Friday, November 16, 2012

Searching for Answers in Grand Forks

Bulldogs Travel to North Dakota for Series

Bulldogs need to pull together.  Pictured above is the well
rounded team in 2011 prior to playing Notre Dame in the
Frozen Four.  College Hockey HighHorse: Andrew Fiskness
The Bulldogs find themselves in a place they are not accustomed to in the WCHA, last.  Two years removed form the national championship, UMD is struggling to find consistency in defense and upperclassmen scoring.  The result is a dismal 2-5-1 overall record with 0-3-1 in WCHA play.
Dismal may be strong, but the opponents have not been the really good teams of the NCAA.  The highest regarded team the Bulldogs have played thus far is Notre Dame and they found a way to go 1-1-0 against them in South Bend.

This weekend’s travel brings UMD to Grand Forks to face the North Dakota Hockey Team.  North Dakota is 4-3-1, 2-1-1 good for 6th in the WCHA, the highest team with four conference games played.

Defense for 60.  The defense’s struggles this season have been talk about by many and on full display for those in attendance.  At times they look great, but it is the mental letdowns, turnovers, and bad positioning that is occurring that really has UMD in a hole.

The question that needs to be answered here is can the defense play a solid 60?  Even with the scoring ups and downs, the team has managed to out score opponents in the first and second periods.  The third period is where UMD is getting destroyed scoring three goals for and allowing seven against.
The Bulldogs have prided themselves on their third period dominance in recent years and that attitude and effort needs to be rediscovered.

Looking for Scoring Leaders.  UMD is a young team and a talented team.  Nine freshman is quite a few, but the seven seniors and four juniors should help even that out, right?  Not really.  The seniors (7) have tallied 17 points (7 goals 11 assists) and the freshman (9) have the exact same number of goals and assists.  That tells me the freshman are carrying this team even though they have more of them, the experience up top should be doing more.

Individually, senior Mike Seidel leads the team in scoring followed by freshmen Tony Cameranesi and Austin Farley with senior Wade Bergman rounding out.  Seidel and Bergman combine for 5-10-15 of the 17 senior points!  Meanwhile Cameranesi and Farley are 5-8-13 of the freshman 17.  Where is everyone else and who is going to lead this team?  The numbers are low and they come from only a few and that will present a problem as UMD goes through the season if it doesn’t change.

As an alarming side note, the four juniors, none of whom are goalies, have three points.  All three points have come on goals form Joe Basaraba.

Weekend by the Stats.  The StatPack for UMD and UND:
Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, WCHA, North Dakota
 Of note:
  • UMD saves percentage now has fallen below 0.900 for the first time in weeks.
  • The Bulldogs take the most penalty minutes per game in the nation.  UND's PP isn't staler, but they will likely get many chances this weekend.
  • UMD opponents have earned WCHA Defensive Player of the Week for the Bulldog's last two series.  Both are goaltenders.

Around the WCHA and Picks by Fiskness.  The Bulldogs struggles continued last weekend and are hoping for a big turn around this weekend in Grand Forks.  It is hard to say must win in November, but these games are must wins (at least a split) if the Bulldogs want to fininsh in the top half at the end of the season.  All of the WCHA games this weekend should show exactly how good is each team.

Wisconsin at Minnesota – Twin Cities:  This series is a great rivalry and will be a nice benchmark to see where the two teams stand in the conference.  The loss of Zengerle will hurt the Badgers scoring in these games.  I think we will finally see the Gopher team the everyone had hyped in the off season, Gophers sweep. 
Minnesota – Duluth at North Dakota:  The is a good rivalry with North Dakota having a large advantage all time in the series.  I don't think a whole lot of analysis is needed in this series. The Bulldogs continue to take penalties and do not have enough talent to overcome penalty kill goals.  I don't see why that will change this weekend.  UMD gets swept by North Dakota. 
Michigan Tech at Bemidji State:  Both teams have been up and down so far this season.  The home ice should help the Beavers, but I think the talent leans towards the Huskies.  I will go with a split. 
Denver and Colorado College (home and home):  This is another great rivalry.  Both teams are playing well and are in the top 10 overall in team scoring.  The defense advantage goes to Denver, with the Pioneers near the top averaging just 1.88 goals against per game so far this season.  The home and home should make for a split.

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