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February 4, 2014 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Crandall Having Senior Moment

by Nicole Brodzik/CHN Reporter

DULUTH, Minn. — It’s been a battle for the starting position over the past four seasons for Minnesota-Duluth’s Aaron Crandall.

But now in his final semester of his fifth year with the Bulldogs, Crandall has become UMD’s bonafide starter between the pipes.

The first half of the 2013-14 season, he and sophomore Matt McNeely shared time in net, boasting similar numbers and records — 3-5-0 and 2-3-1, respectively. The team struggled with chemistry issues early, as was expected due to a large majority of players being first- or second-year Bulldogs, and held a 6-8-1 record through the first game of a series between UMD and Western Michigan.

That was the last game UMD coach Scott Sandelin put Matt McNeely in goal. After letting up a few quick goals in that first game against Western, Crandall took over for McNeely, but couldn’t bring his team out of the hole. The next night, however, Crandall started the game and lead his team to a 4-3 win. And he’s been nearly lights out ever since.

“It feels awesome,” Crandall said. “It’s crunch time now, you kind of realize there’s only one semester left and you really want to have no regrets and take advantage of every opportunity. It feels good, it feels awesome getting in the win column too.”

Since that time, the Crandall-backed Bulldogs have gone 7-1-2 in their past 8 games, most notably a game that ended in a tie against the No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers in last week’s North Star College Cup championship game.

“You’re happy for him,” Sandelin said. “You need someone to emerge and right now. Right now he’s seeing the puck well and our guys certainly have confidence in him. He’s having fun right now, I think you can see that.”

With the departure of former Bulldog goalie Kenny Reiter, Crandall seemed to have paid his dues enough to take over the starting position between the UMD pipes. But a lackluster performance meant then-freshman McNeely would see big minutes and split the year.

Crandall viewed his season to be an underachievement of what he knew he was capable of, and was determined to come into the 2013-14 season a changed netminder — which started with changing his number. From last season’s 31 to now just 1, Crandall’s new number reflects the position he’s earned for himself this year.

“I wasn’t really happy with the year I had and we had last year, it’s kind of superstition,” Crandall said. “Any athlete will tell you change it up. And it was the first number I wore as a goalie so I figured why not go back to it?”

And back to the basics has certainly worked his favor and the favor of his club in the second half of the season with just a single loss so far. That includes another weekend against Western Michigan, which the Bulldogs swept at the unfriendly confines of Lawson Arena.

The Bulldogs are currently in position to make the NCAAs. They'll need to Crandall to continue to play well, to make that the icing on the cake to a strong senior season.

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