Friday, January 31, 2020

UMD at Denver: We Meet Again

Second NCHC Series Between Pioneers and Bulldogs

It is a common occurrence in recent years for Denver and Minnesota Duluth to be battling for the NCHC lead and the national lead.

Not so this year.

Battling for second, and more likely for keeping out of fourth, the Pioneers and Bulldogs meet for their second NCHC series. Both teams are trying to keep up with front runner North Dakota while keeping ahead of fourth place Western Michigan. Being swept this weekend for either team will likely mean fourth place and maybe with some distance up to third.

In the national picture, Denver is at fourth in the PairWise Ranking (PWR), by losing only one non-conference game and putting in a strong season in the NCHC. Meanwhile UMD has posted a 5-5-0 record in non-conference play while playing mostly mediocre competition. Now UMD has had a good, but not great, conference record and that does make the road tougher as displayed by UMD having a PWR of 12.

Déjà vu all over again for the Bulldogs. Second straight week UMD is playing a top five PWR team and has to have a good showing to keep their PWR in good shape to even get the chance to play for a three-peat.

UMD has to be more concerned with PWR implications rather than NCHC Penrose concerns. The Penrose dream for the Bulldogs pretty much flew away after being swept by Saint Cloud then splitting with NCHC leader UND. The Penrose Cup is the all elusive trophy for UMD at this point, but in the end, maybe getting into the NCAA Tournament for a chance to three-peat should be in the front of their collective mind.

If last weekend is any indication, and I think it is, UMD will have to sweep Denver to greatly improve their PWR. A split with then #1 PWR UND left the Bulldogs were they started the weekend at #12.

Unfortunately, I do not think UMD is up to it as Denver is playing very well right now. Looks like another split is in the works. And even with a split, UMD could easily find themselves in fourth for the NCHC and #14 in the PWR.


Friday, January 17, 2020

UMD at SCSU Preview

This Isn't Your 2018-19 Huskies

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" is not the official US Postal Service motto. But fans of the Bulldogs and Huskies may need to adopt a like motto is the National Weather Service is correct about the snow and wind this weekend. Rest assured that UMD is already in Saint Cloud and will be at the games, but will they be ready...

About SCSU
This is the first of two regular season series between the two schools. The second will be at UMD March 6 and 7.

As stated above, this isn't the SCSU team that UMD faced in the Frozen Faceoff Final last season in an extremely well played and entertaining 3-2 double OT win for the Bulldogs. It was arguably the most entertaining game UMD played last year. The Huskies lost so much talent up front and the scoring for this year really shows the drop. But what is more surprising is the more drastic drop off in defense/goaltending. Yes, they lost defense keys, but they retained players who saw good amounts of time last year.

Maybe the bigest surprise is net. Dávid Hrenák is returning off the season where he unseated senior Jeff Smith for the top spot. This year some of his weaknesses are being exposed with fairly seasoned, but not shutdown, defensemen.

Last weekend, Saint Cloud was swept in Denver with a pair of 6-3 games.