The regular season got underway for the Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team over the weekend with six different Bulldogs scoring goals in a 4-2 victory on Friday at Bemidji State, followed by a 2-1 win on Saturday over the Beavers at Amsoil Arena.
Meanwhile, the UMD women’s squad split its first home series of the season, falling 3-1 to Minnesota on Friday before winning in dramatic fashion on Saturday, 5-4 in overtime, at Amsoil Arena.
Here’s a look back at last weekend’s Bulldogs hockey action, with the thumbs up, thumbs down and three stars for News Tribune and The Rink Live UMD hockey reporter Matt Wellens.
Thumbs up: Olson, James, Biondi are the difference
Both of the Bulldogs’ game-winning goals over the weekend against the Beavers came from their new-look third line — as listed on the line chart — of junior wing Quinn Olson, freshman center Dominic James and sophomore wing Blake Biondi of Hermantown.
Olson, who had 10 goals and 16 assists combined in his first two seasons as a Bulldog, scored the game-winning goal 8:01 into the second period on Friday to put UMD ahead 3-2. The strike, which was assisted by Biondi, came just over three minutes after the Beavers had knotted the game at 2-2.
Biondi, with an assist from Olson, scored the game-winning goal with 9:50 to go during a tight game Saturday at Amsoil Arena to complete the series sweep. Biondi is coming off a freshman year in which he finished with two goals and three assists playing on the fourth line.
“That was a good line,” Sandelin said after Friday’s win in Bemidji. “Quinn was going, he had five or six shots. Dom has a motor. Blake played a strong game, he was strong, which is what he needs to do. He’s a big kid. He had some opportunities. That line was good for us.”
Sandelin didn’t have as much praise for the line — or any line for that matter — on Saturday. There were good moments, like Biondi’s game-winning shot, but the entire team needed to be more consistent, Sandelin said.
Senior captain and wing Noah Cates said Friday the key to the young line’s success will be getting smarter defensively. That’s how you build trust with the coaches, he said.
“They were awesome, they were flying,” Cates said Friday. “They do that stuff in practice, so it wasn’t a surprise. They were all over the puck, and that’s what we need from our third line. They just need to keep that up, get smarter defensively and coach can trust them. They’re really hard on pucks. They’re good.”
Thumbs down: Flohockey lets streamers down
The thought crossed my mind Friday to stay in Duluth to catch the women’s game in person, and then watch the men online, but I quickly got that idea out of my head for one big reason — Flohockey.
The News Tribune had a Flohockey subscription for one month last year to start the season. I used it to virtually cover a single women’s series at Minnesota State, and quickly decided it wasn’t worth the $29.99 per month (plus tax) to keep it any longer. It was glitchy and the video quality was sub-par.
Maybe I should have passed along that experience to Bulldogs fans, because it sounds like a lot of you who tried to stream the game from Bemidji got burned Friday night by Flohockey based on how many people reached out publicly and privately on social media.
It was awful for the first period. It cleared up a bit after that but was unwatchable for a while.— Richard Needham (@RichardNeedham1) October 9, 2021
I’m a big champion of streaming as a cord-cutter. Through the News Tribune, I have subscriptions to both NCHC.tv and the WCHA’s new pass on B1G+, which is just $49.99 (plus tax) for the entire season. We also have ESPN+ in my house for the NHL this season.
Friday night was a good example of how streaming is still not as reliable as cable, satellite or even a pair of rabbit ears if those work for you, especially when a strong high-speed connection is not available (the WiFi at Sanford Center was rough Saturday).
If the game was as unwatchable as many of you said it was, Flohockey should allow fans to promptly cancel their subscription and offer a refund, but so far, I haven’t heard of anyone getting their money back upon request.
The Bulldogs have three more games coming up on Flohockey at Northern Michigan on Dec. 3-4 and at Minnesota State on Dec. 30. If you can’t be there in person, it might be best to #Listentotheradio. Bruce Ciskie can be heard for free at KDAL610.com.
Thumbs up: Fans create special night for sophomores, fifth-year seniors
Asked why they wanted to come back for a fifth season with the Bulldogs, even after graduating from college, UMD’s fifth-year seniors repeated cited the urge to play before a crowd again at Amsoil Arena.
On Saturday against the Beavers, they got that, with 5,374 fans inside Amsoil Arena for the 2-1 win, including a sold-out student section. It was the most people inside Amsoil for anything since the last Bulldogs hockey game with fans on March 7, 2020, against St. Cloud State.
“That was really special, that was cool, especially me being a fifth year, not knowing if I would get that opportunity again. It surely makes you appreciate it,” Roth said Saturday. “I remember skating around in warmups, just looking at the crowd, just taking it all in. It’s a special place to play, and they showed it tonight why it’s, in my opinion, the top program in college hockey,” Roth said. “It was awesome. The crowd was amazing.”
Biondi, a sophomore who had been part of a few packed crowds at Amsoil as a high school player and UMD fan, equated it to a second first home game as a Bulldog at Amsoil. He played his first in the UMD jersey at Amsoil on Jan. 8, 2021, with no fans — just cardboard cutouts — in the seats.
Sandelin said it was a great crowd Saturday and he hopes the energy continues after the players missed out on that experience last year.
“It was awesome to go out in warmups and see the student section full. Those guys make a lot of noise, even before the game,” Sandelin said Saturday. “I wish we could have scored a few more times to hear it, get a little bit louder, but I thought it was great. Guys were excited to play in front of fans, family and friends.”
3. UMD senior wing Elizabeth Giguere — The fifth-year senior put up four points against the Gophers, scoring a goal Friday and assisting on three goals Saturday. She now has eight points (2 goals, 6 assists) in four games with the Bulldogs.
2. UMD sophomore wing Blake Biondi — The Hermantown native assisted on the game-winning goal Friday in Bemidji, and then lit up Amsoil Arena on Saturday by scoring his first game-winner as a Bulldog midway through the third period.
1. UMD senior defenseman Maggie Flaherty — The goal of the weekend came from a defenseman who has only six now in 85 collegiate games, though two now on the season. Flaherty scored a highlight-real game-winner in overtime Saturday against the Gophers that has taken over social media.
Amsoil Arena is set to host six college hockey games in three days with the UMD women host Wisconsin in WCHA play at noon on Friday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. It’s a rematch of last year’s WCHA regular season championship series, where the Badgers clinched the league title outright with an overtime win on the final day of the regular season.
Friday’s noon game is part of a tripleheader that day at Amsoil Arena, which is also hosting the men’s Ice Breaker Tournament featuring UMD, Minnesota State, Michigan and Providence. The tournament was supposed to be played in Duluth in 2020, but was postponed a season due to the pandemic. It’s actually one of two Ice Breaker Tournaments being played this season. The other took place last weekend in Worcester, Massachusetts, featuring Boston College, Holy Cross, Quinnipiac and Northeastern.
The Ice Breaker at Amsoil begins on Friday with Minnesota State taking on Providence at 4 p.m., followed by UMD and Michigan at 7:37 p.m. On Saturday, game times are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 7:37 p.m., with the Bulldogs in the late game whether it is the third place game or championship.