Bulldogs sport new cut for men's hockey playoffsWCHA: Because Project Blond was a success last year, the Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team — figuring the magic in that gambit had been used up — has opted for a change in playoff team bonding for 2012: Mohawk-style haircuts.
By: Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune
Because Project Blond was a success last year, the Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team opted for a change in playoff team bonding for 2012 — Mohawk-style haircuts.
The Bulldogs dyed their collective heads a striking bright color for the 2011 postseason and achieved the ultimate goal of winning an NCAA title. Figuring the magic in that gambit had been used up, they returned to a familiar shaved head presence used in 2009 in 2010. UMD won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff title in 2009, and advanced to the Division I quarterfinals, and just missed making the NCAA field in 2010.
The team’s eldest player, senior goalie Kenny Reiter, 25, figures he cut the hair of more than 12 teammates Monday, most at the team’s Amsoil Arena locker room.
“We wanted to do something, we wanted a special identity, and going blond was last year,” Reiter said Wednesday. “This worked out pretty well, plus some of the guys look real scary with their haircuts.”
No. 3-ranked UMD (22-8-6) begins the playoff season Friday against Minnesota State-Mankato (12-22-2) in the WCHA’s best-of-three opening round at Amsoil Arena. The Bulldogs have won five straight league home playoff series since 1998, including a victory over St. Cloud State last year.
While Reiter did the bulk of the haircuts this week, some players chose other stylists. Sophomore winger J.T. Brown went to his usual barber, BAM! Style on East Central Entrance, and got a special star design treatment on the sides.
Captain Jack Connolly was still unshorn Wednesday afternoon after practice, but he was expecting to get a cut from Brady Lamb or Scott Kishel, two senior defensemen.
“You get together for some team bonding, you get geared up for the playoffs and you have fun,” said Connolly. “We’re on the right track to do well the next few weeks. We didn’t play well last Friday (in a 2-1 loss at St. Cloud State), but in our last seven games we played well against North Dakota and Mankato and Colorado College.
“We’ve done a lot of good things and if we execute well, and clean up some things defensively, we can make a run.”
UMD is home for the start of the league playoffs for a third straight season, the best stretch since the Bulldogs were home for four straight years from 1983 through 1986 in the two-game, total-goal era.
Mankato for the third time
UMD and Mankato are meeting for a third series this season, with the Bulldogs holding a 3-0-1 mark and a goal advantage of 20-11. In Duluth, on Nov. 18-19, UMD swept 5-2 and 7-3 against an injury-depleted Mankato team. In Mankato, Minn., just three weeks ago, UMD won 4-2 and tied 4-4 in overtime as Mankato scored twice in 10 seconds late in the third period in the tie.
Over the final 15 games of the regular season, UMD was 7-5-3 and Mankato 7-7-1.
“Since Christmas we’ve been a better team because we’re healthier,” said Mankato coach Troy Jutting. “We’ll need to stay out of the penalty box, get good goaltending and score some goals.”
Mankato was 10th among 12 WCHA teams on offense in league games, scoring 2.61 goals a game, and 11th on defense at 3.64.
UMD was first on offense at 3.68 and second on defense at 2.61.
“Two of the last three weekends we’ve played teams fighting for home ice in the playoffs (North Dakota, Colorado College and St. Cloud State). Those teams raised the level of their play and the level of our play. I think that’s helped us,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We’re in a good position mentally and we need to go out and sacrifice the rest of the way — block shots, play defense and do the things that win games.
“Mankato will come here and make us fight for every inch for 60 minutes, or longer, each game.”
Senior Austin Lee and junior Phil Cook have split the last four games in goal for Mankato, and Jutting says he is unsure of Friday’s starter.