In recent years, it seems that the storyline centers around the Bulldogs and the excitement surrounding a young team. This season won’t be much different. While UMD returns 19 rostered players, there are 14 Bulldogs who have been with the program for a year or less. Youth generally means inconsistency. However, the Bulldogs freshman class combined for 32 goals and 85 points over 36 games last year.
In fact, in the past two seasons the freshman classes have combined for over 180 points. Last season, the Bulldogs saw forwards Kyle Osterberg and Alex Iafallo finish third and fourth in scoring with 14 and 11 goals respectively.
In 2012-13, another pair of freshman forwards Tony Cameranesi and Austin Farley combined for 68 points. However, the sophomore slump has also been a real problem for UMD, with both of those players scoring fewer than ten goals in their sophomore outings. It remains to be seen if they’ll be able to rebound from an off-season, but if they do UMD is primed to be a serious offensive weapon.
“I think up front we have a lot of depth; last year we had the same thing,” head coach Scott Sandelin said. “We have a lot of guys that understand how hard it is to win and we have an incoming freshman class that will be contributors for us, but they don’t need to be right off the bat.”
This season, Sandelin sees freshman like Brett Boehm — who scored in Monday’s 4-2 exhibition win over Lakehead University — and Karson Kuhlman stepping up as big contributors this year.
“I thought Karson Kuhlman had a good game,” Sandelin said. “I thought Boehm showed why he scored a lot of goals (in juniors). He probably could have had two, three points or another goal tonight. There’s a lot of promise with those guys.”
UMD’s big question mark lies between the pipes. With senior workhorse Aaron Crandall now graduated, the fight for a starting position sits between senior Alex Fons, junior Matt McNeely and freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo.
“They’ve all been playing really well in practice,” senior captain Justin Crandall said. “It’s good to have that competition within the team. It pushes our guys to play better and gives us a better team at the end of the day.”
The last two seasons McNeely and Crandall fought it out for the starting position. As a freshman, McNeely played his way into 24 starts, going 10-11-4 in that stretch.
After what he considered a subpar season in 2012-13, Crandall turned things around in his final season as a Bulldog. After splitting time to start the year, he won the battle of the UMD puck stoppers and took over in the new year. With Crandall gone, it will likely be a battle between McNeely and newcomer Kaskisuo. McNeely went 2-4-1 in seven starts for the Bulldogs last season and will be fighting for a chance to get his spot in the limelight this season.
During Monday night’s exhibition game against Lakehead University, McNeely started out the contest by allowing two goals on eight shots. After the second goal he was benched for freshman-counterpart Kaskisuo, who went on to stop nine shots.
“I think they both did alright,” Sandelin said. “Obviously (Kaskisuo) played really sharp. I though Matt was better in his second half. It was good that they both got that opportunity.”
The Bulldogs head to Notre Dame this weekend for the Ice Breaker Tournament, where they will take on the University of Minnesota Friday and either Notre Dame or Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Sunday.
BY NICOLE BRODZIK Sports Editor