Thursday, December 11, 2014

MTU and UMD Meet as Top Ten Teams

UMD's Aggressive Offense Allowed by Strong Defense

Last weekend before the turn of the calendar and things are bright for UMD.  Riding a streak of eight wins in nine games, the team looks to finish 2014 strong with a road trip to Houghton, Michigan to face
Welinski's effectiveness jumping up into the play, like in this
short handed goal against Miami, is enabled by strong defense
 behind him. (Andrew Nippert/ College Hockey HighHorse)
the surprising upstart Huskies of Tech.

At the beginning of the season many may have looked past this series at MTU.  But the Huskies have put on a show for their long loyal fans staying at the top of the WCHA and near the top of the polls.  This will be a quality non-conference weekend for both teams, especially if one of the teams can pull off a sweep.

In this streak for the Bulldogs, success starts with aggressiveness on the forecheck.  Michigan Tech is flexing muscle on defense holding opponents to 1.50 goals per game in 14 games.  Even in their two losses, they only game up two and three goals respectively against Minnesota State – Mankato. 

A strong forecheck like that of UMD’s is just what can break a defense like Tech’s.

The factor that allows the Bulldogs to go hard onto the offensive zone is the strong goalie play and Kaskisuo and his 0.922 saves percentage.  Aggressive offensive play gives up odd-man rushes and the goalie has to be trustworthy.  Kaskisuo gives UMD the chance to play aggressively.

Farley's speed and aggressiveness is key to Bulldog's
forecheck. (Andrew Nippert/ College Hockey HighHorse)
Some of the beneficiaries of the backstopping success includes 10 goal scorer Dom Toninato and Austin Farley who now has the most points in NCHC play for the Bulldogs with 10 (4 goals, 6 assists). 

Most noticeable is defensemen can jump up into the play more and that is not more evident anywhere than in Andy Welsinski’s play this season.  Currently leading UMD blueliners with six goals and assists for 12 points and a +11.  Nationally Welsinski is the second leading goal producer of defensemen and tied for 16th in points.  Again, more evidence of confidence in the players behind him to be jumping up into the play and making the most of his opportunities.

Out of the Box Thinking.  Bulldog penalties on the decrease.  What a wonderful statement for UMD fans to hear.  And with less penalties have come more wins.

In UMD's last seven games, the Bulldogs have been the lesser penalized team in the game.  And in UMD's last four, their most penalized game was four penalties for eight minutes.

With the current win streak coinciding with the decrease in penalties, there is no coincidence.  

StatPack.  Numbers alone says that this should be a good series:
Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, NCAA, Huskies
Picks by @afiskness.  The Bulldogs sweep last weekend of the Colorado College Tigers has moved them into a tie for first place in the NCHC with Miami Redhawks.  Last Friday's game shows maturation of this team by coming back after being down by two goals.  They should not have come out cold against the Tigers which is a little disconcerting, but they never panicked and got the comeback win.  During the Saturday night game the Bulldogs toyed with Colorado College in the convincing win.  This makes the Bulldogs 8-1 in their last nine games.

#9 Minnesota Duluth @ #4 Michigan Tech:  This should be a great Series at the McInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton.  I like the matchup for the Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs play good on the road and if they continue to stay out of the box they could get a sweep.  Right now I am leaning to a split.

Colorado College @ Western Michigan:  Both of these teams are not ranked and are at the bottom of the NCHC.  The Broncos are looking to restart the engine for some goal scoring and the Tigers are likely to provide.  The inconsistency for both teams will result in a split.

St. Cloud State @ #12 Nebraska Omaha:  The Huskies are not meeting preseason expectations wherewas the Mavericks have been playing well balanced hockey.  This looks like a split, but I am going with a Mavericks win and a tie.

#1 North Dakota @ #11 Denver: These are two well balanced teams who are both playing really good hockey.  Both games will be hard fought probably with a bunch of penalties.  Split.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

On the Road: Bulldogs at red Mavericks

UMD Continues Streak of Ranked Opponents in Bid to Continue Win Streak

One third of the regular season completed, 12 games, and it is not even Thanksgiving yet.  The Bulldogs embark on the second portion of their schedule continuing with NCHC play in Omaha who has only played eight games overall this season.

Take aways from the "first period" of the season:

  • Slowish start in net, but Kaskisuo is now the backstop that an elite team needs.  McNeely an afterthought as of now.
  • On the PK too often staying securely in the top five in the nation for penalty minutes.  But the SHGs are coming in with five so far.
  • Dom Toninato is on fire scoring with nine goals so far.  What follows that stat is good team scoring, three players with four goals and 16 players with at least one goal so far.
  • Andy Welinski becoming elite defenseman and leading a very impressive defense corps.  As a squad, the defense is giving Kaskisuo the support he needs to be his best.
StatPack.  Great test again for UMD as they go to the surprisingly upstart Omaha squad.  By the numbers:
Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, NCAA, NCHC, Mav
Picks by @afiskness.  The Bulldogs have found their balance and have used that to put in a 5 game winning streak.  Last weekends effort was impressive versus the Gophers.  The three penalties in the Friday game played a huge part in the Bulldogs dominance.  Now of course Bulldog fans need to worry about a let down.  The team play is strong this season and if the Bulldogs stay out of the box they can continue this winning streak.

Minnesota Duluth @ Nebraska Omaha:  This is a great series as both goalies are on fire.  The Mavericks at home get an edge, but the Bulldogs play good on the road.  Split.

Western Michigan @ Miami:  The Redhawks managed a nice Split in Grand Forks last weekend and have shown so far that they should be a real contender.  The Broncos have had a slow start this season and it won't be easy to win in Oxford this weekend. Miami sweep.

North Dakota @ St Cloud State:  North Dakota goes on the road to the play a Huskies team that appears to have bounced back after being swept at home two weeks ago.  Special teams will likely be the difference in this series.  Split.

Air Force @ Denver, Wisconsin @ Denver: Denver is the favorite in both games and I think Air Force has the better chance for the upset then the Badgers.  Denver two wins.

Wisconsin @ Colorado College, Colorado College @ Air Force:  It has been a tough season so far for the Tigers with their only wins this season coming against the Chargers.  Thankfully for them this weekends matchups are in their favor.  The Tigers should get two wins, but I think the Badgers find their first win of the season on Friday.  Saturday night the Tigers bounce back and beat the Falcons.

Friday, November 14, 2014

#1 Gophers Next Opponent for Surging Bulldogs

Three Game Win Streak Sparking UMD

Last weekend was the first sweep of the season and the first at Saint Cloud since 1999.  Follow that up now with the UMTC Gophers and their #1 ranking in the country and you have a tall task.

The home-and-home series will mark the first meeting in Duluth since October of 2011 even though the teams have played the last two seasons.

First up UMD will be on the road unlike their previous home-and-home series this season against Minnesota State Mankato.

Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, NCAA, Gopher

Picks by @afiskness:  The Bulldogs were impressive last weekend in the sweep at St. Cloud. The goal tending and defense are playing really strong while the team continues to put up goals.  Team discipline still concerns me though as the Bulldogs continue to take bad penalties and too many penalties.

This weeks picks
St Cloud State @ Western Michigan:  The Huskies are licking their wounds after being swept at home last weekend but they are now on the road against the Broncos who have played better in recent weeks.  Split.

Miami @ North Dakota:  This is a great matchup in Grand Forks.  Injuries have hit North Dakota so a home sweep is out of the question, but they are stocked with enough talent to split with the Redhawks.

Colorado College @ Denver: This is the first game for the Gold Pan.  The Tigers are out matched on the road, Pioneers win.

Minnesota Duluth vs. Minnesota Twin Cites:  The ranked opponents continues for the Bulldogs.  UMD will need much better goal tending than the first time these two teams met, which they have been getting recently. This series has split written all over it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

UMD Set to Travel to Saint Cloud

Yet Another Ranked Opponent, A Long Time Foe in SCSU

Last weekend, another split with the Friday loss and second night win streak still alive.  On the bright side, the Bulldogs broke their streak of major penalties in a game with Saturday night's 4-3 win.

The splitting has been bemoaned here, but in reality, UMD is facing good opponents.  But if the Bulldogs want to take it up a notch there has to be a better than a split here soon.  And hopefully in NCHC play.

The confines of the cement sarcophagus, AKA the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, has not been kind to the Bulldogs.  Ever.  This would be a good weekend to do better than a split, but likely they will be trying to maintain their split streak.

The stats for the weekend:

Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, NCAA, NCHC, SCSU
Picks by @afiskness.  Another weekend passed and the Bulldogs ended up with the same results as the previous weeks.  This week's games against the Huskies won't be any easier than the previous weeks, so a split might be a good outcome.  I would really would like to see the Bulldogs win on Friday, that would be a great place to start.  The goaltending is starting to look solid, more balanced play and the Bulldogs will be a strong playoff team.

Minnesota Duluth @ St Cloud State:  The series against ranked opponents continues for both teams.  The Bulldogs need to find some discipline and take fewer penalties to keep the play even strength.  I don't like the match up for the Bulldogs and think they must get a win Friday night to prevent a sweep. I will go with a Huskies win and tie.

Colorado College @ Miami:  The Tigers are on the road in Oxford, Ohio and it will not be easy for them to pick up points this weekend.  Miami is a good team with a lot of scoring capability that doesn't give up when loosing. Redhawks sweep at home.

Western Michigan @ Denver:  The Pioneers have played well at home this which will make it difficult for the Broncos to pick up any league points.  The Pioneers strong defense will lead to a sweep over the lackluster offense of the Broncos.

Nebraska Omaha @ Ohio State:  This series rekindles the CCHA rivals.  The Mavericks are doing a good job scoring and have gotten good goaltending out of Ryan Massa.  The Buckeyes have been inconsistent but they hope to be a contender in the Bi6 Ten.   Results will be a split.

North Dakota @ Wisconsin:  North Dakota travels to Madison to resume this WCHA rivalry.  The Badgers have only played four games this season and haven't looked very good in those games.  Meanwhile North Dakota is putting up wins with a strong start to the season.  North Dakota win and tie.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bulldogs Host Miami for First Meeting in Duluth

Redhawks Open NCHC Play Against UMD

Operation: Win on Friday.  I was ask by my father-in-law how the Bulldogs are going to do this year.  My reply, 0.500, split every weekend.  UMD has to show up tonight and break the streak then follow it up with another Saturday.  Done.

Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, NCAA, NCHC, Redhawk
Pick by @afiskness.  The Bulldogs managed the split last weekend after a nice rebound on Saturday night, but the start of Friday night's game was not what fans wanted to see.  Hopefully as the season progresses the goaltending will continue to stabilize.  There are a lot of key non-conference games this weekend that will play into the pairwise at the end of the season.

Picks This Week
#10 Miami @ #19 Minnesota Duluth:  The Bulldog's tough schedule continues.  The Bulldogs will need good goal tending hosting the Redhawks in order to get any victories.  The Bulldogs should get enough saves one of the nights for a split.  

RV Nebraska Omaha @ # 18 Cornell:  This will be a good test for the Mavericks to see how they match up with an unknown but ranked Big Red team.  The Mavericks seem to be able to put up goals, but not knowing how the Big Red will be I will pick a split.

#1 Minnesota Twin Cities vs. #7 St. Cloud State:  This home and home should bring out the best in both teams.  I am leaning to a Gopher sweep based on the Huskies play against the Dutchman, but I will take a split.

#5 Boston College @ #11 Denver:  Great series in Denver for these teams.  The road travels and altitude will give Denver the home advantage, but I don't think they are a complete enough team for a sweep of the Eagles.  All things point to split.

Air Force @ # 3 North Dakota: North Dakota has the edge on talent and home cooking giving North Dakota the wins over the Falcons.