Silence says it all as Bulldogs lose seven of last eight
Nobody said much after UMD lost 4-1 to North Dakota Saturday night. The only good news was that the Bulldogs had scored a goal, which was more than they had done in Friday's disastrous 10-0 blowout. The silence made sense, because there was nothi...
Nobody said much after UMD lost 4-1 to North Dakota Saturday night. The only good news was that the Bulldogs had scored a goal, which was more than they had done in Friday's disastrous 10-0 blowout. The silence made sense, because there was nothing to say.
There are no more answers; only questions remain about a season of hopefulness that has disintegrated into losses in seven of the Bulldogs' last eight games.
It seems long ago that the Bulldogs won 3-1 at Wisconsin to open the season, splitting with both the Badgers and Colorado College, then sweeping at St. Cloud State to stand 4-2 in the WCHA. Looking back, that was the only defeat Wisconsin has suffered at home all season, and those three teams have been among the top four in the league most of the way.
The Bulldogs flirted seriously with the .500 level until Christmas break, and had an impressive holiday stretch, losing 3-2 in overtime to Northeastern but beating powerful Boston University 8-5 in a stunning outburst of scoring, then sweeping two games from Bemidji State to stand 9-9 overall.
A 2-0 victory at Colorado College gave the 'Dogs four victories in a row, and when the CC series ended up in a split, even a disappointing split at Michigan Tech didn't diminish the UMD's outlook for a solid second half.
At that point, UMD was 11-11 overall and 7-9 in the WCHA, right in the thick of a tangle that engulfed the teams standing third through ninth, and was prepared for a major homestand with four games against Minnesota and St. Cloud State.
From that point on -- disaster. UMD lost all four of those games, being outscored 19-4 in the process, and a split at Denver was followed by the bleak road trip to Grand Forks. While losing seven of the last eight, the Bulldogs have scored only 10 goals while giving up a whopping 45 goals.
That leaves UMD 8-16 in league play, one point ahead of Denver in a struggle to stay out of ninth place. The Bulldogs return to the DECC to finish the season with series against Alaska-Anchorage and Minnesota State-Mankato. Winning all four of those games would regain some respectability, but it would take such a sweep to allow the 'Dogs to slip ahead of Alaska-Anchorage for seventh place.
The Friday game at North Dakota saw goaltender Brant Nicklin play heroically in trying to keep the Bulldogs alive. It was 1-0 through one period, but the Fighting Sioux then drilled six goals into the net in the second period and the rout was on.
But 10-0? It's been 16 seasons since anybody beat UMD that badly, and then it was the 1984 U.S. Olympic team in an exhibition. The last time a WCHA team beat UMD by as many as 10 goals was in the 1976-77 season, when Colorado College beat a Gus Hendrickson-coached UMD team 13-3 -- after the Bulldogs had won 6-5 in overtime the night before.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs played much better. Jeff Scissons converted a Colin Anderson pass for the weekend's goal, giving UMD a 1-0 lead, before the Fighting Sioux, who are still chasing a possible fourth straight WCHA title, got cooking.
"We didn't do a whole lot different," said North Dakota coach Dean Blais, after the second game. "But they (UMD) played a lot better. We knew they were going to, they've got a lot of pride."
The simple answer is that the Bulldogs don't have the talent to contend. But nothing is quite that simple. There is some talent there, led by Nicklin, Scissons and Colin Anderson. Everybody on the team seems to have a good work ethic, both in practice and in games. But scoring goals is an incredible chore for this team.
Colin Anderson leads the team with 16 goals, remarkable because he scored only 9 last season. Scissons is second with 12. No other forward has hit double figures. The Sioux, by comparison, have seven forwards with 10 or more goals.
Only twice in their last 12 games have the Bulldogs scored more than two goals in a game, in a 5-4 victory at Tech and a 4-3 victory at Denver.