Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bulldogs Play Well, Earn Split with Notre Dame

Friday Loss 2-3 Spurs UMD to 4-1 Saturday

Notre Dame came to Duluth sporting the #2 ranking and played well.  UMD matched their play for most of the weekend and outplayed the Irish for much of Saturday night en route to a series split.

The Bulldogs are moving in the right directions getting wins on the road and against the top ranked teams in the last two series.  Next on the list is to move away from the splits in favor of sweeps.

Our thoughts for where the Bulldogs are: Up, Down, and Neutral:

  • Penalty kill is proving to be a real bright spot for the Bulldogs.  Sporting a 91.7% kill rate, they rank sixth in the nation.
  • Balanced scoring is a key to a successful college hockey team and UMD has it.  Which line is the #1?  We don’t know from scoring as scoring is coming from all lines.

  • Power play has always been a strong suit for UMD.  This version of Bulldogs is different in that respect going 3 for 33.  The 9.1% is not last in the NCHC, but is 53rd of 59 teams nationally.
  • The number of major penalties that UMD players have taken this year is not acceptable.  Penalties happen, but majors is another story.  The consequence is too big to take any chances.  Bulldogs have taken three in the last five games and one in each of the last two.

  • Austin Farley and Tony Cameranesi are trying to side step the sophomore slump.  They have been playing on the same line and both have one goal and two assists.  Both need to be productive to see sweeps instead of splits.
  • Who is the #1 goalie?  Who cares right now as long as Crandall or McNeely is playing well.  Go Crandall, go…until UMD needs to look to McNeely.

Looking ahead.  The Bulldogs will travel to Ohio State, the first Bi6 Ten foe UMD faces.  The Buckeyes are currently 2-3-0.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bulldogs Host #2 Notre Dame

UMD Faces Notre Dame for Fourth Straight Year

After taking many years off, UMD and Notre Dame have become familiar foes on the ice.  The previous two years the teams have played non-conference series early in the season.  Three seasons ago, the teams met in the Frozen Four in Saint Paul.

Bulldogs huddle up in 2011 before facing the Irish in
the Frozen Four. College Hockey HighHorse: Andrew Fiskness
As always both teams have something to prove, but maybe more so this season.  Notre Dame has a roll
going with a 4-0-0 record and a #2 record.  UMD is a young team that may, or may not, be catching fire offensively paired with a head turningly strong defense.

Something has to give.  This weekend pits the top two defenses in goals against.  Notre Dame has the edge with the help of two shutouts, both against NCHC’s Western Michigan.

New Faces.  Minnesota Duluth is playing the inaugural season of the NCHC while the Irish move from the now defunct CCHA to Hockey East.

Catch them while they are here!  UMD has no home games in November while going on the road for six straight games after this weekend’s series with Notre Dame.  Next home series will have Saint Cloud traveling to Duluth for the first home conference series in the NCHC.

Score Four.  The Bulldogs are an impressive 30-0-4 in games they have scored four or more goals in since October 15, 2011.  The last loss was 5-4 to Minnesota Twin Cities at Duluth.

StatPack.  Our first of the year stat comparison of UMD and their opponent:
Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, NCAA Ice Hockey, ND

Picks by @afiskness.  Last weekend there was two NCHC series and both ended in a split.  This week there are no conference games.  The six NCHC teams that play this weekend are all non-conference games.  Currently Colorado College, Miami, Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota are tied for first in the conference with three points.
Colorado College @ Clarkson:  The Tigers travel to Potsdam, NY to take on the Golden Knights who only have one loss on the season so far.  The Tigers should be able to find some scoring and earn a split.  
Saint Cloud State @ Colgate:  This could be two good games.  The Raiders have won low scoring games and gotten blown out in their losses.  The Huskies have only played two games, but looked decent in those against the Beavers of Bemidji.  The Huskies will get one win in Hamilton, NY and earn a split.  
Miami @ Providence:  The Friars are sporting a perfect record hosting the Redhawks who have shown they can score goals again this year.  I will go with a split.    
Notre Dame @ Minnesota Duluth:  The Fighting Irish have a perfect record coming into this series.  I liked the way the Bulldog defense has played this year and should be able to get a split at home.   
Cornell @ Nebraska Omaha:  The Big Red make their 2013 NCAA debut against the Mavericks so I do not know exactly what to expect.  But since they still have Andy Iles they should have good goal tending.  I will go with a split. 
Niagara @ Denver & Canisius @ Denver:  The Pioneers at home will be too much against both the Purple Eagles and the Golden Griffins.  Denver with two wins.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

UMD salvages Split at CC with Domination Saturday

UMD Splits with CC 1-3 and 5-1

Friday brought some worry.  Three games for UMD and not much to show, four goals, a 1-1-1 record, and concern.

Concern was alleviated for now with the superior play Saturday night, both offensively and defensively, in the Bulldog's first win in the NCHC.

Newsworthy was the output of scoring from the second and third lines and the shutdown play by the defense limiting the Tigers to 14 shots on goal...for the game.  Yeah, a big deal!

So now for the Up, Down, and Neutral (UDN) for the weekend:

The Offense emergence is definitely up front especially Alex Iafallo, Justin Crandall, and Caleb Herbert who all scored multiple points and are on the second and third lines.  Defense also stepped up big with Aaron Crandall getting his first start in net.

 The Power play continues to be a struggle going 2 for 22 on the season.  Chances came especially on the Friday game, and the team just could not convert when the foals were needed.

            Neutral is the word on effort.  The team is young and their potential is evident.  The turn around from Friday to Saturday is likely a symptom of being young, hopefully they have turned a corner and we will  see more of that soon.
The next step is a big one as the upward rising Notre Dame Irish come to AMSOIL for a pair of games this next weekend.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

NCHC Begins as UMD Travels to Colorado College

Bulldogs look to Build on Recent Successes in Colorado Springs

Bottom line, short and simple, it is a new year and CC has yet to play a game that counts.  In their exhibition outings this year, the Tigers have had success scoring, but have also given up a fair number of goals.

UMD came into their non-confernece weekend last after scoring big in exhibition, but then hitting a wall against MTU scoring just three goals in two games.  UMD needs to find that scoring touch and keep up their defensive play to have success this weekend at Colorado College.

Picks by @afiskness.  Last weekends' outcomes with NCHC teams did not have many big surprises.  Based on the conferences results against the other conferences it looks like the NCHC may be the top conference.  These non-conference wins will go a long way when March arrives and the NCAA tournament is being decided.
Minnesota Duluth @ Colorado College:  Last weekends games against Michigan Tech were two low scoring games.  It is hard to say if this was good defense or poor offense.  This weekend games are likely to be higher scoring.  I will go with a split.  You can watch Friday's game on CBS Sport network. 
North Dakota @ Miami:  Miami had no problems scoring last weekend.  It is likely that North Dakota will be a strong foe than the Buckeyes were.  It is hard to pick anything other than a split. 
Nebraska Omaha @ Northern Michigan:  The Wildcats had a couple low scoring losses last weekend and are looking to bounce back.  The Mavericks split against the Falcons from Maltham, Mass. in a disapointing home opener.  Safe pick is a split.  
Alaska Gold RushWestern Michigan vs. Alaska Anchorage & Alaska:  The Seawolves have two wins and would like to keep there hot streak going.  These would be some slow paced low scoring games.  I will go with a Western Michigan tie and win. 
Denver vs. Alaska &  Alaska Anchorage:  Denver looks to keep their winning streak alive.  I will go with a Pioneers sweep and the tournament win. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

UMD and MTU: Up, Down, Neutral

Little Scoring = Good Defense?

Good question, is low scoring due to good defense?  This weekend may be proof positive that it may be just a lack of strong offense.  To that point it was Bulldog play-by-play announcer Bruce Ciskie who said the Saturday game looked like a Bemidji State - Alaska Anchorage game.  Not high praise, but an indictment of the boring, lock-down style of play.

  • One of the struggles of the 2012-13 Bulldogs was the five on five goals.  Friday night saw two UMD goals both with teams at full strength.
  • Penalty kill was up to the task going a strong 11 for 11 for kills on the weekend.

  • A college football coach once asked "Are you hungry, or are you starving?"  The Bulldogs could be asked the same taking a 1-0 lead into the third period both nights only to allow MTU to tie the score.  Friday UMD did answer with a winning goal.
  • Whereas the penalty kill is rolling, the power play is struggling going 1 for 9, BUT giving up a shorthanded goal in the process.

  • Defense and goaltending is still in the neutral category.  If the difference between win, tie, and loss will be as razor thin as it was this past weekend, wins will be rare unless the defense can really lock it down.  The new motto and mantra may have to be "If they don't score, we don't lose."

Next Up.  The Bulldogs find themselves in Colorado Springs next weekend for their first series of the NCHC.  CC has played just one game, an exhibition 8-4 win over the US U-18 Developmental team.  The score is impressive and reminds me of the 1980's college hockey.  UMD is young again this year and will be tested on the road to open up the new conference schedule.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bulldogs and Huskies Meet Again

UMD and MTU Continue Rivalry

It is just like old times for the Bulldogs.  Starting in a new conference may be daunting and unfamiliar, but UMD will start with a known opponent, Michigan Tech.

UMD has played Tech more times than any other team in program history. A total of 223 time with Tech holding the decisive edge 119-84-20.

The Huskies and Bulldogs have faced each other at least four games per season since the WCHA instituted the rival and pod system of scheduling.

The teams are no longer in the WCHA together, but the partnership lives on.  This time it is a warm up for each team as they prepare to enter their respective conferences.

The facts are that UMD historically doesn’t do well on opening weekends/series.  Their last sweep of one opponent on opening weekend was back in 1995 with a series win at the Maverick Stampede Tournament in 2002.

Without much to say about teams that have a new season in front of them we will go onto the picks.

Picks by @afiskness.  I would like to say that this past summer I spent hours watch film from last years games to make this first week's "real" college hockey picks, but I didn't.  I don't have too much knowledge of some of the teams and will be learning a lot more about them as the season progresses.  So here are this weeks NCHC picks:

Western Michigan vs. Notre Dame (home/home series):  I will go with the safe pick and say a split series.

Michigan Tech @ UMD:  I like Duluth more in this series but UMD historically struggles opening weekend.  Split.

Bently @ Nebraska Omaha:  The Mavericks should be too much Falcon's, UNO sweeps.
Vermont @ North Dakota:  Vermont wasn't very good last year and being on the road to start this season will be tough.  North Dakota sweeps.

Bemidji @ Saint Cloud State:  The new fight anthemfor the Huskies should really get the players pumped for the game, Huskies sweep. 

Merrimack @ Denver:  I think Jim Montgomery will be able celebrate his first win as the new coach for the Pioneers against the Warriors this weekend, but only one win.  Split.

Miami vs. Ohio State (home/home series):  Miami should be the better team, but I will go split with the home/home series.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

UMD and Lakehead UDN

UMD Get Offensive in 7-1 Win

This season we will be looking at the games as a simple Up, Down, and Neutral summary.

Up first was Canada's Lakehead University.  The exhibition game was our first look at the 2013-14 Bulldogs and the show they put on was very good.  Still there is some discussion as UMD looks forward to opening the season with a non-conference weekend at home with Michigan Tech.

So here is our first edition of Up, Down, and Neutral (UDN):

 The Offense is definitely on the Up side with their seven goals.  Output from freshmen Carson Soucy, Kyle Osterberg, and Dom Toninato tallying goals is promising for the new season.

Power play is the area of concern form the exhibition game.  Bulldogs went 0 for 6 on the man advantage, a marked departure from their recent years' successes.  Give them time to get it together?  Yes, but power play is an important source of scoring.

Defense and goaltending are still areas of question.  With Lakehead mustering only 23 shots on goal and two in the third period, there was not a large enough body of work.  Matt McNeely opens as the heir apparent as opening night starter, but he saw the least work, playing only the third period.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Season Starts Tonight - Three Questions

Minnesota Duluth starts their hockey schedule tonight with a non-conference game at home against Canada's Lakehead University.  As the season starts we have three questions that need answers:

1.  Who will be the goalie who steps up to be a reliable number one?
Aaron Crandall and Matt McNeely are the candidates and neither looked like they could be the backstop a contending college hockey team needs.  One of them needs to step forward and take the job.
2.  Will the offensive potential output outgun the defensive potential struggles?
The Bulldogs can and will score.  The struggles will likely be if the young defensive corps can keep the scores against in the 3-3.5 range instead of the 4-4.5 range.  Tim Smith and Andy Welinski will be key mainstays of the defense.
3.  Is the NCHC the best conference and will the high caliber teams keep each other out of the NCAA Tournament?
The NCHC is a great conference, arguably the best top to bottom.  But in the end, will the "better" teams beat each other up and ultimately keep some high end teams out of the NCAA is a concern.  Stack a league, decrease chances for their NCAA chances?  Quite possibly.
For now, we have to wait to see what the expectations look like on the ice starting tonight at AMSOIL Arena.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

NCHC Blog/Web Media Preseason Poll

Miami Tabbed for Tops

The first annual NCHC Blog/Web Media Preseason Poll is now up.  With little surprise Miami occupies the top spot with UMD coming in at 5th in the new eight team league.

Our ballot looks like this:

Order of finish:

  1. Miami
  2. North Dakota
  3. Denver
  4. Saint Cloud State
  5. Minnesota Duluth
  6. Western Michigan
  7. Colorado College
  8. Nebraska - Omaha
All Conference Team:

F:  Riley Barber - Miami
F:  Austin Czarnik - Miami
F:  Tony Cameranesi - UMD
D:  Joey LaLeggia - Denver
D:  Andrew Prochno - SCSU
G:  Ryan Faragher - SCSU

Player of the Year: Barber
Defensive Player of the Year: LaLeggia
Rookie of the Year: Toninato - UMD
Breakout Player of the Year: Caleb Herbert - UMD

Our pick of Herbert as a "breakout" maybe a mislabel, but after the season that he had, a turnaround would be a breakout.