Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Holla For Haula

Erik Haula is a 23 year-old Finn who plays for the Minnesota Wild. The seventh-round pick by the Wild in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, so playing in St. Paul is like playing in front of extended family and friends. Haula was better than a point-per-game player as a Golden Gopher, posting 42 goals and 82 assists in 114 NCAA games. He was called up mid-January of 2014 and has remained as a fixture on head coach Mike Yeo's roster.

Haula is an efficient forward who checks well and can score as seen from his NCAA totals. In his 46 games at the NHL level this season, Haula recorded six goals and nine assists while being used mostly as a checking forward, but 42 goals in the NCAA shows he has hands and a nose for the net. The kid can score when given the opportunity.

Justin Fontaine, like Haula, was a good player for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. He was a pretty decent scorer as well in the collegiate ranks, posting 62 goals and 102 assists in 159 NCAA games. In 66 games with the Wild this season, Fontaine scored 13 goals and added eight assists. Again, he was used mostly in a checking role, but Fontaine has some offensive ability as well.

So what happens when a Bulldog and a Golden Gopher are paired together on a line in an important playoff game that could decide outcome of the series? They score a pretty impressive goal!
That, kids, was one of the better goals of these playoffs. If you notice at the end of the highlight, Haula thanks Fontaine with the helmet bump for the incredible pass. It took skill to corral that pass and chip it past Crawford, but the pass went past both Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival as Haula got away from Patrick Kane for the goal. That, kids, is skill by both the setup man and the goal-scorer.

I'll credit the Wild for this goal more than I'll put the blame on the defensive breakdown by the Blackhawks. It takes skill to throw that pass to where only Haula had a chance to make a play on it, and then it took skill by Haula to get his stick on it to send it to the back of the net. A beauty goal to open the scoring last night for the Wild en route to a 4-0 win, and we have a series in the Central Division once again!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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