Squeezing the sticks too hard?
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 13:10
After another in a long line of disappointing weekends against Bemidji State the questions abound.
Will UNO ever score again on the power play? Can the Mavs give up the first goal and fight back for a victory? Where’s the scoring in the third period?
Those seem to always be the questions against Bemidji State. Prior to last weekend UNO was just 6-for-48 on the power play against the Beavers, 12.5 percent.
Six times in 10 games Bemidji State had scored first. Only twice had the Mavs ever fought back to earn a tie.
When the Beavers score first UNO was winless, 0-4-2. The one stat that was in the Mavs’ favor was third period scoring. UNO had put in eight goals through 10 third periods against Bemidji.
But after last weekend, even that advantage got shut down. The curse lives on.
“We know what they do, it’s just hard to play against them,” Head Coach Dean Blais said after the Mavs’ 3-2 loss to Bemidji on Saturday. “You’ve got to come up with loose pucks. They’re a veteran team, they got probably eight seniors that played tonight.”
After the weekend UNO is now 6-for-59 (10 percent) on the power play against the Beavers. When Bemidji scores first, they are 5-0-2 against the Mavs. And UNO didn’t get any goals past Andrew Walsh in the third period of either game.
In the past few years, Bemidji State has typically had a losing record and finished in the bottom half of the WCHA. But against the Mavs, the Beavers look like a top-10 team. What gives?
“That’s a question we’ve been asking ourselves ever since I’ve been here,” team captain Brent Gwidt said. “I think (Bemidji Coach) Tom Serratore runs a pretty good systematic game and maybe we just kind of play into that system for how we want our identity to be. [We want] to be a hard-working, forechecking, fast team and how they might sit back a little bit and sometimes they just wait on our mistakes and pounce.”
But Bemidji State doesn’t completely explain UNO’s early season problems. Overall the Mavs are just 7 percent on the power play (2-for-26), have lost all three games in which the other team scored first and have scored a total of two third period goals.
There was an expectation for offense to be at a premium this year. Goals and assists by defensemen may have masked the problem initially.
Through the first four games Bryce Aneloski was second on the team with five points. Andrej Sustr, Mike Young and Nick Seeler each had three apiece.
As a unit defensemen put in six of the Mavs' first 13 goals. But against Bemidji State the defense only chipped in three of 14 points.
“It’s early in the season,” Gwidt said. “After this weekend after seeing how our power play performed, [the] only thing we can do from now is come Monday, get better at it [and] work hard. It’s gotta completely get better, I don’t think it can get much worse right now.”
Saturday’s power play went 0-for-8. That’s bad enough, but how it looked was even worse.
Through two periods UNO had four power plays and put a total of one shot on net during those chances. Five times the Mavs negated power play time by taking penalties of their own.
Brock Montpetit was called for tripping with 36 seconds left on a second period chance. Ryan Walters took away two minutes of a third period, five minute major when he was called for hooking 2:47 into the power play.
Josh Archibald evened it up when he was called for interference 35 seconds into UNO’s final chance of the night. Twice the Mavs had too many men on the ice, ruining two other power plays.
In total, UNO lost 5:47 of power play time to penalties committed while having the man advantage.
“Times are going tough, some guys are maybe holding the sticks a little tighter, maybe putting a little more pressure on themselves,” goaltender John Faulkner said. “Like any season, any aspect of the game there’s gonna be peaks and valleys with it. As much as you want to keep it on a level playing field the whole time there’s gonna be times where it’s at a high and everything is going right. Obviously the past couple weeks it’s been a little bit of a struggle.”
The Mavs also aren’t exactly set on a lineup. Besides alternating between Faulkner on Friday and freshman Anthony Stolarz on Saturday, Blais' lineup has seen constant change every weekend.
In just the last two weeks alone, Matt White, UNO’s expected leader on offense, has played with five different players. Josh Archibald went from centering a line against Northern Michigan to playing on the wing against Bemidji State.
On Friday Ryan Walters was playing on the fourth line with James Polk and Tanner Lane. Saturday Young didn’t even make the lineup sheet.
“You’re kind of mixing and matching right now until things are comfortable, even in the defensive pairings,” Blais said.
This weekend the Mavs go on a long bus ride up to Houghton, Mich. to face Michigan Tech. Last year once UNO arrived from a 15 hour bus trip and fought the traffic for Winter Carnival, the Mavs left town with three out of a possible four conference points.
Maybe getting out of town and coming together as a unit in a hostile arena is exactly what UNO needs.
“Every program in all of hockey at every level has got ups and downs,” Gwidt said. “Right now we’re just kind of going through one of our uphill battles. We can just get better and come together as a team.”