Good hockey teams take adversity in stride wherever it comes from, and UMD showed great composure after losing a penalty-filled Friday night game. Whether starting a series or a game, the Bulldog hockey team continues to struggle with beginnings. But in a gritty weekend split against No. 10 Miami, they showed characteristics that will undoubtedly help them on the long road ahead.
They have struggled on Friday nights early on. In three opportunities, they have yet to record a win to open a series, but UMD showed signs of change against Miami.
“I thought (Friday) was the best start we’ve had in a long time,” head coach Scott Sandelin said.
Despite a strong start, Miami won 3-2 — converting on two 5-on-3-power plays, amidst a valiant Bulldog penalty kill effort.
“It’s a tough league. It’s tough to put 120 minutes of hockey together and there are going to be so many one-goal games (where) it comes down to a bounce or a special teams goal or a key save,” Sandelin said.
Freshman goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo made a key save Friday, when a RedHawk emerged from the penalty box and received a neutral pass at full speed, gliding past the Bulldog defense. Cutting across the net to Kaskisuo’s blocker side and firing at the opening he created, Kaskisuo twisted his body, turning his glove behind his body to catch the puck.
The unorthodox stop works as a metaphor for how UMD has found success in literally coming from behind (the back) this season. It was a capstone for Kaskisuo, proving to the crowd — and to over 300,000 viewers of his save on YouTube — that he can make big plays for the Bulldogs.
“Personally I don’t like that save — it’s bad movement from me, but this time I got lucky,” Kaskisuo said, who has posted a .913 save percentage over six starts this season.
Saturday’s game was another slow start for the Bulldogs, as Miami scored less than four minutes into the game, but UMD won the game by dominating the special teams play.
Like Friday, the game was tied deep in the third period. But it was UMD’s turn to score the game winning power-play goal. Sophomore Willie Raskob put the Bulldogs up 4-3 with his first collegiate goal, and UMD’s second power-play goal in the game.
“It was awesome, I’ve been waiting for a long time to do it. Osterberg got (me) the puck and I just fired her on net, it was through the armpit — a chicken wing,” Raskob said.
The Bulldogs hope to take momentum from Saturday’s win into next weekend’s series against No. 7 St. Cloud State. Coming off a series split with the No. 1 University of Minnesota, the Huskies beat the top ranked team 4-1 Friday, showing they can play with the best.
“St. Cloud [is] a different team, a lot of small, quick guys playing on an Olympic sheet,” Raskob said. “We’re gonna have to change our game but hockey is hockey so we have to go in with the right mentality.”
The Bulldogs will need a fast start Friday. Of their 29 goals this season, just four have been scored in the first period.
“A big part of Friday night is starting the right way, whether we score right away or get some momentum right off the start I think that’s going to be really big for us,” defenseman Andy Welinski said.
BY JIMMY GILLIGAN Statesman Correspondent