defense of which several immediately turned into goals.  A very disappointing effort from the team and especially the defense.  In our opinion it seemed as if the players were actually trying to do too much and make a play instead of sticking with fundamentals and playing hockey. 

We are a little concerned that some of the veteran players might not be used to carrying the load as in years past they could rely on the Jack or JT to pick up the slack.  This team is going to need to learn their roles and not try to be something they are not.  It is a talented team that does look like they can beat anybody, but they will have their struggles.  One positive is the play from Mike Seidel.  He showed much improved overall play and strength, reminding me of MacGregor Sharp.  If he continues to give the same effort and gets some help from others this team will be a contender.

WCHA Conference Games:
Michigan Tech at Denver:  Tech split with the Gophers last weekend at home and now have to go on the road.  Denver got two wins at home and they are looking to continue their streak.  The Huskies will have some troubles this weekend resulting in a Denver win and a tie. 
Minnesota State Mankato at Saint Cloud State:  This is a good matchup to see where the teams are at early in the season.  The Huskies seemed to turn things around against the Chargers, who played the Mavericks tough the week before.  The Mavericks come off a win and a tie at home against the Engineers from Troy, NY.  Mike Hastings should get his first WCHA win against his alma mater, as this series will be a split. 
Wisconsin at Minnesota Duluth:  This is another good matchup to see where the teams are at early in the season, probably the best of the weekend.  UMD has played well in the first game and poor in the second game of their two series so far this season.  Meanwhile Bucky played on a neutral site and didn't find it's offense resulting in getting swept by the Wildcats from Marquette, MI.  Until UMD shows evidence otherwise I have to go with a split. 
Alaska – Anchorage at North Dakota:  UND will be getting the suspended players back and will be too much for the Seawolves this weekend, UND sweep. 
Bemidji State at Nebraska – Omaha:  The Beavers own this series.  Both teams are coming off a weekend of split and that will continue as the Mavericks will finally get their first win (0-4-2) in almost two years against the Beavers.
Colorado College at Cornell:  After the UMD vs. UW series this is probably the best series of the weekend.  The Tigers are 3-1 so far this season and face the Big Red in Ithaca, NY.  Cornell has yet to play a NCAA game so the advantage should go to CC, but the Big Red hometown hero Andy Iles in net could be the difference this weekend.  I see a split. 
Canisius at Minnesota Twin Cities (Sunday):  The Golden Griffins from Buffalo, NY come into Minneapolis with a win on the Road in the Kendall classic against the Nanooks and a couple of close losses to the Broncos of Western Michigan, but the Gophers have too much talent and will get the win.

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