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. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bulldogs Open NCHC Play Against Denver

UMD and DU Look for Strong Starts

UMD With Penalty Problems… What's New?  It was a point of emphasis in Coach Sandelin's weekly presser that the team is taking too many penalties.  And although that may be a symptom of the early season tight officiating, second highest average in the nation at 23 minutes per game is ridiculous.  

It has been recurring theme over the past few seasons that UMD is in the top ten in the nation for penalties, but how does it stop?  How is hockey discipline taught when the seeming culture of the upperclassmen is not conducive to more five on five time and less special teams?  

Final note on the penalties, if the team puts together wins, the issue will become less glaring.  Lose half or more of the games and it will be in the forefront.

No Sophomore Slumps.  Dom Toninato is not seeing a sophomore slump.  In fact he is leading the team in goals and points with five and seven respectively.  He is back looking stronger and hungrier than ever and his work off the ice is obvious.  Toninato's five goals puts him on pace to crush his seven goals in his freshman year.

With two short handed goals in four games, he has equalled his total form all of last year.  The shorties paired with a power play goal demonstrates that he is a main player who is being utilized on the special teams.

Close behind Toninato is Alex Iafallo with one goal and five assists and Carson Soucy with two goals and three assists.  Those three sophomores along with Tony Cameranesi round out the top four scorers for the Bulldogs.

StatPack.  It is early in the year, but the NCHC games are starting and so does the StatPack:

Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, NCAA, NCHC, Denver

Picks by @afiskness.  Last weekend the Bulldogs struggle to play a good game of hockey for a full game continued.  The play in the first half of the Friday game was not where it should be if the team is going to be a contender.  Saturday’s game however was much better.  Hopefully the goaltending will improve and become more consistent.  It is early in the season but this team looks like they could be good if they get solid play between the pipes.

NCHC Picks
Denver @ Minnesota Duluth - The Pioneers come into the series ranked 11th playing at Amsoil Arena against the #19 Bulldogs.  Last year the Bulldogs struggled at home this season they are hoping to find some success.  This will likely be two high scoring games which will end in a split.  

Non-Conference NCHC Picks
St. Cloud State @ Union - The #9 Huskies travel to Schenectady to play last years NCAA champions the #2 ranked Dutchman.  This will be a good test for both teams.  I give the edge to the Dutchman who seem to be continuing where they left off last season.  I will pick a Split as Huskies find a way to win one of the games.

Colorado College @ Boston College, CC @ New Hampshire -  The unranked Tigers travel out east to play the #6 Eagles in Chestnut Hill followed by game at the Whittemore Center in Durham against the receiving votes Wildcats.  The road and playing better teams will take its toll on the tigers who will lose both games.

Saint Lawrence @ Miami - The Saints are unranked looking to find some consistency.  Last weekend they split a series with Ferris State.  The #10 Redhawks are now red hot as they are on a 3 game winning streak.  I think Miami is finding its grove and will sweep.

Providence @ North Dakota - The #5 Friars travel to Grand Forks to take on the #3 North Dakota men's hockey team in a great non-conference series.  North Dakota looked like the team should last week against the Tigers after spliting the weekend earlier against the Beavers.  The Friars have only played two NCAA games this season splitting at Ohio State.  This series should be a split.

Alaska @ Western Michigan - These two unranked former CCHA Conference rivals renew the series this weekend in Kalamazoo.  The Nanooks are red-hot having not lost a game yet this season mean while the Broncos are hoping to get the bus back on the pavement after being swept last weekend.  The home ice should be enough for the Broncos to get a split.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What We Learned: Weekend Oct. 17-19

Some Items We Learned form the Weekend's Games

Most Mondays we will post what we learned from the Bulldogs exploits, NCHC action, and all other NCAA hockey games.  Sometimes we will mix in other items learned to help prove points.
  • The whole game does count.  
Friday night saw the Bulldogs start slow with some sketchy goaltending just like the Friday before against the Gophers.  Digging a 2-0 deficit at the end of one period and trailing at one point 4-1, UMD decided to come out and play.  This time, unlike the previous Friday, the Bulldogs completed the comeback.  But the result was the same, a loss, as MSUM scored in the extra time to take the win.   
As a side note, we also learned that every second counts at the end too as the Vikings demonstrated in their last second loss in Buffalo.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bulldogs to Complete First of Two Home-and-Home Series

Now Non-Conference Opponents, MSUM and UMD Square Off

The season is early and the Bulldogs are still trying to answer questions.  Good to look for answers now than after the NCHC schedule starts.

Questions to be answered:

  • How are the goalies going to spilt time and who is first?
McNeely has lots to prove still even after a stellar game last Sunday during his 3-0 shutout.  Kaskisuo did have a shaky start, but did settle in, along with the rest of the Bulldogs, to give the Gophers a good challenge the second half of the game last Friday in UMD's 4-3 loss.
  • Will UMD protect home ice this year?
A 5-10-3 record at home last season was terrible.  A contender for anything other than basement of the conference has to do better than that.  On the flip side, an 11-6-1 record away from AMSOIL kept UMD in the top half of the NCHC which gave them home ice.  Bad news was home ice equalled being swept out of the playoffs at home.
The home-and-home series should be interesting also.  It is the first of two this season with UMTC being the second.  Let the debate start, home first or second night.  They get both situations, but for now it will be home first.

StatPack will start next week when conference play starts up and we have some decent data to share.

Picks by @afiskness.  The results of last weeks games brought a few surprises to NCHC teams.  First who would have thought that the Beavers would not only beat North Dakota but make it a rout.  Second, high ranked teams did not fare well in all of college hockey.  The opening period of the Bulldogs and Gophers game was troubling, but I was happy to see the team begin to settle in a little and play good by the end of the game.

This Week Picks
Nebraska Omaha @ Western Michigan:  Both teams are unranked in this matchup at the Lawson Ice Arena and both are coming off splits.  This will be the first NCHC league games for both teams.  I don't see why I would chose anything other than a split at this point in the season, so it will be a split.

North Dakota @ Colorado College:  The unranked Tigers host the #3 North Dakota Men's Hockey team for the teams first NCHC games this season.  The Tigers played well enough to hold onto wins after blowing a 2 goal and a 3 goal lead against the Chargers.  North Dakota should be a better team then Alabama Huntsville, but they didn't look that way on Friday night.  I will go with a North Dakota win and tie. 

Minnesota State Mankato vs. Minnesota Duluth:  Last week both teams split their games playing on the road, although the Bulldogs faced better competition.  The Mavericks are ranks #12th and Bulldogs are now ranked #20 in this home and home series.  These games will likely come down to goaltending for both teams.  I expect to see the Bulldogs continue with a goalie rotation and I am guessing McNeely gets the Friday nod.  I am going to pick a split.

Miami vs. Ohio State:  This series will be a home and home between the #11 Redhawks and the #17 Buckeyes.  The previous weekend both teams split their games.  The Buckeye split with the highly ranked Friars while the Redhawks split with the unranked Falcons.  This series will be another split. 

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute @ Denver:  The #16 Pioneers host the unranked Engineers.  This should be a great couple of games.  The Pioneers have had difficulty the last couple seasons with ECAC teams and the Engineers look to be a contender this season.  I will pick a split. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

UMD Season Starts Tonight Against #1

Bulldogs Face Familiar Foe Gophers on Neutral Ice

It is that time of year again, leaves are falling, it's getting cooler, college hockey is starting, and UMTC Gophers are ranked at or near the top in polls.  It just so happens the Bulldogs get that #1 Gopher team as their first opponent of the season and the first round of the Ice Breaker Tournament in South Bend, IN.

Nothing is for certain at this time of year and speculation abounds.  The Gophers should be a good if not great team this year.  This first game is a good bellwether test for the 2014-15 Bulldog team.

NCHC Speculation and Predictions.

Waiting for the exhibitions to play out we have finalized speculation and prediction for the final standings of the NCHC for its second season.

Last year was a mess at the end with three of four road teams moving to the Frozen Faceoff with Denver and Miami, two teams needing the auto bid for NCAA entry, playing for the championship.  Was it parody?  Is there complacency among teams already locking into the NCAA Tournament?  Good questions, but not for now.  Now is the time for predictions.

This year there appears to be three top teams, three bottom teams, and two left in the middle.  The there on top: Miami, North Dakota, and Saint Cloud State.  The bottom three: Colorado College, Omaha, and Western Michigan.  The two left in the middle: Denver and Minnesota Duluth.

Overall prediction:
  1. North Dakota
  2. Miami
  3. Saint Cloud State
  4. Denver
  5. Minnesota Duluth
  6. Western Michigan
  7. Colorado College
  8. Omaha
Picks by @afiskness.

The season is about to be on us and like every year I am saying hockey already?  I am looking forward to an exciting Bulldog season.  I hope they can find some solid play between the pipes which should be coupled with a solid blue line.  This Bulldog team has some potential to surprise people as I think they will have very balanced scoring.  Hopefully for Bulldog fans it is a season that goes to the end of March.

Ice Breaker Tournament
Minnesota Duluth vs. Minnesota Twin Cities:  These longtime rivals meet in an usual setting in the shadow of football Jesus.  The Gophers are the preseason #1 and the Bulldogs come in receiving votes.  The question for UMD this season is goaltending which will be very important in this game and tournament.  It is a 1 pm Friday game which will have both teams body clocks all messed up, or least so we hear.  I will pick the Gophers to Win. 

Minnesota Duluth vs. RPI or Notre Dame:  I will pick the remaining tournament games and see how close I get overall.  In the second game (on Sunday afternoon) the Bulldogs will play the Engineers out of Troy, New York and win.  The championship game will be a tie between the Gophers and Notre Dame. 

Miami vs. Bowling Green (home/home):  The #11 Redhawks are looking to erase last years season from their memories.  The Falcons (receiving votes) should be a pretty good team in the WCHA, but I think the Redhawks scoring will re-emerge and find the back of the net.  Miami sweep.

Western Michigan at Canisius:  The Broncos (receiving votes) travel to Buffalo, New York to take on the Golden Griffins (not ranked) at the Harbor Center.  The Griffins have been a pretty good team the last couple of season in Atlantic Hockey and will be ready to put up a good fight.  The Broncos had some key player losses since last year and will need to find some scoring.  No difference in ice size here for these teams, but will the body clocks of the Broncos be affected?  I will go with a split for Western Michigan.

Minnesota State University Mankato @ Nebraska Omaha:  The purple Mavericks go to Omaha and the Century Link Center ranked 13th in the nation to play the red Mavericks who are receiving votes.  The Dean Blais led squad is full of young talent but will they be able to hold the Minnesota State University Mankato scoring down.  I am going with a Minnesota State University Mankato win and a tie. 
Bemidji State vs. North Dakota (home/home):  The Beavers will have their hand full in this home and home with the #2 North Dakota Men's Hockey team.  North Dakota will continue to have the Beavers number as they roll to a sweep.

Colgate @ St. Cloud State:  This is likely to be the best series of the weekend.  The Raiders go to The National Sport Center as the #6 team in the nation to take on the #7 Huskies.  Will the travel and the big ice make for a tough showing by the Radiers?  I pick a split. 

Alabama Huntsville at Colorado College: The unranked Chargers travel to Colorado Springs to take on the now Mike Haviland coached Tigers at the World Arena.  Both teams are picked to be last in their conferences, but everyone wants to see how the Tigers play with a new coaching staff.  So the questions will be will the travel and the big ice make for a tough showing by the Chargers.  The answer is yes. Tigers get the much needed early sweep. 

I bring up the travel, body clock and ice size a lot in my picks.  I say it is all just excuses, but we always hear players saying this stuff.  Check the quotes after this weekend and see what shakes out. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Questions Still Abound

Tight Win Over Lakehead 4-2 Shows Room for Improvement

On the night of the Bulldog's first game, an exhibition against Lakehead University of Canada, leads right into the season just four days later.  A strong showing would be preferred, but a lackluster last minute (1:35 to be exact) escape is the game we got.

From the get go of the new season all eyes were on the net minder.  Would McNeely finally take the reigns and be the main guy as we thought when he arrived?  Or would freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo emerge as the dominant force.  The first indication of the current situation did not take long as Lakehead buried their first shot of the night beating McNeely 0:42 into the contest.  Not the start anyone hoped for.

Maybe just as concerning was the lack of scoring throughout the game.  UMD did not find the back of the Thunderwolves net until 6:03 into the second period as Brett Boehm scored with helpers from Austin Farley and Carson Soucy.  The tie would be short lived as UMD would go into the second intermission again trailing, now 2-1, after McNeely yielded a goal midway through the second.

UMD did held a decisive shots on goal edge throughout the game ending with a 61-21 edge.  But it wasn't until very late in the third period that the Bulldogs took their first lead before the 4-2 final.  third period goals for UMD were tallied by Farley, Justin Crandall, and Alex Iafallo.

On the horizon is the Ice Breaker Tournament held in South Bend and hosted by Notre Dame where UMD will face a tough test against the Gophers Friday afternoon.  A definite challenge for a team that has many challenges.  UMTC is coming off of their exhibition opener, a 5-0 win over visiting Northern Alberta.

The game Friday starts at 1:05pm CDT and can streamed for free along with all other tournament games.

Around the NCHC.
Rough start in Omaha for the Mavs.  Not only do they lose their exhibition game against the same Northern Alberta who lost to the Gophers 5-0, but the Mavs were shutout 4-0.

The only other loss in NCHC exhibition play was Miami being shutout 3-0 by the visiting US U18 Developmental squad.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Quick Thoughts on Bulldog Season Preview

Goaltending is the Key

There are always challenges and questions leading into the college hockey season.  This year all eyes will be on the goalie position in Duluth.

Matt McNeely was brought in over others that we just should not talk about because it is too painful.  He was the supposed answer to the departure of hardworking, very successful Kenny Reiter to be the backstop of a team coming off a national championship in the near past.  What McNeely has given is drama and questions about who should be the guy to man the net.

Coming into the new season there is freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo from Finland.  Kaskisuo is given a full chance to prove that he is the number one and push McNeely for playing time.

With the first real action of the season upon us with the exhibition game tomorrow, we now know that Kaskisuo and McNeely will split time in the warm up to the games that count.  Those games that count are closer than most years seeing that the exhibition against Lakehead is Monday and the non-conference games start the following Friday.