Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Roses and Thorns: Let's Keep This Short, Shall We?

In a battle of No. 1 and No. 2 in the NCAA, the UMD Bulldogs took it to No. 1 UND, sweeping the Green and White,
5-2, 3-0, for the Bulldogs' first home sweep over UND since 1992. (Photo: Duluth News Tribune)
For sanity's sake, we're going to keep this short and to the point.

In a showdown of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the NCAA, No. 2 flat out put it on No. 1.

The UND men's hockey team traveled to Duluth and AmsOil Arena to take on the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, in a city where they hadn't been swept since 1992. Two losses later, 5-2 on Friday and 3-0 on Saturday, the Green and White left Duluth with their first two losses on the season.

With the Presidential Election now just a week away, let's put this in prespective.

The last time UMD swept UND in Duluth, George H.W. Bush was the current president and Bill Clinton had just been elected as the next.

It was hard for DDC to find things he would consider Roses and Thorns were a plenty. So, DDC is going to keep it short. Flat out, UMD took it to the Green and White this weekend.


No. 1 -- Saturday's Strong Start

Yes, UND gave up the first goal for the sixth-straight game, but it came after a very solid start for the Green and White. UMD did not register a shot on UND goaltender Cam Johnson until 13 minutes into the game and had just three in the first 25. However, the Bulldogs scored 11:24 into the second period on a shorthanded goal, added a power play tally just over four minutes later and rounded out the third with another shorty, with under a minute left, in the second stanza to pace a 3-0 victory. A promising start didn't lead UND to victory, but showing some early spark is the only real bright spot for the Green and White on the weekend.


No. 1 -- Not-so-Special Teams

UND went a paltry 1-for-13 with the extra man against the Bulldogs, including a 0-for-7 mark on Saturday that included two minute-plus long 5-on-3 power plays. To make things worse, UMD netted two shorthanded goals on Saturday. Through seven games, the Green and White are just 5-for-37 (13.5%) on the power play and are 30-for-36 (83.3%) on the penalty kill, ranking them 40th and T-32 in the NCAA, respectively. Yuck. Simply put, this has to improve. UND came to play on Saturday after a wholly disappointing performance on Friday, but lost the special teams battle and that lead to the sweep. Time for the Green and White to become special on special teams if they want to get the results they are looking for.

No. 2 -- Looking Young

UMD Jr. F, Alex Iafallo
notched a five-point weekend
against UND, including a
hat trick on Friday night.

Last year's national championship team certainly had its share of young players, but also carried a core of upperclassmen, like Drake Caggiula, Paul LaDue, Troy Stecher and others that really knew how to handle big-time situations. In Duluth this past weekend, UMD showed that kind of veteran presence and handled the big stage much better than UND. The Bulldogs got five of their eight goals in the series from upperclassmen, including a hat trick from junior Alex Iaffalo on Friday. Yes, UND's best player, Brock Boeser, is a sophomore and to attest to the looking young point, Boeser was held without a point in the series. As the season goes along, the freshmen and sophomores will continue to improve, but to go to the next level, the Green and White needs to lean on their upperclassmen who have been there before, particularly on the blue line.

Well, there you have it. Not much good came out of this weekend, but maybe this weekend's rough performance will lead UND to bigger and better things. 

For just the third time in 88 series, the Green and White were swept. That's a pretty remarkable run. 

Up Next? The Rivalry Returns

Can the Green and White shake off this performance? Well, we'll find out and it's coming at an interesting time as UND travels to Minneapolis this coming Friday and Saturday to take on their bitter rival Minnesota Gophers in a regular season series for the first time since UND left for the NCHC and the Gophers to the Big 10. 

Yes, DDC fans, it's UND/Minnesota week. It's time to turn the page. Bring on the Gophers. 

Check back later this week for the breakdown of the best rivalry in college hockey back at it from Mariucci Arena. Thanks for reading.

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