Archive for the 'Regular Season' Category

Thoughts on an eventful weekend at Mariucci

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

What a game tonight at Mariucci Arena.

First things first:

The Gophers sweep North Dakota for the first time since December of 2005. It was Don Lucia’s first home sweep of North Dakota as Gophers head coach and Minnesota’s first sweep of the Fighting Sioux at Mariucci since 1996-97.

The win puts the Gophers 10 points ahead of North Dakota in the WCHA standings — still a long ways from the finish line, that 10 points back of a quality team like Minnesota likely means the MacNaughton Cup will be somewhere other than Grand Forks, N.D. come early March.

UND has gained a reputation as a bit of a slow starter during the Dave Hakstol era — but not this slow. This is North Dakota’s worst start in WCHA play in almost four decades, when UND started 1-9 in 1974.

If there was any doubt heading into the weekend about how good Minnesota is, that doubt is now gone. Yeah, North Dakota is down right now. But the Gophers showed a grit and determination Saturday night they haven’t shown in years. Despite heavily outshooting the Sioux through two and a half periods and having been blanked on their previously powerful power play, Minnesota refused to quit — tying the score with a greasy goal by Nick Larson with 6:04 left before scoring another dirty one by Kyle Rau with under a minute left. (more…)

Minnesota vs North Dakota post-game wrap

Friday, November 4th, 2011

A bit of a different look at Friday’s rivalry game between Minnesota and North Dakota.

THE BOTTOM LINE

At the University of Minnesota’s media day Wednesday, Gopher captain Taylor Matson predicted a “bloodbath.”

And while the blood wasn’t necessarily flowing, the Gophers and North Dakota combined for 69 minutes in penalties Friday (29 penalties in all) in a 2-0 Minnesota victory at Mariucci Arena, with much of the action coming in a rough second period.

Seth Ambroz got the festivities started with a five minute major for contact to the head just 30 seconds into the middle frame, although he also checked UND captain Mario Lamoureaux from behind. Minnesota killed the five minute UND power play however, and according to numerous players and coaches after the game, that was the turning point.

Tied 0-0 at the time, the major penalty seemed to stir the emotions a bit, and at 11:47, feelings boiled over as a melee ensued, sending 3 players from each team to the box. North Dakota got the extra 2 minutes though, setting up a Gopher power play. Minnesota took advantage as Nick Bjugstad scored what amounted to the game winner with the extra attacker on.

The Gophers got a separation goal with 8 minutes and change remaining in regulation when Nick Larson’s pass sent Tom Serratore in on Aaron Dell for a breakaway. The sophomore buried his second goal of the season to make it 2-0.

For the night, Minnesota outshot North Dakota 32-24. It was a historic night for Gopher goalie Kent Patterson, as the senior secured his fifth shutout of the season — tying a school record set by Robb Stauber in 1987-88. Just nine games into the year, Patterson may have a couple chances to break that record this season.

Stauber, by the way, won the Hobey Baker Award that season.

AROUND THE LOCKER ROOM

On Patterson tying the shutout record

• “Our team has been doing a great job of letting me see pucks,” Patterson said. “I’m going to have to make a few big saves every once in a while, but guys are back checking through the middle and picking up guys so they aren’t getting those opportunities.”

• “I enjoy each and every day. When I do get a shutout, great, but you have to take the good with the bad.” Patterson said. “I just have to make sure I come to the rink everyday preparing for each game individually, and take my game day by day.”

• “He’s something special, he gives us a chance to win each and every night,” Matson said. “He does all the little things right and everything is going well for him right now.”

On getting the separation goal

• “That was great to see, especially off the face off,” Patterson said. “Tom works hard. He had a huge blocked shot at the beginning of the game. He deserved that goal, he worked his butt off.”

• “We’ve been doing a great job of scoring first this season, but that second goal was huge for us,” Matson said. “Especially off the face off, we’ve been stressing intensity off the face off this season, so it was big to get that goal from our fourth line.”

• “We didn’t have a lot of breakdowns, but that was one of them,” said UND head coach Dave Hakstol. “They took advantage of it.”

On the intensity and atmosphere

• “It was the type of game we expected. It was hard hitting, it was physical, it was blocked shots, it was goaltending. The game was settling in and you knew it was going to be a low scoring game,” said Gophers head coach Don Lucia. ”

• “These games are pretty special to us, there was a lot more hitting, a lot more intensity. The atmosphere was something special to be apart of here tonight,” Matson said.

On killing the UND 5×3 power play in the second period

• “I think the pivotal moment for us was that 5-on-3,” Lucia said. “It was a 0-0 game and we were able to get a little bit of momentum from our [penalty] kill.”

• “It was a huge momentum boost, especially when the crowd gets into it like that,” Patterson said. “It gets our bench going and gave our guys a momentum boost.”

IN OTHER ACTION FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE
Michigan Tech 1, Minnesota State 0
St. Cloud State 7, Wisconsin 2
Nebraska-Omaha 7, Colorado College 5
Denver 3, Minnesota Duluth 3 (OT)
Bemidji State 3, Lake Superior State 2 (OT)

From the Creator of ‘Bad Idea Jeans’

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

If you don’t know what the headline references, click here and make sure your speakers are on.

Someone in the Minnesota Legislature has a bad idea, and it could affect all college sports, including hockey (primarily women’s).

Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, and Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, introduced legislation on March 2 that would ban state money from being used directly or indirectly for an athlete who is not a citizen of the United States.

“We just feel that if we’re going to give state using taxpayers money that we want the opportunity for students in the United States first,” said Dettmer.

Shouldn’t scholarships be awarded based on merit and not residency? After all, no one is stopping United States citizens from applying to attend any university they want, and no one is stopping them from getting all the financial aid they would need.

University of Minnesota system schools do not use state money to fund athletic scholarships. If this bill is passed, it would have more of an effect on St. Cloud State and Minnesota State. SCSU athletic director Morris Kurtz pretty much nailed the counterpoint to this bill.

“They are wonderful additions,” Kurtz said. “We welcome them, their backgrounds, their cultures and their differences, and we learn from them. So it would certainly disappointing not only from a student athlete standpoint, but just from a student point.”

It would also be disappointing from a fan standpoint. Paying customers generally don’t care where the players on their favorite college team hail from. It doesn’t matter if St. Cloud State’s star forward went to high school in St. Cloud, Duluth, Roseau, Madison, Boston, Los Angeles, or Helsinki. They just want to see their team win, and they want their university to be represented well.

It’s not surprising that these lawmakers hail from Gopher Country. Like the men’s team, the Gopher women’s team recruits primarily in Minnesota. Because the pool of talented high school girls hockey players in the state isn’t quite as deep as the boys yet, it’s necessary for all the Division I schools in the state to recruit outside the border. Minnesota-Duluth has been highly successful bringing in European players, and they have four NCAA championships to show for their global recruiting. That would be double Minnesota’s total titles.

I guess, if you can’t beat them, take away their players.

Holiday Tournaments Round 1

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

This week is the first of two weeks for the holiday tournaments in college hockey. Five holiday tournaments will happen this week, with three of them starting today.

Let’s take a closer look at the three tournaments, beginning with the first one the Great Lakes Invitational, that starts in a few hours.

GLI:

The Teams: Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, North Dakota.

The games today: Michigan vs. Michigan Tech (3:05 ET), Michigan State vs. North Dakota (6:35 ET)

Outlook: Both Michigan and North Dakota are red hot. Michigan’s last loss came against Wisconsin on November 29. That same day North Dakota’s last loss happened against Cornell. These are unquestionably the two strongest teams in the field. Michigan State is on one of its worst losing skids in recent memory, while Michigan Tech is coming off a sweep of Northern Michigan. Expect a Michigan-North Dakota final, which could mean a lot of implications in March.

The Badger Classic:

The Teams: Wisconsin, Lake Superior, Harvard, Alabama-Huntsville

Games Today: Lake Superior vs. Harvard (4:07 CT), Wisconsin vs. Alabama-Huntsville (7:07 ET)

Outlook: Since their 0-6-1 start, the Wisconsin Badgers have been red hot, going 9-1-1 in the last two months. Wisconsin should take this. The Harvard vs. Lake Superior game should be interesting as both teams are looking for answers.

Florida College Classic:

The Teams: Colgate, Cornell, Maine, St. Cloud State

Games Today: Colgate vs. Maine (4:05 ET), St. Cloud State vs. Cornell (7:35 ET)

Outlook: This is the most interesting tournament this week. Maine has surpassed expectations up to this point, Colgate will look to gain some momentum as well as St. Cloud State, and Cornell is doing quite well also. Cornell and St. Cloud State should be a great first round game as the matchup features a great offensive attack in St. Cloud State and a potent defensive scheme with Cornell. The Sunshine State could be seeing great hockey after all this weekend.

Other Tournaments:

Ledyard Bank Tournament (Dartmouth, Bemidji State, Army, Massachusetts)

UConn Holiday Classic (Connecticut, Air Force, Quinnipiac, Merrimack)

Tournament Final Predictions:

GLI: North Dakota over Michigan

The Badger Classic: Wisconsin over Harvard

Florida College Classic: Cornell over Maine

UConn Holiday Classic: Air Force over Quinnipiac

Ledyard Bank Invitational: Massachusetts over Dartmouth

Don Lucia’s Wrong on This One

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Yes, I have broadcasted 128 Minnesota-Duluth men’s hockey games.

Yes, I am continuing to support the program as a season-ticket holder.

Yes, I despise the Minnesota Gophers with every fiber of my being.

However, I am not an idiot. My respect for Don Lucia’s work as a college hockey coach is as high as it gets. Evidence can be found here and here.

The fact that he is a great coach and a wonderful ambassador for the sport doesn’t change the fact that he is capable of being dead wrong.

Evidence of that can be found here.

“I have never discouraged or encouraged [playing football], but that may change now in light of what happened to Zach (Budish, Gopher hockey recruit who suffered a torn ACL playing football) and what happened to Garrett, too,” said Lucia, who also watched recruit Garrett Smaagaard of Eden Prairie miss his senior year of hockey after tearing his ACL in the 2000 Prep Bowl.

Budish’s injury and Lucia’s stance underscore a growing conflict between the two sports. Overlapping schedules, competition for varsity spots and the growing trend of specialization have the relationship between football and hockey, as Hill-Murray activities director and hockey coach Bill Lechner said, “at an uncertain point.”

Kim Nelson of Edina and Vince Conway of Hill-Murray, who coach football at schools where hockey is king, worry that Budish’s injury might make hockey players — particularly elite-level players — reconsider playing football.

Their concerns have merit. Just weeks after Budish’s injury, Lucia received a verbal commitment from an athlete who played both football and hockey.

“We had a talk,” Lucia said. “I said, ‘It’s time to be a hockey player, not a football player.’ He agreed and he’s not going to play football next year.”

I’m all for coaches advising their recruits. I’m not all for coaches telling their recruits not to play football. High school is a time for enjoyment, a time for hanging out with friends, and a not a time to be specializing in one sport over anything else.

To me, coaches who try to steer their recruits to a single sport are afraid. They’re afraid that the kid will start to like a different sport and want to play that instead.

Such fears didn’t overcome anyone in the Minnesota-Duluth program after Matt Niskanen committed there in 2004. Niskanen was a three-sport athlete in high school, playing hockey for the co-op Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl program, and playing football and baseball for Mountain Iron-Buhl. He continued to play football and baseball in his senior year, and was a top-notch player in all three sports.

Listen, I’m not trying to hold up Niskanen as some sort of evidence to a greater rule. And I’m not trying to make Scott Sandelin out to be automatically smarter or a better coach than Lucia because he didn’t try to keep Niskanen from playing those sports in his senior year.

But if you ask Niskanen, and I have, the fact that he played all three sports made him a better hockey player and a better person. And you can’t argue with the outcome in either realm. Not only is he one of the better young defensemen in the NHL, but he’s also one of the nicest people you could ever meet, and he truly hasn’t forgotten his roots.

And Lucia is not alone. Around the country, there are coaches trying to dissuade their kids from playing other sports as they grow older. For every Don Lucia, there is a college football coach practically begging his recruits to stop playing hockey or basketball or baseball. And there are high school coaches who go so far as to demand their star players not play any other sport.

These things happen. And they need to stop.

We can’t be in such a hurry to get kids through the developmental stages of sports that we don’t allow them to be kids. Yes, there will be kids like Aaron Ness, a Gophers freshman defenseman who accelerated his high-school education so he could graduate and join the Minnesota program as quickly as possible. But Ness didn’t do that because Lucia told him to. He did it because he wanted to.

And that’s how this should be done. Not with pressure, threats, or even subtle requests from college coaches. If a high-school kid wants to play three sports and star in all three, that should be his decision and no one else’s.

Yes, there is risk.

But there’s also risk in letting that same kid drive to school every day. You don’t see coaches banning their players from driving, do you?

Silly? Absolutely. So is a hockey coach worrying about a potential star recruit getting hurt while playing football, or any other sport.

Why Polls Don’t Matter and Shouldn’t

Monday, December 8th, 2008

I’ve always been pleased as punch with the fact that the NCAA doesn’t incorporate polls into the selection process for the NCAA Hockey Tournament.

Of course, it means that the polls are nothing but discussion fodder. But that’s a good thing. Polls should never be more than that. The opinions of human beings should mean nothing when you’re determining who the best hockey teams are. Same goes for football, basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball, bowling, and any other sport.

We have tournaments and postseasons so we can decide these types of important things on the field of play.

This week, college hockey pollsters are faced with an interesting, difficult, and nearly-impossible dynamic when it comes to WCHA teams (and others, mind you, but I’m going to focus for a moment on the WCHA).

Minnesota State is now 8-5-3. They have impressive wins over Colorado College and North Dakota, but lost twice over the weekend to St. Cloud State, and they also have a loss and a tie against Minnesota.

St. Cloud State sits at 10-6, just swept MSU, but has lost twice to Minnesota-Duluth by matching 5-1 scores.

UMD is unbeaten in their last five. The Bulldogs, now 7-4-5 on the season, chased Colorado College star goalie Richard Bachman with a five-goal second period explosion Saturday. The 7-4 win follows a three-point weekend against North Dakota and a second four-goal win over St. Cloud State.

Who gets ranked where?

Thankfully, it doesn’t really matter. These three teams settle their differences and decide their rankings with their play on the ice. In January, various sites will start to publish their guesses on what the PWR looks like. CHN has already started publishing the KRACH ratings (waiting until everyone has lost one game).

The only day the PWR matters is on Selection Sunday, but it’s always interesting to watch the ebb and flow over the course of the season’s second half. While there are always quirks with logic involved, they aren’t nearly as bad as the quirks with logic that are involved in the polls.

Of course, it’s always easier to except the quirks when you realize the polls don’t matter one lick. It’s nothing but blog and message board fodder to keep us interested until another full slate of games on Friday night.

PUCK Rankings

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

CHN Blog “PUCK” Rankings
January 16th, 2006

Rank Team Record Last Week
1 Minnesota 20-2-3 1
2 New Hampshire 17-3-1 2
3 Notre Dame 19-4-1 5
4 St. Cloud State 14-4-4 4
5 Maine 14-5-2 3
6 Denver 17-7-2 8
7 Clarkson 13-5-3 7
8 Boston College 12-6-1 11
9 Michigan State 14-8-1 10
10 Boston University 10-4-6 12
11 Miami 17-8-1 6
12 Colorado College 14-9-1 9
13 Michigan 15-9-5 12
14 Vermont 12-8-2 16
15 Cornell 9-6-2 15
16 North Dakota 11-11-2 NR

Bumped: Bemidji State

PUCK RANKINGS

Monday, January 8th, 2007

CHN Blog “PUCK” Rankings
January 8th, 2006

Rank Team Record Last Week
1 Minnesota 19-1-3 1
2 New Hampshire 16-3-1 2
3 Maine 14-3-2 4
4 St. Cloud State 14-3-3 5
5 Notre Dame 17-4-1 3
6 Miami 16-7-1 6
7 Clarkson 13-5-1 13
8 Denver 15-7-2 8
9 Colorado College 13-8-1 9
10 Michigan State 12-8-1 15
11 Boston College 10-6-1 7
12 Michigan 13-8-0 11
13 Boston University 8-4-6 12
14 Bemidji State University 12-5-3 NR
15 Cornell 9-5-1 15
16 Vermont 11-8-1 10

Bumped: University of Massachusettes – Amherst

PUCK Rankings for December 4th, 2006

Monday, December 4th, 2006

No movement in the top four of this week’s PUCK Rankings although Minnesota came dangerously close to seeing their 14 game unbeaten streak end on Friday. Denver takes a beating after being swept by archrival Colorado College dropping seven spots to #15. St. Cloud continues to impress rising up to the #6 position after sweeping a strong Michigan Tech squad, making it six in a row. Aside from that, not a lot of movement except at the bottom, where Clarkson, Cornell and UMass all return to the rankings after picking up points, along with Yale, Michigan State and Michigan Tech not being able to make it through the weekend unscathed.

CHN Blog “PUCK” Rankings
December 4th, 2006

Rank Team Record Last Week
1 Minnesota 13-1-3 1
2 New Hampshire 11-2-1 2
3 Maine 9-3-1 3
4 Notre Dame 12-3-1 4
5 Miami 13-5-0 6
6 St. Cloud State 8-3-3 8
7 Boston College 8-4-1 9
8 Michigan 12-5-0 5
9 Colorado College 10-5-1 13
10 North Dakota 7-6-1 11
11 Vermont 9-5-1 12
12 Boston University 5-3-5 10
13 Cornell 8-3-1 NR
14 University of Massachusetts-Amherst 7-3-2 NR
15 Denver 9-6-1 7
16 Clarkson 10-5-1 NR

Bumped: Michigan State, Michigan Tech, Yale

BC / BU Postponed due to fog?!

Friday, December 1st, 2006

mk2.jpgYep. You heard right. They called the Boston College / Boston University game due to fog after about nine minutes of play at Conte Forum this evening. The combination of the temperature being near 70 degrees in Boston ahead of the big storm, the air saturated with moisture, and the A/C failing being non-existent at Conte, it didn’t take long for rink to fill with fog once the players hit the ice. No word yet on rescheduling this one and if it’ll start from scratch or midway through the game. No the picture is not from the game, but you could understand why you might not want to play in the fog.