Thursday, February 28, 2008


I'm now getting conflicting information on Mr. Stafne.

As soon as I get something more concrete, I'll tell you. For now, I'm pulling back the earlier post, something I am not going to do often. But when you have equally reliable people telling you different things (as I now do after last night's hockey game), it's smart to just pull back and take the time to get the information right.

See? I do remember SOME of the things they taught me in college!

Adding to the conflict: The normally rock-solid Chris Heisenberg has Stafne verballing to UMD. Not enough to resolve the conflicts.

You'll know more when I do.

Monday, February 25, 2008


I don't care how much you love hockey, or any other sport. 13 1/2 hours at one facility for one sport is a lot. That was my Saturday.

The most common question I got at the office today was completely unoriginal but totally expected and understandable.

Do you have any voice left?

It was unoriginal because I knew it was coming. I was hearing about it prior to Saturday. I knew I was going to be calling four hockey games on Saturday, and it wasn't really a secret to anyone. And knowing how worked up I can get during games, I had assumed I would lose my voice. I didn't, but I figured I would, and so did everyone else.

It was expected and understandable because, well, what else are you going to say?

Anyway, I had a few quick thoughts on games as I had time to type. But not only do I have time to type now, but I've had time to reflect on a whirlwind day.

Cloquet/Esko/Carlton vs Duluth East

When CEC got four in the second, I really thought it was over. Duluth East's top line of Jacob Boese, Max Tardy, and the vastly underrated Rob Johnson had done very little, thanks in large part to Cloquet's ability to pressure East's defensemen and slow down their breakouts. East looked frustrated, and out of sorts in a way. Yeah, Brent Olson got the rebound goal off a great play by Derek Forbort at the end of the second, but then the Lumberjacks got it right back on the delayed penalty goal in the final five seconds. At 4-2, East's goose looked cooked.

But that top line that was struggling through two periods hit another gear in the third. CEC couldn't match it. Johnson got one to cut the lead in half, and then he made a great rush down the left wing to set up Boese's rebound goal to tie the game. That line was responsible for the go-ahead goal, too, as Tardy jammed in a loose puck early in an East power play.

At that point, it was CEC's goose that looked cooked. They gave up three in a row, fell behind 5-4, and looked like they just couldn't slow that top line down. With East up a goal, Cloquet got a break. A turnover led to David Brown's third goal of the game, and the 'Jacks had tied it back up. After a controversial penalty call on East in the final seconds, Brown's fourth goal won it for CEC with :11.7 on the clock.

First off, both teams had calls go against them that led to goals. CEC's Justin Jokinen picked up a bogus interference call that turned into Tardy's power-play goal. The penalty on East's Boese that set up the game-winner was no more or less bogus, only more unfortunate in its timing. If East were searching for a culprit, they should look at two things:

1. The penalty kill. East allowed two power-play goals in two chances. Those power plays lasted 19 and 26 seconds, respectively. That just doesn't fly for me. Good work by CEC on the power play, but Mike Randolph just flat-out needed a bit more out of that penalty kill.

2. The second period. Ouch. Four goals, including a couple that came off sloppy work by East in their defensive zone. It left East with an uphill battle in the third, and while they did get the lead back, it turned out not to be enough in the end.

The other games

Sorry, none of them were nearly as good or as riveting. There was East/Cloquet, and there were the other three. It's a good thing in a way, because three more games like that one would have sent me for throat surgery.

Anoka blew past Grand Rapids 6-0 to earn a shot at Cloquet Thursday night. The Tornadoes controlled from start to finish, severely limiting the Thunderhawks' scoring chances and generating plenty of their own. Rapids had a great run, but this year wasn't meant to be.

The UMD women tossed aside St. Cloud State 5-1 and won the WCHA championship outright. There might be some off-ice issues right about now, but you wouldn't have known it by watching UMD Saturday. They looked focused, intense, and driven. The fact that the road to the NCAA title now goes through the DECC probably helps add to that focus.

For the UMD men, it was a tough night, as they suffered their second straight shutout loss. Richard Bachman of Colorado College was superb, and he deserves all the accolades. However, "two straight shutouts" is the kind of thing that will send fingers pointing right at a team's offense. It's not an offense that was going to score bunches of goals this year, but that's still a bit of a startling occurrence.

It's terribly unfortunate that there are UMD fans out there who are ready to shut down this team's chances. Perhaps UMD was outclassed by CC over the weekend, but the Bulldogs still played hard, outshot the Tigers, and showed at least some mettle by not quitting, unlike some teams who just can't stop the avalanche.

Listen. I'm not going to sugarcoat anything. It stunk. No one likes seeing the home team get swept. But we have to admit a few things.
  • CC is better than anyone we've seen at the DECC this season. They're also more than likely better than North Dakota, though UND's 13-game unbeaten streak has me re-thinking that one a bit.
  • UMD is still a good team. If the season ended now, they'd still make the NCAA Tournament. As much as the more fickle fan may want to poo-poo that as a "one and out" proposition, the guy who wears the big pads and the nicely-decorated helmet is going to have something to say about it. You get in the field of 16, bring a goaltender, and you have a shot at winning four straight.
  • The season isn't over. If the Bulldogs can manage to get some points out of this weekend's series with the Sioux, all will be forgiven. This is Minnesota, after all, and fans can turn faster than the Car of Tomorrow.
  • Let's be honest for a minute. No one who calls themselves a UMD fan would have turned down the chance to make the NCAA Tournament with a strong performance in the final few weeks of the season. The mere suggestion probably would have generated laughter among many of you in September.
Don't throw in the towel, UMD fans. I can promise you the players and coaches aren't.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


2-0 Anoka after two periods. Grand Rapids got some pressure in the second and played better, but they can't solve Anoka goalie J.D. Wells.

Still a period to play, and Grand Rapids gets a power play in the first part of the third, but it's an uphill battle from here.


More to come. Someday, I guess.

Cloquet wins 6-5 on David Brown's FOURTH goal of the game with :12 left. Wow. Unbelieveable. East scored three in a row to take the lead, but Brown tied it for the hat trick, and then won it.


End 2
Cloquet/Esko/Carlton 4
Duluth East 2

CEC - Oscar Carlsson 12 (David Brown), :19 PPG
CEC - Brown 10 (Colton Roy), 9:18
CEC - Brown 11 (Austin Hatch), 11:08
DE - Brent Olson 3 (Derek Forbort), 15:35
CEC - Carlsson 13 (Hatch, Roy), 16:57

Shots on goal
Cloquet/Esko/Carlton 7-10--17
Duluth East 9-12--21

CEC didn't have too many scoring chances, but they turned most of East's mistakes into goals and pretty much outworked the Greyhounds in the second.

It's not over yet, but the Lumberjacks have the upper hand right now, and they're going to sell out to protect goaltender Aaron Baker.


Duluth East 1
Cloquet/Esko/Carlton 0
End 1st

Duluth East - Joe Nelson 8 (Joe Arbour, Nate Anderson), 10:15

Duluth East 9
Cloquet/Esko/Carlton 7

It's going to be a long day.


Good period, except for the hellacious number of whistles. Too many icings and pucks out of play turned it into a choppy period. Thankfully, the only penalty that was called happened at the end of the period.


Pull up a chair. Four games in one day.

And guess who's dumb enough to work them all?

You got it!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Not good.

Got an e-mail from UMD today. I'll let you read it.

The University of Minnesota-Duluth Athletic Department is working cooperatively with the NCAA to resolve a question of eligibility for Iya Gavrilova, a member of the Bulldog women's hockey team. An investigation by UMD and the NCAA is currently underway. UMD cannot comment on current, pending, or potential investigations.

UMD is withholding Ms. Gavrilova from further competition pending the results of the investigation.
Emphasis mine. Err on the side of caution, I always say. This is the right move.

Evidently, this is more serious than I had been previously aware of.

Hopefully, nothing comes of this, because a ruling against UMD on this issue could have serious ramifications, and that would be disastrous when you consider that UMD is hosting the Women's Frozen Four at the DECC next month.

I also hope that the NCAA doesn't drag their feet on this issue. We need an answer soon so all involved parties can move on, no matter the result.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Yes, even more bizarre than the Kyle Okposo saga...

Seems as if Denver forward Brock Trotter has up and disappeared. He's gone. Vanished. No one will say where he is.

(NOTE: I'm not stupid enough to think that people literally don't know where he is. But no one is telling us. It's as if he no longer exists, even though he's on Denver's roster as of this writing.)

Updated reporting here and here.

This is strange for a few reasons...

1. If Trotter quit the team over playing time, why? He was on the power play, and he was getting regular ice time on DU's top line.

2. Did Trotter decide that Division I hockey wasn't good for his development? Rumors are out there that he's trying to hook on in the WHL with the team in Kelowna. This brings to mind the Canadian juniors/American college debate, which is something I'll probably cover in detail some day that is not today. Plus, I'm biased toward college hockey, so it's unfair for me to rip the Canadian system.

But did I miss something? Wasn't Trotter getting better at Denver? There are plenty of hot prospects who have flamed out trying to play college hockey, but I'd never name Brock Trotter as one of them. He looked like he belonged in the game, and he has stepped up this year to become DU's leading scorer. Why leave?

3. No one knows where the hell he is. As I said earlier, if they do know, they're not saying.

Speculation on a case like this can range all the way from "he flunked out of school" to "he got in legal trouble" to "he got sick of college" to "he got sick of his coaches" to "Garth Snow started talking to him". At this point, it would be impossible to eliminate any of those from consideration.

It's simply bizarre. When Okposo left Minnesota, it was an odd story that caused a lot of debate in the hockey world. But at no point did anyone not know what was going on. There are enough questions in this story to fill up a presidential debate.

Good luck to Brock, whatever he's going to do. And good luck to Denver. Without Trotter around, there's a chance that they'll need some luck (especially if Mannino keeps playing as up-and-down as he's been).

UPDATE @ 8:30pm CT...Trotter has signed a contract with the NHL's Montreal Canadiens, and he will play for their AHL affiliate in Hamilton, Ontario. Methinks Trotter ran into a problem with Denver, and he was facing some sort of disciplinary action. Pure speculation on my part, but I find it hard to believe that a free agent would just up and leave for the pros on his own accord. No matter what, this is further evidence that the system needs to be fixed. The NHL shouldn't be allowed to raid the college game in the middle of the season. Good luck, kid. And good luck, Denver. Yes, I know I already said that. Merits repeating.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


Our friend Kevin Pates says UMD defenseman Jason Garrison is likely out for the season with a broken leg. Just spoke with head coach Scott Sandelin, who would only confirm that he's likely out for a while, and that he would be re-evaluated after the team returned to Duluth.

In short: This sucks. It was the ultimate in unfortunate situations, as it appeared Garrison lost an edge just before being hit from behind. The Wisconsin player who hit him, Patrick Johnson, had no shot of slowing up and jumped to try to avoid major contact. What he did probably didn't help the situation, but there's really no way of knowing what exactly caused Garrison's injury.

No one is dumb enough to suggest Johnson tried to hurt Garrison, though what he did has been a penalty in college hockey ever since the infamous Paukovich/Bina Final Five incident, and it's terribly frustrating to report that nothing was called on the play.

Oh, well. We'll get 'em tonight.