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Overtime had not been kind to the Minnesota Wild. After beating Los Angeles 5–4 last Feb. 27, they didn’t win another in the regular season. (St. Louis beat them twice in overtime during the playoffs, but that’s an apples-to-oranges comparison since the post-season is not the same format.)
It didn’t get better as we switched to 2017–18. They lost in a shootout to Carolina on Oct. 7, then allowed the winner 47 seconds into OT one week later against Columbus. On Nov. 20, the Wild again failed to get through the first shift, allowing a New Jersey goal 52 seconds after three-on-three began.
Enough was enough. In those games, Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter were on the ice to start overtime. Jason Zucker was with them for the first two, Mikael Granlund the other.
Four nights after the loss to the Devils, they made a switch. A game against Colorado ended 2–2 in regulation. Out came Koivu — with Jonas Brodin and Mathew Dumba. The Wild dominated overtime, getting all six shots. They didn’t score, but won in the shootout.
On Dec. 2, the two defenders were joined by Charlie Coyle. Dumba beat St. Louis 39 seconds in.
“Quite frankly, we went to the analytics department and they gave us results of other stuff,” head coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters. “This is why we changed it, so kudos to them.”
Asked what other stuff he was talking about, Boudreau replied, “Speed, pairings. Stuff like that.”
Minnesota added two more overtime wins before momentum slowed. (They have three losses and two shootout victories since.) But Boudreau’s quote was interesting, as the Wild have a unique analytics department. Their manager of hockey administration, Ben Resnick, has been there six years. In January 2016, the organization added to his staff, hiring Alexandra Mandrycky and Scarborough, Ont.’s Andrew Thomas.
Mandrycky, from Atlanta, admits she came to hockey “later in life. My dad (Paul) said he was a Flyers fan, but never really passed that on.”
She played basketball, soccer and rowed crew. (She still does, as her husband is taking his PhD at the University of Washington, which has an excellent rowing program.)
She was a student at Georgia Tech University in 2010 when some friends invited her to a Thrashers game.
“It was against Buffalo, and I’m pretty sure the Thrashers lost,” she said Monday.
But the hockey bug bit her. Like any curious person, Mandrycky searched to learn more.
“I wanted to do statistical analysis that was more than class content. [It started with] quietly reading everything. In early 2015, (the hockey website) war-on-ice put out a call for help. It was a great way to connect and I sent them a note.”
Mandrycky followed her passion while working a typical nine-to-five data-analytics job. And a curious NHL was watching her …read more