Riding a tsunami of momentum after defeating Thunder Bay's Lakehead University on Monday at Amsoil Arena, the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs look to bring the same intensity into this weekend against a team who always seems to cause the Dogs problems, the Michigan Tech Huskies.
Based on this past Monday, I'd like to share with you some of the thoughts than ran through my head while watching UMD's exhibition home opener against Lakehead University.
There was a certain expectation, or understanding, that a few of this year's freshmen had the potential to develop into game changers over the season, but they chose to develop faster than most anticipated. Most noticeable influences were Dominic Toninato, Kyle Osterberg, Alex, Iafallo, Carson Soucy, and Willie Raskob.
Toninato and Iafallo not only met, but exceeded expectations about the amount of chemistry they were able to maintain from their time in the USHL with the Fargo Force, and it only can grow from here on out. Toninato was able to hold his own and play a physical game, which I've grown not to expect out of any freshman's first game. He was winning puck battles and scoring goals, two actually, in his collegiate debut.
Osterberg surprised me the most. I knew he had the ability to make an impact, and that his Omaha Lancer statistics weren't able to tell the whole story, and he proved it on Monday night. He didn't just play physical, but the 5-foot-8 forward played as though the puck belonged to him. His aggressiveness was a great trait and something to look forward too as the season progresses.
Raskob and Soucy had a successful first game, both showing their defensive capabilities and exerting a strong offensive presence, especially in the last period. Their scoring abilities is a plus for the Dogs, but the real problem will be protecting the line, so hopefully gameplay can transfer over to this weekend.
Most of upperclassmen had a successful night as well. Joe Basaraba scored on a wrister from up near the blue line that beat the Lakehead netminder, from what appeared to be, glove side (fancy, right?). Farley dangled between 3 and 17 defenders in the same play to score his goal, which was pretty fun to watch as well.
Players like Justin Crandall and Andy Welinski are worth noting too, both whom excelled at their given duties. Crandall played very aggressive while camped out in front of the net and was rewarded for it. Welinski quietly had a 3-point night, all off of assists. Count on him to be the very core of the defense this season.
The goalies all played a period, which made analyzing both fun and difficult. Crandall started and made some pretty great saves. He was fun to watch, mostly because he was issued the most shots, but I thought he played very well. Fons was issued six shots, one which found it's way by, and McNeely, who is considered the go-to goalie for this season, started the third period but was only fired upon twice.
Michigan Technological University Huskies
Last year, the Bulldogs were able to finish the season unbeaten against the Huskies, finishing with 3 points on the road in the first weekend and 4 points at home in the second series. Although the Huskies hold the all-time series record, 119-84-20, UMD will look to do a little more damage, much like last year, to come out on top.
Last weekend, the Huskies were dependent on Alex Petan, who scored the only 3 goals to cap a 3-2 victory over the Laurenentian Voyageurs. The Huskies did outshoot the Voyageurs 59 to 21.
Although it may sound like the Huskies are still working out a few kinks, they never fail to bring a tough competition for the Bulldogs. Personally, this is one of my favorite series of the year, as Michigan Tech seems to always bring a fair amount of fans over from Houghton, resulting in an awesome atmosphere.
It's finally the official kickoff weekend. Here at SB Nation College Hockey, we've been awaiting the arrival of this date for quite some time! Make sure to follow us on twitter for breaking news, scoring updates, and game recaps!
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Matt Christians covers Minnesota Duluth and the NCHC for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can also follow him on Twitter -> Follow @matt_christians