Most agreed No. 20 (for now) Minnesota-Duluth would not be as strong as recent years past, but few expected the Bulldogs (2-5-1, 0-3-1 league) to be in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s basement at this point.
Last-place UMD’s inconsistency continued during a road sweep at the hands of Nebraska- Omaha that concluded with a 6-3 loss on Sunday. UMD led only once this weekend, 1-0 early on Sunday. On Saturday, the host Mavs scored twice in the game’s first five minutes in a 3-2 win.
UMD’s inconsistent play leads to poor periods and blown chances. Down 4-2 headed into Sunday’s third period, UMD scored early only to see Nebraska Omaha respond and drop the Bulldogs to 0-4-1 in their last five games, including a blown 2-0 third-period lead that led to that home tie against Wisconsin.
“Our last period wasn’t acceptable,” Bulldogs captain Cody Danberg told the Duluth News-Tribune on Sunday. “When you have a chance to move up the ladder (in the league), you can’t come out flat. We got one goal (to pull within 4-3) and then stayed back and got off our game.
“At the end of the second period it was just a lack of concentration on our part. We only played well in spurts.”
That will not be enough against the league’s better teams, so things are likely to get worse for the Bulldogs over the next two weekends. A road league series at No. 6 North Dakota this weekend promises to be a stern challenge followed by home dates against No. 15 St. Cloud State.
Alaska-Anchorage climbing out of cellar
The Seawolves reminded me why I love the WCHA. Picked to finish last out of 12 teams, Alaska-Anchorage (2-3-3, 0-2-2) showed considerable pride and received the necessary steady goaltending from Rob Gunderson (1-0-3) to battle No. 2 Minnesota to a 2-2 home draw on Saturday after losing 4-0 on Friday.
Considering the recent road tie at No. 6 North Dakota, it looks more and more likely UAA will finish in ninth or eighth place, which would be a good showing for the program, and give them a solid chance to return to the WCHA Final Five tournament.
Minnesota State must take advantage of upcoming schedule
After two one-goal home losses to No. 3 Denver, the Minnesota State Mavericks enter their bye week knowing they missed a good chance to make an early move up the standings. The split against No. 2 Minnesota last week was good but it was especially tough to be swept at home by first-place Denver after losing twice at St. Cloud State last month.
“At the end of the day, tonight’s not acceptable because we’re playing at home, in front of our crowds, on our ice,” Hastings told The Mankato Free Press on Saturday. “We have to put points in the bank when we’re in our building.”
The purple Mavs do have an opportunity to get on a roll toward the end of the first half of the season. They travel to struggling Wisconsin Nov. 23-24, then host Bemidji State and Alaska-Anchorage. All six of those games are winnable.
The Mavs conclude the pre-holiday schedule at Nebraska-Omaha Dec. 14-15, giving them a chance at an above .500 mark over the next five weeks, including the bye. They need to accomplish that if they hope to make a run at home playoff ice in 2013.