East Steals W’s, UMD Faces Busy Week

The area high school hockey season has started, and Duluth East already has established the fact that it not only will have an incredibly tough schedule, but will be well prepared for any game that finds the Greyhounds trailing in the closing minutes. In their opening game, at Isanti, the ‘Hounds trailed 2-0 until the final two and a half minutes, then scored, scored again, and won it 3-2 in overtime.
Last Saturday afternoon, East opened its impressive home schedule at Heritage Center against a potent Wayzata outfit that had thrashed Hermantown 6-1 the night before. Nick Altmann staked East to a 1-0 lead when the junior hit a shot that popped up from the slot and settled almost gently into the net. Wayzata’s swift, deep and balanced team countered with a power-play goal late int eh first period, and took a 2-1 lead late in the second.
The Greyhounds hustled and battled to get the equalizer, but the game broiled down to its final 2:31 -- the bewitching hour, apparently -- and in a scramble at the Trojans net the puck appeared to bounce in off Matt Lyttle for a 2-2 deadlock. It appeared the teams might be headed for overtime, but with 38 seconds left, Ash Altmann, the sophomore brother of Nick, broke hard to the net and arrived in perfect time to deflect in a perfect pass from Maysen Rust on the right boards.
“We won’t play anybody better than that team,” said East coach Mike Randolph. But the Greyhounds will be bringing an array of the state’s best teams to Duluth. Anoka was supposed to play here Tuesday and will be rescheduled. East plays at Superior Thursday night, then faces Elk River next Tuesday, and plays at Cloquet next week on Thursday. Future games here include Centennial, Andover, Hopkins, Denfeld, Blained, Lakeville South, Cloquet again, Lakeville North, St. Michael-Albertville, and Tartan. On the road, the Greyhouinds will be playing Hill-Murray and two other top-rated outfits in the Christmas tournament at Ridder Arena, then open the New Year at Eden Prairie, and follow on the road at Grand Rapids, Apple Valley, Maple Grove, Forest Lake and Minnetonka.
If that doesn’t get the ‘Hounds prepared for the Section 7AA tournament, nothing will.

True, the UMD football team’s bid in the NCAA Division II playoffs has ended, but the Bulldogs made their heritage proud after falling behind 31-0 to a powerful, No. 1 ranked Northwest Missouri State by rallying for three straight touchdowns in the fourth quarter before the string ran out. But there remains a lot of action for UMD teams this week.
First, the UMD volleyball team is the No 1 seed and host to the NCAA Division II regional tournament, opening Thursday at Romano Gym. UMD faces Arkansas Tech from the Great American Conference in the 7:30 p.m. conclusion to the quarterfinals. Concordia of St. Paul faces Northern State at noon, with Central Missouri meeting Nebraska-Kearney at 2:30, andthen Washburn of Topeka facing Southwest Missouri State at 5 p.m. The winners collide in Friday’s semifinals at 5 and 7:30, with the championship set for 7 p.m. Saturday.
The UMD men’s hockey team, which didn’t play a single home game in November, returns to AMSOIL Arena this weekend to take on high-flying St. Cloud State in the first home series of the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The Bulldogs had a weekend off after splitting at North Dakota and then splitting at Minnesota.
The UMD women, meanwhile, hit the road for Boston University after a weird weekend at AMSOIL. The Bulldogs battled Wisconsin to a 2-2 tie and won an extra point in the shootout  when Meghan Huertas scored on Alex Rigsby, while UMD goaltender Kayla Black shut out all three Wisconsin shooters. In the second game, the Bulldogs reverted to a troubling second-game scenario.
While the UMD men have struggled in the first game and roared back impressively in the second, the UMD women found a way to win against Bemidji State and Wisconsin in series openers, but lost 1-0 in the second game to both Bemidji State and the Badgers. The 0-0 battle with the Badgers was an impressive exchange of rushes for two periods. “That’s about as good as 0-0 hockey can be,” said Badger coach Mark Johnson.
Karley Sylvester broke to the net to score with a Madison Packer set-up at 2:12 of the third, which made it a tough 1-0 loss for Kayla Black, who had played well in goal, but it remained 1-0 through a hectic final few seconds. UMD coach Shannon Miller pulled Black for a sixth attacker, and the Bulldogs went hard to the net as the end neared. With all six attackers and Wisconsin’s six all bunching up at the net, obviously the Bulldogs were trying to score and the Badgers were trying to stall off the last 10 seconds.
Inexplicably, the puck disappeared with 10 seconds remaining but the officials didn’t blow any whistle. Finally, with 2.5 seconds left, they did blow play dead. Then, just as inexplicably, the refs took the faceoff out to center ice -- effectively erasing UMD’s final chance, with 2.5 seconds showing. There is a rule that if the defensemen move in from the points in a melee, the faceoff comes out of the offensive zone, but in this case, UMD defenseman Sidney Morin was the first one to the crease in the all-out attack. So all six UMD attackers were at the net.
Johnson said: “I guess they blew the whistle because there were 12 players in the crease.” Miller, however, was fuming and challenged the officials on the ice. She said she had been told that Morin had covered the puck, which brought the faceoff outside, but Miller of course discounted that. “We’re trying to score, so why would we cover the puck?” she said, later. “It was clear on the video tape that a Wisconsin defenseman pulled the puck in under her body, and the only question was whether she was in the crease or not. The officials had only two options -- if she was in the crease, we get a penalty shot; if she wasn’t, it’s a delay of game penalty and we get a power play for 8 seconds, with the faceoff in their end.”
But the officials chose option “C,” which was to let the clock run down to 2.5 seconds, then take the faceoff outside the offensive zone.
It didn’t help UMD’s jangled feelings to come back Monday and face the Russian National women’s team. UMD had beaten the Russians 8-0 in their first game in Duluth, but then they went to Bemidji State and won, lost a 2-2 shootout at North Dakota and then a 2-0 game, and they came back to Duluth a much different team. Alexandra Vafina, who played for UMD last season, scored a goal and assisted on two others as Russia beat UMD 5-2.
UMD suffered some injuries, the most serious to Zoe Hickel, and Miller said the Bulldogs were dog-tired, to coin a phrase, but the fact remained that the Russian team was much sharper and passed the puck much more, and much more crisply, than UMD. Miller says they were tired, but a team that doesn’t pass the puck very willingly when fresh understandably doesn’t pass well when tired. The Bulldogs can’t hope to compete with the top NCAA teams if they continue to resist the obvious and subtle opportunities to share the puck.