Archive for the 'WCHA Live Blogging' Category

Talking Title: Minnesota and UMD are WCHA’s Last Men Standing

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

*NOTE: Eric Stromgren and I will be live blogging events from Minneapolis and St. Cloud all weekend long, with him at the National Hockey Center and I at Mariucci Arena. Two arenas, two writers, one blog — join us tomorrow and let’s talk some hockey. Click here to find the chat, which should get underway at 6:30 p.m. CST. There will also be a link on CHN’s main page.

** SECONDARY NOTE: I will be on AM 1500 ESPN Twin Cities for a segment tomorrow, talking Gopher hockey. If you’re not local and wish to listen anyway, you can listen online here. “This Week In Golden Gopher Athletics” starts at 8 a.m CST, and I will be on around 8:50. 

Heading into the season’s final weekend, only Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth have a shot at taking home the MacNaughton Cup. The Gophers lead the Bulldogs by two points, and also have the added edge of playing at home this weekend. UMD plays at St. Cloud. In order to take the MacNaughton outright, and the top-seed in the playoffs, the Bulldogs will need to net three points on Minnesota, as the Gophers’ sweep of Duluth back in October assured them of the tiebreaker.

Should both teams finished tied, both will get a chance to dance with the Cup as they will be considered co-champs.


WCHA All-Tournament Team

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

F – Tom May, Denver

F – T.J. Oshie, UND

F – Mike Hoeffel, Minnesota

D – Taylor Chorney, UND

D – Chris Butler, Denver

G – Peter Mannino, Denver

MVP – Alex Kangas, Minnesota

WCHA Championship: UM(1) v. DU(2)

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

1st Period Notes

Puck just dropped. This place is dead – you’d think there’d be more people considering it’s being played in St. Paul, Minn., and UM’s in it.

Here’s how I know UM is rolling – goaltender Alex Kangas trips on his own stick, is sprawled back on the ice, and he still makes the save. I think the puck looks like a beachball to the kid right now, it’s unreal. Still scoreless at 13:30.

UM kills off a 5-on-3, but not without DU clanging one off the inside of the post. The stars have aligned for this team. Still scoreless at 8:42.

UM thinks its UND – all its players are scrumming. Still scoreless at 2:21.

Period ends scoreless. Most interestingly, the game is becoming increasingly physical and the agressor is by in large UM. Let’s see if this is just a 1st period trend or if it will be game long.

2nd Period Notes

You may as well put UM’s Alex Kangas’ legs on his head, because that’s what he’s been standing on all weekend. Still scoreless at 15:14.

Goal – UM at 5:39 scored by Ryan Flynn. An amazing display of hand-eye-coordination by Flynn as he tipped a shot from the point that was nearly at his chest. The play was briefly under review to see if Flynn’s stick was above the crossbar – it wasn’t and UM now takes a 1-0 lead.

I don’t care what the coaches and players say, UM having a home crowd is a factor. No doubt about it.

Goal – DU at 9:50 by Tyler Bozek. Pretty bad bounce for UM as the goal derived from a corner centering feed by Bozek which hit the skate of UM defenseman Cade Fairchild and then veered into the net past UM’s Alex Kangas. The way Kangas has played, this sort of flukiness is about the only way he’s going to get scored on. 1-1 now at 10:15.

Game still tied 1-1 at 2:30. Teams are exchanging chances, it’s fun hockey to watch.

Goal – DU at 19:35 by Tom May. May gets lost behind the defense, gets a good pass and makes the most of it. He beats UM’s Kangas through the legs to put DU up 2-1 right before the second intermission. Let’s see how UM responds, either immediately or in the 3rd period.

Period over, UM’s comeback will have to wait until at least then.

3rd Period Notes

Refs beware – Mankato coach Troy Jutting just found out his team is all but out of the NCAA tournament and he’s fuming. I just overheard him venting to UND’s T.J. Oshie’s father, who, for no apparent reason, has press credentials.

Oh yeah, the game just started, 2-1 DU at 19:32.

Refs just missed an accidental – but blatant – high stick by DU. UM’s coach Don Lucia isn’t happy. That makes for two pissed WCHA coaches; where’s Dave Hakstol to round out the trio?

Some lady just won free tickets to next year’s Final Five and $250 bucks for her dance moves. Crazy.

Game still 2-1 DU at 11:47.

UM to go on the powerplay at 10:12; the call gets the crowd back into the game and offers UM a chance at finding a way back into this game. Let’s see if they capitalize.

They don’t.

2-1 DU at 2:30. A couple of calls that could have been made (subjective) by ref Todd Anderson. Needless to say (so why am I saying it?), UM fans aren’t pleased. This 3rd period has been marred with anger.

UM pulls its goalie at 18:37, 6-on-5 the rest of the way out.

DU wins 2-1. Great game all around.

WCHA Consolation Game: UND(4) v. CC(2)

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

1st Period Notes

I am no bracket expert, but with CC losing last night, here is my limited knowledge on the subject (thanks to Brad Schlossman from the Grand Forks Herald):  the winner of this game will receive a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Further, they will be the third ranked #1 seed, meaning they will be ahead of the University of New Hampshire, who until last night’s 20 OT loss to Boston College, were a lock for this third #1 seed. With the loss, they get bumped into the fourth #1 seed. Now according to my editor Adam Wodon (the self-professed bracket guru), here are the scenarios if UND wins:  1) They go to Worcestor (somewhere out East) and play as the third #1 seed – this if the committee decides stricly on a rankings basis; or 2) They go to Colorado Springs, still playing as the third #1 seed, where they would have to face CC as a #2 seed – this is if the committee decides strictly on a proximity basis (I am skeptical of this, however, because the committee always preaches its distaste of pitting conference foes against one another when possible). On the flipside, if CC wins, here is the scenario:  1) They go to Colorado Springs as the third #1 seed, who they play is too complicated for me to decipher, sorry.

Basically, what I am saying is that although this is a third place game, it has tremendous implications for seeding in the NCAA tournament. I probably should have just said that to begin with instead of my pseduo bracket analysis, but whatever.

In the words of Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar:  “GAME ON!”

First two observations of the game:  1) UND is still sporting mustaches, which is excellent. They flashed UND’s Taylor Chorney’s mug on the jumbotron and it was beautiful; and 2) CC is fast – real fast. CC’s Billy Sweatt just blew past UND’s Joe Finley (surprise) and had a decent scoring chance on UND’s J.P. Lamoureux. Sweatt was doing similar things last night against UM. Let’s see if CC’s team speed turns out to be a difference maker in the contest.

Goal – CC’s Chad Rau at 7:56. Bad pinch by a UND defenseman left Rau open in the neutral zone for a long pass. Rau, being the goalscorer that he is, beat UND’s J.P. Lamoureux with a nifty move. As good as his numbers are, one thing Lamoureux struggles with are breakaways – I think I have seen him stop far less than he has let in this year. In his defense, the puck has had to have gotten beyond five other guys before him, but still, you would like to see a bit higher breakaway save percentage.

Seconds after the goal, CC called for a penalty – let’s see if UND has an answer. No answer.

The boards here at the X are some of the bounciest I have ever seen. Seconds ago, CC almost capitalized on a big bounce just like UM did in their Thursday night game against SCSU.

Goal – UND at 19:21 by T.J. Oshie, on the powerplay. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. After a flurry of a powerplay, in which CC’s Richard Bachman faced a myraid of UND shots, Oshie stuffs in a rebound goal at the very end of the powerplay. UND fans back into the game. It’s funny how scoring is, because the goal was probably the ugliest scenario given the many well created chances UND had while on the powerplay. I’m sure they don’t care, though, as they all count for the same.

End of period, tie game. Has to be a huge victory for UND to go into intermission in a tie instead of behind.

2nd Period Notes

CC player just called for knocking the net off amidst a lengthy surge in pressure by UND. Good call by ref Don Adam (yes, I see the irony). With UND’s momentum, I’m calling a powerplay goal – we’ll see if I’m right or not.

I’m good.

Goal – UND at 5:01 on the powerplay by Chris Vande Velde. Great display of hand-eye coordination by Vande Velde as he tipped a laser one-timer by Taylor Chorney from the point. CC’s Bachman had no chance (sound familiar?). UND has definately taken over this period’s momentum. Assists given to Chorney and Oshie – it seems to me that Oshie is playing with a sense of urgency, as he was somewhat marginalized yesterday by DU. Who knows, though.

Leave it to UND’s J.P. Lamoureux to prove me wrong – he just made an amazing stick-poke save on a CC breakaway. Penalty also called on the play, CC will be on the powerplay after this stupid “Dance-Mania” crap that fan’s for some reason go bananas for.

Goal – UND at 10:27 on the powerplay by Chay Genoway. Looked a lot like the goal that DU scored to beat UND, except Genoway didn’t roof CC’s Bachman, instead he slipped it between his legs. Directly off the faceoff, Genoway picked up the puck and simply went coast-to-coast. He pulled a CC’s Chad Rau and took the CC defenseman wide before beating him and eventually Bachman. With the powerplay goal, UND is now 3-for-4 today on the powerplay. CC, here’s a hint:  Stop breaking the law.

I wish somebody at CC had the heart to tell head coach Scotty Owens that the Cosmo Kramer isn’t a hairstyle anymore.

Goal – CC at 16:36 on the powerplay by Jimmy Kilpatrick. Shot came from the point, UND’s J.P. Lamoureux faced up and saved it, but the rebound popped out directly onto the stick of Kilpatrick. On the doorstep, Kilpatrick directed the puck into an open net. Today, the storyline that is emerging seems to be special teams, as four of the five goals have been scored on the powerplay.

Period ends, shots UND = 30 and CC = 21.

3rd Period Notes

Goal – UND at about 10:00 by Darcy Zajac. Sorry for the delay, my computer is jacked up right now. Zajac goes on a 2-on-1, looks off CC’s Bachman and then beats him short side. Good accuracy by Zajac.

Big save by UND’s J.P. Lamoureux. Very nice glove.

4-2 UND at 5:21 left in the game. Look for CC’s Bachman to leave the net soon circa former UND coach Dean Blais in the 2001 national championship game, in which his team came back from two goals (with a pulled goalie, mind you) in the final four minutes only to lose in overtime to Boston College.

Bachman’s out with 1:38 left. Timeout taken by CC. Let’s see if Owens can pull a rabbit out of his hat.

Game over, 4-2 the final. UND is a #1 seed in the NCAAs.

WCHA Semifinal Night Game: UM(2) v. CC(1) OT

Friday, March 21st, 2008

1st Period Notes

Could be me making mountains out of molehills, but the ref tonight isn’t Darren Shepard (who I thought by contract reffed every Gopher game), rather it’s Don Adam. Whether this means that Shepard is actually hurt as it appeared last night or whether he needed “to spend time with his family,” I don’t know, the only thing I do know is that Shepard is a scratch this evening. On a less important note, the game is tied and UM is controlling the pace early on.

Big breakaway save by CC goaltender Richard Bachman on UM’s Justin Bostrom. Early on, he’s showing why he’s the WCHA player of the year.

End of a scoreless (scoreless is code for boring) period. Stat of note:  CC shots = 20 while UM shots = 9.

2nd Period Notes

Goal – CC on the powerplay, just :39 seconds into the period off the stick of Andreas Vlassopoulos (say that five times fast). It was reviewed to see if any CC players were in the crease, as it was a pretty wild scrum in front just before the goal, but ultimately – and correctly – ruled a goal. Not much backstory to the goal other than there was about four shots to come at Kangas and the fifth went in. It was good pressure on CC’s part during the powerplay, but it’s not like UM was out of position or anything, they were just a man down, which is apparently what happens when your team is called for a penalty. Post-goal, the X has become eerily quiet.

Goal – UM at 1:54 by Mike Hoeffel. CC turned the puck over in its own zone, UM’s Jay Barriball stole the puck and centered it to Hoeffel, who fired a laser of a one-timer top right corner of the net. CC’s Bachman had no chance, the shot was nearly perfect. This time post-goal, the X became incredibly loud – coincidence? Say what you want about UM during the year, since playoffs began, they are playing with incredible poise, especially considering the minutes they have logged in the past week and a half. Counting its three overtime marathons against Minnesota State Mankato, I think they have played something like 6 or 7 games in as many days.

End of second period. No action to mention, game has lacked intensity.

3rd Period Notes

8:36 left in the game, still 1-1, pretty evenly matched, chances are about equal. Nothing spectacular nor hogwash.

Listening to the UM fans, it reminds me of a line from George Carlin’s standup. It goes something to the effect that all drivers that driver slower than you are idiots and all that drive faster than you are maniacs. In that vein, to UM fans, every time ref Don Adam calls a penalty in the UM’s favor he’s a genius and every time he calls one against UM he’s a moron. Fans are always going to be bias for their teams, but UM fans are like bias times 10.

Under 3 minutes left, still tied. Momentum in UM favor.

Ends in a tie, we’re going to OT.

OT Notes

Little under 5 minutes into OT, both sqauds exchanging decent chances. Right now, the edge has to go to UM with its fans.

Goal – UM at 4:47. Quickly, Mike Hoeffel’s pass from the side tips off a CC stick, then off CC’s Bachman’s shoulder and into the net. Another goal that wasn’t his fault, but a product of driving the net hard by UM. They are playing some very good hockey right now. Very good. Off to interviews.

WCHA Press Conference

Friday, March 21st, 2008

We were just told that the WCHA will be holding a press conference immediately after the conclusion of the UND and DU game. Nobody really knows what it’s going to be about (well, I guess somebody knows or else there wouldn’t be a press conference being held, but that’s another matter).

Will keep you posted as things unfold.

My George Constanza prediction (against every inclination I have – a la Chris Dilks):  they are announcing that former UND coach and current USHL President Gino Gasparini is replacing current WCHA Commisioner Bruce McLeod. After all, they are both from Fort Frances, Ontario.

The real reason is this:  The WCHA announced that it is hosting a midseason “Minneosta College Hockey Showcase,” ie, a Minnesota-only Beanpot. There’s quite a few interesting story lines here, including teams will have to give up home games in order to compete (this year it is Minnesota State Mankato and Minnesota Duluth), scheduling logistics in general, as well as revenue considerations. Will talk more about this in a few.

WCHA Semifinal Day Game: UND(1) v. DU(3)

Friday, March 21st, 2008

1st Period Notes 

Introductions this afternoon dominated by UND fans – very impressive contigency made the trip, which is all the more impressive with the kind of weather that currently plagues the upper Midwest. Wow, it’s loud in here. No matter who you are cheering for, a lively crowd is good for all parties involved. Let’s hope the hockey is up to snuff.

Oshie v. Mannino: first battle goes to Mannino, as he gloved Oshie’s first wrister (also UND’s first shot of game).

Phil Rizzuto “Holy Cow!” Moment of the Period:  Ref Todd Anderson called a penalty. Honorable mention:  UND finds itself amidst a scrum. Why does everybody pick on these guys?

Period ends in a scoreless tie. Here comes my favorite:  THE SMALL FRIES GAME! The music they play is the best part, it’s like half dentist office half your daughter’s xylophone recital. Beautiful.

2nd Period Notes

UND has now failed to capitalize on two 5-on-3 opportunities thus far in the game. Credit DU’s penalty kill, but also credit UND’s lack of T.J. Oshie on the powerplay (he was in the box for an unsportsman). Without Oshie, who is the unit’s primary catalyst, the line lacked firepower. It really felt like everybody kept passing back and forth to eachother, as if it say, “You take the shot, no you take the shot, etc.” One thing’s for sure, capitalizing on 5-on-4 powerplays is important enough come playoff time, doing so on 5-on-3’s should be a given. Let’s see if these successful penalty kills results in any change in momentum.

Yep, sure does. Goal – DU at 5:58 on the powerplay off the stick of Rhett Rakhshani. Take what I said about what UND didn’t do and that’s what Denver did. Good puck movement forced UND’s Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux out of position and Rakhshani lifted one over Lamoureux’s shoulder. The player in the box at the time of the goal was UND’s Joe Finley; bet he regrets taking a stupid stick chop penalty.

Second period comes to an end with a questionable decision by ref Todd Anderson to whistle UND’s Joe Finley for a two minute minor instead of a penalty shot. In all fairness, I’m not sure if the Denver player had separation, but it was close. DU coach George Gwozdecky disagreed, but he has to, that’s his job. Also at period’s end, the good people from FSN put up an interesting stat – this is Denver’s first appearance in the Final Five since 2005. I take that to mean either Denver had bad play-in weekends or it’s a product of the parity of the WCHA, because it wasn’t like Denver had hohum teams in 2006 or 2007. Any team with Peter Mannino in net is never hohum, it’s in the Geneva Convention.

Always a Final Five staple, Michigan Tech’s band deserves to be recognized. Hands down, they are the best band in the WCHA. They just did a rendition of Kansas’ “Carry on Wayward Son” that nearly brought me to tears. I pulled out my lighter. Not to mention they are pretty funny – my favorite was when they counted down the last 10 seconds of 10 minutes remaining in the period and then yelled “HALFTIME!”; classy group, these yuks.

3rd Period Notes

Goal – UND at 6:30 on a rebound by Taylor Chorney. This goal was willed into the net, as DU’s Peter Mannino made about five saves before Chorney beat the puck from his pads and stuffed it into the net. Talk about a crowd revived. With the game now tied with soon to be half a period left, the WCHA has to be pleased with the competitiveness and parity in the two games thus far. It’s always fun watching nail-biter hockey, and both games have been just that.

It’s official:  the momentum has shifted from DU to UND, dramatically.

3 minutes left, the game is coming down to the wire. Expect to see the benches be considerably shortened and look for star players to step up – that means UND’s T.J. Oshie and Denver’s Rhett Rakhshani. Puck just dropped, will keep you posted.

Goal – DU, at 19:40 unassisted by Anthony Maiani. Crazy, crazy play. Moments after withstanding a flurry of shots, DU’s Maiani picks up the puck and takes it end to end. He goes wide on Finley (smart move) and then floats a wickedly placed backhand in the top corner of the net, over a sprawled Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux. It was an amazing solo effort that paid in spades for Maiani and DU. Let’s see if UND can respond.

Game over, DU on to the championship. DU adds an empty netter for good measure. Off to interviews.

WCHA Play-in Game: UM(3) v. SCSU(2)

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

1st Period Notes

Large Gopher contingency at the X making their presence felt during introductions; weird.

Arena appears to be at about 90% capacity. Pretty good for a play-in game.

Goal – UM :35 into game; deflection by Lucia from a soft one-timer from the point. Catches SCSU sleeping. First shot of the game.

SCSU’s first shot hits the crossbar square and out.

Goal – SCSU on the powerplay @7:33, 4 on 3 situation, great give and go from Raboina to Lasch back to Raboina, slides it between Kangas’ five-hole.

Ref Darren Shepard appears to be injured, laymen’s opinion: groin injury. Will be interesting to see what happens if Shepard cannot continue.  

2nd Period Notes 

Goal – UM powerplay 5 on 3 at 4:35, garbage goal. Not much to say about how the goal came about – really just a scramble in front, SCSU’s Jase Weslosky failed to freeze the puck, and UM’s Evan Kaufman was rewarded. Ref Shepard gets the assist. Speaking of Shepard, it’s still pretty obvious that something is wrong. He isn’t usually known for his strong skating, but tonight’s worse than normal. Telltale sign #1: I’ve seen him clutching the boards on more than one occasion. Will keep you posted as story progresses.

UM’s Evan Kaufmann received a 2 minute penalty for “embellishment.” I love it.

Many a signs throughout the X wishing UM’s Tom Pohl the best. Who says college hockey fans don’t have hearts?

Thus far, play of the night goes to some kid playing in the mid-period youth scrimmage. He pull-dragged around a pair of defensemen and then beat the goalie stick side. The defensemen had to pick up their jockstraps from the ice … do 9 year olds wear jockstraps?  

3rd Period Notes 

19,232; a sellout. A record for play-in game. The real number is probably more around 17K and change, but still pretty impressive for a weeknight. 

Goal – SCSU at 15:34; 2 on 1 for St. Cloud on a close offside call (could have gone either way), ref calls the play good and SCSU makes good on its good fortune. Tommy Mosey scores off a great centered feed from Ryan Lasch (all this kid does is score points). Talk about taking the wind out of the sails of the UM fans here at the X. Wowzers, literally seconds after the goal, SCSU called for goaltender interference – this has the makings for a nail biter

12.7 seconds left and the UM strikes gold. Mike Howe scores off a shot from the point that deflects off the back boards and onto his stick. With Weslosky out of position (he had to face up the initial shot), Howe slides the puck into an open net. I can barley hear myself think in here it’s so loud. Timeout SCSU. Goalie pulled, no use, UM wins.