Friday night games and matchups at St. Cloud State University were two things that didn’t go in UMD’s favor. However, this weekend that changed. The Bulldogs (6-4-0, 4-2-0 NCHC) haven’t exactly been successful in St. Cloud. In fact, they haven’t won a game at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center since the 2006-07 season, when current NHL players Alex Stalock, Mason Raymond, Matt Niskanen and Jason Garrison were still suiting up in the Bulldog sweater. Last weekend, they turned a new leaf and took home an overtime victory Friday night and a 3-1 win on Saturday.
Slow starts have been an issue for the Bulldogs this season, but UMD shrugged that stigma off by coming out with quick goals on both Friday and Saturday. The Bulldogs lost all three previous series openers, but knew they needed to turn things around in order to build a successful record. With the pair of wins last weekend, the Bulldogs now take over the No. 1 spot in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and sit at No. 17 in the national poll.
Two major positive trends have continued for the Bulldogs through the weekend as well.
The first being the ability to get scoring from the blue line. UMD’s top minute-eater on the back end, junior Andy Welinski, added a fourth goal to his season total on Friday to tie the game. It then took forward Cal Decowski only two minutes of extra time to notch the overtime tally to win it for the Bulldogs. Last weekend, Welinski added a pair of goals against the Miami RedHawks while fellow defenseman Carson Soucy and Willie Raskob each scored a goal of their own as well.
The other positive trend that continued last weekend was the continued stellar play of freshman goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo. He’s spent the last seven games between the pipes for the Bulldogs and is currently boasting a 2.14 goals against average in that stretch. This weekend, he made a combined 60 saves for the Bulldogs and looks poised to remain UMD’s starter.
BREAKOUT BOX UP NEXT: No. 1 University of Minnesota Dates: November 14-15 Location: Nov. 14 at Mariucci Arena (Minneapolis, Minnesota). Nov. 15 at AMSOIL Arena (Duluth, Minnesota)
Last time around: The Bulldogs last took on Minnesota at the Ice Breaker Tournament in Notre Dame this October. The Gophers came away from that game with a 4-3 victory, but UMD made a valiant comeback effort thanks to goals from Toninato and Welinski. UMD’s upside: After a weekend of much quicker starts and goal scoring coming from all angles, expect to see a much more competitive showing early from UMD. Kaskisuo allowed a few quick goals in the early matchup with Minnesota, his worst statistical game of the season and his first game as a Bulldog. He’s steadily improved since that first game and fans should expect a solid showing from the Vantaa, Finland, native.
Minnesota’s upside: They’re the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. FIRST NAME Warning scored less than 30 seconds into their last game against Notre Dame in a series where they allowed only two goals and scored nine. They’ve lost only one game this season, but the good news for UMD is that it was to the team they just swept on the road: St. Cloud State University.
BY NICOLE BRODZIK Sports Editor