Friday, December 28, 2012

Minnesota Duluth and Maine, 2012-13 Editions

NCAA Tourney Rematch, But not of NCAA Caliber

The teams are the same.  The venue is neutral again.  The caliber of teams are not the same.

The Black Bears are struggling to get wins and UMD is trying to piece together a run to 0.500 win percentage.  This may be the night for UMD to move to even when they face a down Maine team in the Florida College Classic.

Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, Black Bear
Of Note:
  • UMD has dropped to third most penalty minutes per game in the nation.  Maine is currently fourth.
  • UMD certainly has the numbers for offense against the second to last offense of the Black Bears.  UMD's problem is offensive consistency.
  • The Bulldogs are playing Maine at the right time looking for a win to reach 0.500.
Around the WCHA and Picks by Fiskness.  @afiskness got his picks in early and was surprised like many probably were by first place Saint Cloud in the WCHA losing to last place RPI in the ECAC.  The Huskies lost 4-3 at home with a rematch tonight.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday December 27th WCHA Picks

The Christmas holiday is now over and the holiday hockey tournaments are set to begin.  There are also a few non-conference match up with WCHA teams involved as well.  It is hard to predict how the tournaments will go and different teams could result in different outcomes.  Here are my picks for the weekend. 

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at St. Cloud State:  SCSU sweeps at home.

UNO at Quinnipiac: UNO splits with the Bobcats.

Boston University at Denver:  The teams play to a tie in the single game series.

Florida Holiday Classic
Maine vs. UMD and UMD vs. either Ferris State or Cornell:  UMD beats Maine and then falls to Cornell who wins the Florida Holiday Classic.

UConn Hockey Classic
Brown vs. Minnesota State University Mankato and MSUM vs. UConn or American International:  MSUM win both games and wins the tournament.  The second win will be over UConn.

Great Lakes Invitational
Michigan vs. Michigan Tech and MTU vs. either Michigan State or Western Michigan:  Tech is beat by Michigan and beats MSU for 3rd place.  The Broncos take the title of the GLI.

Mariucci Classic
Air Force vs. UMTC and UMTC vs. BC:  The Gophers beat the Falcons and fall short to the Eagles of BC who takes the tournament. 

by @afiskness

Sunday, December 23, 2012

So Long to UMD AD Bob Nielson

It was not a surprise but UMD is now looking for a new Athletic Director and a new head football coach as Bob Nielson has decided to move on in the head coaching ranks.  Starting immediately Bob will be the head coach at Western Illinois University Leathernecks in Macomb, Illinois.  There is a nice story about Bob on the UMD web page.

This is a hockey blog and this departure does effect UMD hockey as Bob was the Athletic Director and a one of the faces for getting the Nation Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) started.  This will raise some questions among UMD fans who now have to hope that the University will find the appropriate leader as Men's hockey is moving to a new conference and one that will continue the winning tradition UMD has enjoyed under Bob's years as AD. 

I must admit that I have only meet Bob on one occasion which was at the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four.  I was looking for a spot to take pictures prior to the start of the game when Bob was standing taking in the scene at the Xcel Energy Center.  I congratulated him on his 2nd NCAA Div II championship and asked him what was harder being the head coach of a team prior to a championship game or the AD of a team prior to the game.  He said he was more nervous being the AD than the coach.  We then continued to briefly talk about change in media and he asked about my role.  I mentioned to him that I was a UMD alumni and he then asked about my day job.  In the conversation he seemed generally interested and a very nice person.

After then game the scene in the locker room was very energetic.  Bob was standing outside the looker room letting the players celebrate when I congratulated him on the win and he remembered our previous conversation.  He remained in the background accepting the congratulations and giving them back to others as people went in and out of the locker room.  I could see he was very happy and knew his place to let everyone involved with the team to take in this beg win.

We wish Bob the best with his new team.  For all of the Bulldog fans living in the Twin Cities area, next year Bob and his new, team the Leathernecks, will be playing the the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium on September 14, 2013.

By @afiskness

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Long Road for Bulldogs Leads to Alaska

UMD Continues to Find Winning Streak

This season’s Bulldogs team has what it takes to compete for top half or better in the WCHA, but hey just cannot put it together.  An absolute maddening season so far for the fans and most likely the players.  If not, they need their heads checked.

The crazy part of the season so far is the powerlessness the Bulldogs have on the second night of a series.  It is not a Saturday thing necessarily, even though they are 0-5-2 that night.  UMD is a stunning 0-6-2 on the second night. 

Put the second night streak aside.  The latest loss on Saturday to Bemidji State shows how baffling the team is.  The Beavers are the dregs of the WCHA, at least at this juncture of the season.  For UMD to be manhandled and kept at bay as much as the Bulldogs were is sickening.  It makes for terrible hockey to watch and difficult to get revved up for UMD Hockey games.

I felt our report card for the first half of the season was a little harsh in some sections, but our staff went with a consensus and it is turning out to be correct.  Unfortunately correct.

This would normally be a weekend where I would be talking about cleaning up and taking advantage of a weak opponent.  But two big factors are standing in the way from those sentiments: the games are in Alaska and UMD just cannot string two wins or two nights of scoring goals together.  UAA is vulnerable, but UMD is also.

String two straight nights of good effort and play is turning out to be a huge roadblock for the Bulldogs.  Maybe their best two games of the season came in Grand Forks against North Dakota.  But that resulted in a tie and OT loss.  One point did not equal the effort put forth.  UMD needs to find a two game stretch to put together two wins.  And those have come the last two weekends at Michigan Tech and home against Bemidji State.  Both were only one win.

The run of playing against bottom teams is nearing the end.  UAA is the next opportunity of the waning amount of opportunities.

StatPack.  UMD and UAA statistical comparison looks one sided in favor of the Bulldogs.  The breakdown s as follows:

Images via Wikapedia: Bulldog, WCHA, Seawolf
Of note:
  • UMD has now dropped to second in the nation in penalty minutes per game.
  • Top power play in the WCHA is the Bulldogs', last rated penalty kill is the Seawolves'.
  • UMD's conference record is good for 8th place tie compared to UAA who is 12th and last.
Around the WCHA and Picks by Fiskness.  As George Bush once said "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — [pauses] — shame on you. Fool me — [pauses] — You can't get fooled again."  Well the Bulldogs have continued to do that to me all season.  The Bulldogs are a pretty good team that is not playing to their ability.  As a team they do not seem have the edge to push them to prevail and appear not give it their all every night.  Until they decide not to quit and go through the motions the will be a .500 team or less.
Non-conference Games:Alabama Huntsville at Wisconsin: The Chargers are not a good team and even though the Badgers haven't played good recently they will sweep this weekend. 
WCHA Conference Games:North Dakota at Michigan Tech:  North Dakota has not been able to put together an undefeated streak longer than three games all season and the Huskies have played a bunch of tight games against better teams.That should mean a split, but I don't think Tech is playing well enough for a split.  So, I will go with a tie and a North Dakota win giving North Dakota 3 points for the weekend. 
Denver at Bemidji State: Is Denver going to get back on track?  If the Beavers play their slow muck it up games style and Denver gets sucked in they will have a tough time winning.  I will say a split. 
Minnesota State at Omaha:  Battle of the Mavericks, red versus purple.  This is good match up to see what the Mavericks of Mankato are made of as they having been playing a pretty light schedule recently.  Omaha is playing very good hockey and at home will the Red takes 3 points. 
Colorado College at St. Cloud State:  The Huskies lost a barn burner and then beat the Mavericks of Omaha in a low scoring game last weekend.  Mean while the Tigers came from 3 points back to earn a tie and salvage a point in last weekends series against the Gophers.  Not much analysis, this series just looks like a split. 
Minnesota Duluth at Alaska Anchorage: The Bulldogs have not been able to get wins on back to back nights in a series and I don't think that will change against the Seawolves.  The Seawolves are not a great team, but they did beat St. Cloud a couple weeks ago so I will go with a split. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

UMD Finishes 2012 Home Schedule With BSU

First of Two Meetings Between Bulldogs and Beavers

Last weekend the Bulldogs regained life in the WCHA.  The three point weekend buoys the spirits of fans and should help the team to gain confidence going forward.
But now the rubber hits the road.  It is a home weekend and an opponent who is on the ropes.

Bemidji State is 1-6-1 in their last eight games.  Their win and tie came in one weekend against Alaska – Anchorage in Bemidji.  During that stretch, the Beavers have 18 goals for and 31 goals against.  On the ropes and one point out of last in the WCHA.  BUT, BSU is also one point behind the Bulldogs.  So as weak as the Beavers appear, they are in the same tier as UMD in the standings.

So as the Bulldogs seem to be on the rise and Beavers headed downward, they are still in the same tier of the standings.  It is another prime weekend for UMD to break out and try to move up in the standings.

Haves and Have Nots.  The conference schedule is approximately one-third complete and the top half and bottom half are forming in the WCHA.  The current breaking point is 10 points where three teams are tied.  Two are in the upper half and one is in the lower.

The log jam in the middle and the top-bottom gap will make it difficult for UMD to move into home ice.  The teams in the upper half look strong at this point, but all the Bulldogs can do at this point is take care of themselves, and win games and series.

Scoring Early.  UMD has the advantage in scoring in the first period outscoring opponents 20-16.  After that, UMD is outscored 10-13 in the second and 10-14 in the important third period.

Most importantly, UMD is a -1 in overtime going 0-1-3.

StatPack.  Again, BSU is currently on a dive and UMD seems to be surging and the stats are a telling measure.  The teams stack up as follows:

Images via Wikipedia: BulldogWCHABeaver
Of note:

  • Both UMD and BSU are very comparable in goals allowed, but the Beavers have the saves percentage edge.  BSU sees a lot of shots and UMD likes to shoot as they have outshot their opponent in all games except the two game s against Notre Dame.
  • UMD takes penalties more than any team in the nation, but they can kill them fairly well.  When Bulldog opponents take penalties, UMD is learning to make them pay rising to 5th in the nation for power play.
  • It was almost a year between shorthanded goals, but UMD got one last weekend at Michigan Tech, the same venue as the previous Bulldog shortie.

Around the WCHA and Picks by Fiskness.  I was happy to see that my picks for the Bulldogs/Huskies games were wrong as UMD earned 3 points.  It was a much needed win for UMD and I do expect to see a carry over to this weekend against the Beavers. 

We are starting to see what the teams are made of and what to expect for the remainder of the year from each team.  The thing most apparent to me is the parity of the league from top to bottom.  It does not look like one team is going to run away with the MacNaughton cup unless something really clicks for somebody.  It seems pretty safe to pick split each week for every game.   

Alaska - Anchorage at Minnesota State Mankato:  The Seawolves are hot after beating the Huskies last weekend in Anchorage.  The Huskies took the early lead and went into defense mode to hold on for the win.  The Mavericks are one of the teams on a for game winning streak.  The Mavericks have confidence right now and playing at home will give them an advantage.  I do expect to see the Seawolves play well enough to earn a split.

Bemidji State at Minnesota Duluth:  The Bulldogs found some line combinations that clicked a more balanced scoring against MTU.  The Beavers struggled last weekend at Mankato and have had difficult time getting shots.  I expect the Beavers to turn the games into a penalty fest, which should play to UMD's power play strength.  The Beavers always seems to over-achieve against the Bulldogs, but I think UMD will get the sweep. 
Denver at North Dakota: The Pioneers had been playing great but has stumbled recently, making a trip to Grand Forks a possible slump buster.  North Dakota has played some good teams this year but have not been able to get on a hot streak.  I don't think this will be weekend for UND to find that hot streak, as the Pioneer will not go win-less for 6 straight games; series split. 

Michigan Tech at Wisconsin: The Badgers got a surprising win on the road last weekend, meanwhile the Huskies came from behind to salvage a tie against the Bullldogs.  MTU has been able to score this year their problem has been preventing the opponent from scoring.  For the Badgers scoring does not come easy.  Bucky's D will hold enough to get a split.

Minnesota Twin Cities at Colorado College: The Gophers are again facing tough competition after last weekend splitting with the Mavericks of Omaha.  The Tigers split with North Dakota in Grand Forks after laying eggs in their previous four games.  Neither team is playing their best hockey right now.  I will go with a split, but I think this will be a very tough series for the Gophers.

Omaha at Saint Cloud State:  Both teams split their series last weekend, both of which were on the road.  The split for the Huskies was more of a surprise at Anchorage, but that is always a hard road trip for teams.  Both teams match up against each other well and I am going with a split.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Thoughts: December 2

Bulldogs Take Three Points at Tech, Should Have Been Four

The series marks a possible turning point in the season.  The long offensive drought seems to be breaking, but the defense still is in need of assistance.

The three points are good.  You should take that for any road trip in the WCHA.  The most perplexing part is the way that the tie occurred.  Tie games are interesting to examine in how they occur.

When UMD tied the Friday night game at North Dakota to salvage one point, the Bulldogs were forced to come from behind to get the tying goal.  The point seemed “earned” and the tie was positive. 

The tie at Michigan Tech this past Saturday night was the result of the Huskies scoring the last two goals of the third period with the game tying goal coming with an extra MTU attacker with 0:50 to play.  This tie doesn’t sit well.  It was a game that was for UMD’s taking and they let it slip away.  The point seems tarnished as much as the point at UND seemed earned. 

The series was an excellent chance to sweep an opponent at heir place and set the beginning of the middle third of the season off on the right note.  Again, you can’t complain about three points on the road, but this really should have been UMD’s first sweep of the year and a four point weekend.

Still Looking for a Sweep.  Along with UMD, fellow bottom half dwellers Alaska – Anchorage, Bemidji State, and Wisconsin are looking for their first sweep of the season.  Surprisingly on the list yet to get a sweep is the team picked by the coaches to be the #2 team in the WCHA, North Dakota.  UND is 7-5-2 overall and 4-2-2 in the WCHA.  

North Dakota has had a two game winning streak, but that was within two series, so not really a sweep.  And the lack of sweeps, and wins for that matter, have not gone unnoticed in Grand Forks as murmurings from the team’s rabid fans of questioning the coaching is starting to become more vocal.  Dave Hakstol is a great coach and should be given time and leeway to right the ship that isn’t even sinking.

Of Note This Past Weekend.  Bemidji was swept in Mankato by the Mavericks.  The Beavers only scored one goal on the weekend while surrendering nine.  Minnesota State Mankato now has a four game winning streak…  Visiting Omaha gave host Minnesota Twin Cities all they could handle in a split series where each team won 3-2…  North Dakota squeaked out a split in at Colorado College losing Friday 5-3 then winning in OT Saturday only after an extra attacker goal in the third to tie up the game…   Wisconsin kept WCHA leader Denver reeling in a split in Denver.  The Pioneers are now 1-3-0 in their last four games, all at home…  Saint Cloud State had to work to earn a split at Alaska – Anchorage.  The Huskies won Friday 4-3 in OT after giving up three goals on UAA’s first three shots.  The Seawolves won 3-1 in the rematch.

Next Up.  UMD will play host to Bemidji State in Duluth next weekend as all 12 WCHA again play in conference series.  The match up again should be favorable to UMD and they are games that the Bulldogs need to win to get back into the hunt for home ice.