This weekend felt a little bit like a holiday as Minnesota Duluth hosted Michigan Tech in what was-a conference, now non-conference rivalry. As expected, these games are usually what makes this sport so damn enjoyable for me, that being the atmosphere. Michigan Tech usually has a fair amount of fans that show up, creating the loud-college hockey atmosphere, between the UMD students and fans, that we as college hockey fanatics can neither explain or describe.
Friday - Minnesota Duluth 2 Michigan Tech 1
Although the score didn't end up in Michigan Tech's favor, the player of the game and most exciting athlete to watch was Tech's own netminder, Pheonix Copley. The 6-foot-3 sophomore was pelted on 41 times and only let two goals squeeze by. "Playing on his head" doesn't quite describe his mind-blowing saves and the frustration Copley was giving UMD's top attackers.
"You know when a goalie is "on" when they make tough saves look easy, and I thought he did just that tonight," said coach Mel Pearson of Michigan Tech. "It's unfortunate with that last goal because of the game he had."
That last goal Mr. Pearson was talking about, was a shot that Justin Crandall took while riding up to the goal line, which looked as though it maneuvered it's way through Copley's pads and crawled across the crease for the UMD game winner.
2nd Period - (4:55) Tony Cameranesi from Austin Farley and Joe Basaraba
3rd Period - (9:41) Chris Leibinger from Tanner Kero and Riley Sweeney
3rd Period - (17:14) Justin Crandall from Luke McManus and Kyle Osterberg
Saturday - Minnesota Duluth 1 Michigan Tech 1 OT
Matt McNeely got the go ahead for round two after having a fine night previously, while Michigan Tech decided to start Jamie Phillips for night number two. I would disagree with Copley not deserving the start, but would assume Michigan Tech was looking for a different spark.
Joe Basaraba scored UMD's first powerplay goal of the season and the first goal of the game simply by utilizing his ability to out-muscle defenders long enough to find a gap, which is exactly what he did off of a rebounded shot by Willie Corrin. From there on out, the Bulldogs looked a little gassed.
In the third period, Mike Neville would find a way to bury the puck through a large traffic jam that still confuses me. This tied the game 1 to 1 with less than half of the game remaining, which yes, would conclude in a tie. Overtime remained scoreless to finish the game, but fans stuck around for something that both teams decided to try, even though it wouldn't count-a shootout.
Tyler Heinonen and Tanner Kero would both score for Michigan Tech, while both Caleb Herbert and Joe Basaraba were shutdown. Although the shootout meant nothing in terms of standings or records, it's evident and surprising that the young Bulldog team is struggling in the shootout.
1st Period - (13:51) PP Joe Basaraba from Willie Corrin and Andy Welinski
3rd Period - (9:41) Mike Neville from Tanner Max Vallis and Blake Hietala
There are a couple of things that are both reassuring and frightening for the Bulldogs as they head to higher elevation in Colorado Springs to play the Tigers...
Special Teams. This is both positive and negative, depending on how many men in maroon and gold are out on the ice. The penalty kill unit is playing to perfection, literally. They're 10 for 10 while down a man, which some credit should be given to Matt McNeely as well for playing strong when UMD needs him the most. Things are a little different when on the man-advantage, which isn't exactly characteristic for this team in recent years. It's very early in the season to completely analyze, but 11.1% isn't making the best of each situation when it comes to the Bulldog power play.
I do enjoy the fact that some of the less noticeable details are being managed better, like faceoff victories and blocked shots. What really stood out to me was UMD's co-captains, Adam Krause and Joe Basaraba, laying out in front of shots. Leadership like this helps younger players step up and fill in missing gaps, and again, this is a prime example of why the penalty kill has been playing well.
On a lasting note, CBS Sports Network will cover the game on Friday, which starts at 8:30 CDT. They will also be broadcasting the North Dakota at Miami game, which begins at 6:00 CDT.