Minnesota-Duluth Will Lean Heavily on Top Line for Scoring
by Nicole Brodzik/CHN Reporter
Over 200 days separated last season’s WCHA playoff first-round departure and Minnesota-Duluth’s season opener this past weekend. And while a lot has changed for UMD in that span – a new conference, new jerseys, plenty of new faces – the expectations for Bulldogs’ top line have stayed the same.
Tony Cameranesi, Austin Farley and Joe Basaraba spent a lot of time together on the Bulldogs’ first line at the end of last season and will be expected to pick up where they left off as the new season kicks off.
“We’ve had those guys together so far,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. “They had some chemistry last year, so I think it’s a good way to start.
“I like having that chemistry early, and those guys did some good things together. So we’ll see if they can start the year doing the same thing.”
Of the Bulldogs' three goals in its first two games, a win and a tie against Michigan Tech, the top line had two of them — one each from Basaraba and Cameranesi.
The trio posted a combined 40 goals and 85 points for UMD last year, all while Cameranesi and Farley were only freshman. They now enter their sophomore seasons as the leading returning scorers after finishing second and third behind Mike Siedel, who has since graduated. Basaraba’s size and shooting ability make him a great full time complement to the line this year with Siedel’s departure.
“We started playing with Basaraba at the end of the year, and just want to kind of pick up where we left off,” Farley said. “As a team, we didn’t go as far as we would’ve liked to, so this year we definitely want to turn things around.”
And Sandelin’s top line – poised to be one of the most prolific in the new NCHC conference – will be expected to help get the Bulldogs headed in the right direction. The three forwards all have a different style of play, but complement each other in a way that has made them stand outs on the ice.
Sandelin describes as Cameranesi as a “speedster” and Farley as a finesse player, while Joe Basaraba, who checks in at 6-foot-3, has become the club’s bona fide power forward. Cameranesi had a great start to his freshman campaign a year ago before slowing down in the second half – just as Farley was heating up for his impressive end to the season. While the club will look for more consistency from both sophomores, and likely more production from Basaraba, there is a tremendous upside from a group that gelled so well in their time together so far.
“[Basaraba’s] got a fast release and a really good shot, so that works well with me and Tony doing our thing down low in the corners and having Basaraba out in the open where he can get a good shot off,” Farley said. “We’re working hard right now, trying to get back to where we were last year as a line, and hopefully we can do what we need to for the team to help get the wins.”
The chemistry between these three is something their coach sees as a building point for the team, but with the grinding season ahead of them, Sandelin knows he’s going to have to get production from other sources as well.
“I think we’ve got a little bit more depth, [and] it’s not just going to be that one line,” he said. “Last year we weren’t as deep that way, so having more guys will take some of the burden off that line to have to do something big every night.”
And with a schedule packed with big name opponents for both conference and non-conference match ups, the team is focused on having a good start and fighting every night for a top spot in the NCHC standings.
“This conference is going to be really, really deep,” said Farley. “I think it’s going to be hard to win every night. We are a young team, but we have a lot of talent up front and back at D, and it helps bringing back all our goaltenders from last year. I think in this conference, every night it’s any teams game.”
The Bulldogs – who had enjoyed four consecutive 20-plus win seasons, including the 2011 national championship, prior to last season’s disappointment – open its NCHC schedule on the road with a pair of games October 18-19 at Colorado College.