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.
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:
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- 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.
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.