Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bemidji Traps UNO Right Out of the WCHA Playoffs

In what has to be the most frustrating series in the history of UNO hockey, the Bemidji State Beavers swept the Mavs at home this weekend despite UNO outshooting Bemidji 91-37 on the weekend. The difference is that when the Beavers did manage to get a shot off, they made it count.  UNO's shots frequently ended up in Bemidji goalie Dan Bakala's chest, and he wasn't giving up many rebound opportunities this weekend. Even on those few occasions when UNO had someone in front for the rebound.

UNO's style just seems unable to counter the Bemidji trapping style. Both nights, UNO controlled the puck 80% of the time, and if you didn't know the history of the previous four games this season between these teams, you had to figure that UNO would eventually erupt and blow the Beavers out.

But UNO hasn't found the way to do that, going 0-5-1 on the season against Bemidji. Terry Leahy on the radio broadcast called it a rope-a-dope style. Chad Purcell of the Omaha World-Herald called goalie Dan Bakala UNO's kryptonite. Whatever it is, Bemidji gets in UNO's mind and causes it to short circuit.

Friday night's game was lost in the final two minutes when UNO turned the puck over in their zone and Jamie McQueen fired a shot that deflected off a UNO skate into the net. Go figure.  Actually, turnovers were UNO's downfall all weekend. UNO seemed to dominate 80% of the play this weekend, but every so often, the Beavers would steal the puck and the race was on.  Breakaway after breakaway going the other way led to most of Bemidji's goals.  If it were football, each game would have been like outgaining your opponent 550 yards to 125, only to lose the game because you threw 4 interceptions - three of which were returned for touchdowns. Senior Matt Read of the Beavers scored breakaway goals in the third period both nights to boost the lead to two goals. Tonight's came with 11 minutes to play, and it completely deflated the Mavs, who struggled to maintain control of the puck from that point forward.

Leaving the Qwest Center, it seemed the general perception was that UNO's season was over. Maybe - maybe not.  Tonight's loss didn't hurt the Mavs that much in the Pairwise; they're still tied for 12th place at this point, which has them in the field...albeit it on the bubble with no way to improve their resume. It's a strange resemblance to five years ago, when UNO got bounced in the conference playoffs, but still managed to make the Big Skate after a week off.

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