Great stuff once again, so I'm pushing this into the center column! - Dirk
Hello once again On The Forecheck readers. In my ongoing quest to give NHL fanbases updates on the many Gophers draftees, here is another weekly update on Nashville Predators prospect Zach Budish.
Minnesota opened WCHA play this weekend with two 5-4 victories against the defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Friday's game was an overtime thriller which featured a late comeback by the Gopher hockey team after Duluth with two minutes left. Saturday's game ended up being a sloppy affair where Minnesota's power play shined and their defense withstood a late Bulldog charge. Zach's weekend took an interesting turn with one game ending with him in the press box and being held scoreless both games.
More after the jump.
Once again, Budish played on the Gophers' top line with Florida Panthers prospects Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau. Unlike last weekend the three didn't show the same chemistry as passes were off the mark and the line only scored one even strength goal this weekend. It's hard to pinpoint where exactly things went wrong but the number of penalties the Gophers and Bulldogs had both games hurt the flow of most Minnesota even strength lines.
Friday ended up being a short night for Zach as he was ejected 6:39 into the second period on a questionable checking from behind penalty. Like the NHL, college hockey features a five minute major + game misconduct call for checking from behind but it gets used more often in college. I thought Budish should have been a two-minute minor for boarding as the Minnesota Duluth player's numbers weren't fully visible but at the least the referees were consistent as they called a Bulldog player (Luke McManus) on the same thing a minute later.
Saturday was (obviously) better. While the first line had their issues and the team only put up 16 shots on goal, Budish did plenty of little things which didn't end up on the score sheet. Minnesota had issues getting the puck out of their own end for most of the game (five of their six defensemen are underclassmen and Duluth, in the best spirit of this blog, has one of the best forechecks in the nation) and there were periods where Zach would be the one bringing the puck out of the defensive zone.
Another positive was Budish's play with the man advantage. Budish is separated from his linemates on the power play as head coach Don Lucia is trying to split the size and speed across two lines. The second power play unit, which features the 6'3", 214 lb Budish and 6'3", 210 lb freshman Seth Ambroz (CBJ), was successful this weekend in using their bodies to screen Bulldogs goalie Kenny Reiter and crash the net for other opportunities. One such screen Saturday night resulted in Nate Condon scoring on a wrister which Reiter was unable to see until it was too late. That played a big role in Minnesota's sweep as the Gophers went 6 for 9 on the power play this weekend.
In the end, it was a mixed result for Zach Budish this weekend. The lack of any tangible offense and getting a game misconduct are disappointing but his defensive play and power play prowess were good to see. Despite sweeping Minnesota Duluth on the road for the first time since 2000, the Gopher hockey team is still a work in progress. One of the things I'd like to see next weekend at home against the University of Vermont is better play and chemistry between Budish and his linemates. If not, he might be better off playing with another speedster in Erik Haula (MIN).
If anyone has any questions which weren't answered, I'll be happy to answer them on here or Twitter. Until then...