Saturday, March 22, 2008
Much like the UMD semifinal, I'll be providing live updates a few times each period, as well as during intermissions. Before we get started, here are today's lines for each team.
Angie Keseley - Erika Lawler - Hilary Knight
Jinelle Zaugg - Mallory Deluce - Meghan Duggan
Kelly Nash - Jasmine Giles - Kyla Sanders
Tia Hanson - Emily Kranz - Kayla Hagen
Alycia Matthews - Malee Windmeier
Olivia Jakiel - Rachel Bible
Anne Dronen - Emily Morris
Jessie Vetter - Alannah McCready
Laura Fridfinnson - Haley Irwin - Emmanuelle Blais
Karine Demeule - Elin Holmlov - Sara O'Toole
Saara Tuominen - Tawni Mattila - Erin Olson
Libby Guzzo - Jessica Hawkins
Jocelyne Larocque - Myriam Trepanier
Heidi Pelttari - Jaime Rasmussen
Tara Gray - Sarah Murray
Kim Martin - Johanna Ellison - Amie Meyer
In the interest of full disclosure, the following players have already been etched in stone on my all-tournament team ballot:
F Laura Fridfinnson, UMD; F Jinnelle Zaugg, Wisconsin; D Heidi Pelttari, UMD; G Kim Martin, UMD
One forward spot is open, and one defensive spot is open. My MOP (Most Outstanding Player) choice is still TBA, but I'm reminded on the ballot that my MOP vote has to be for a player on my all-tournament team.
I'm just glad they told me that.
12:00 left, first period
So far, Wisconsin has had two power plays, UMD one. Neither was able to come up with a goal. Shots are even, with UMD getting the first four and Wisconsin getting the last four.
Both teams are very strong defensively early in this game. 0-0 eight minutes in.
6:21 left, first period
Neither team has had a really glorious chance yet. There have been some flubs offensively, but both teams are staying strong in their own zone.
Shots are now 9-5 in favor of Wisconsin. Still a 0-0 game.
End of first period
UMD struck late in the first. On a delayed Wisconsin penalty, Larocque threw it in front of the Wisconsin net, and somehow Irwin was able to jam it past Vetter. 1-0 UMD after one, despite the fact that UW finished the period on an 11-2 shots on goal run.
We'll start the second period five-on-five. Crowd is probably in the 4,400 range here at the DECC, and it's a loud and energetic crowd (official paid attendance: 4,031).
12:00 left, 2nd period
So far, it's a slight edge to Wisconsin in the second period. They didn't really have any great chances on Martin, but zone play was to Wisconsin's edge.
However, a Meghan Duggan hooking penalty put UMD on the power play at the 6:16 mark. If anything, that seems to have swayed things back in UW's favor, as the Bulldogs have had a devil of a time getting anything going offensively.
Penalty is over, and we're still in a one-goal game. 1-0, UMD.
5:00 left, 2nd period
UMD took advantage of a Wisconsin penalty this time. Sanders went off for slashing, and the Bulldogs were superb on the power play. Point shots and plenty of traffic in front of Vetter finally paid off at 11:48 of the 2nd, when a Rasmussen shot was stopped, but a loose puck came to Blais at the side of the net. Blais put it in, basically into an open net. The power play goal makes it 2-0 UMD. As I am typing, UMD is finishing off a penalty kill of their own.
End of 2nd period
Wow. This game's been turned on its ear. UMD's Holmlov went off for interference at 17:25. At 18:24, it was UMD that scored on the UW power play. O'Toole worked her tail off at the Wisconsin line, giving herself a breakaway chance. O'Toole shot top shelf past Vetter for the shorthanded tally, and UMD has a 3-0 lead through two periods.
We start the third period four-on-four, with UMD getting a brief power play after an O'Toole penalty ends.
This one's not over yet. Wisconsin rallied from 3-0 down to eventually force overtime in the WCHA championship game at the DECC a couple weeks ago. However, the hill they have to climb in this one just became much more steep.
My final all-tournament ballot is as follows:
Forwards: Laura Fridfinnson, UMD; Sara O'Toole, UMD; Jinelle Zaugg, Wisconsin
Defense: Heidi Pelttari, UMD; Martine Garland, New Hampshire
Goalie: Kim Martin, UMD
Most Outstanding Player: Kim Martin, G, UMD
10:00 left, 3rd period
The clock isn't moving fast enough.
Still 3-0 UMD. The penalty kill and Martin have been phenomenal.
2:45 left, 3rd period
Say good night. Demeule into the yawning net at 17:15. 4-0, UMD.
UMD wins 4-0. Fourth national title for UMD, their first since 2003. Hats off. What a great performance.
UMD Irwin 23 (Larocque, O'Toole), 19:22 (EAG)
UMD Blais 17 (Fridfinnson, Rasmussen), 11:48 (PPG)
UMD O'Toole 9, 18:24 (SHG)
UMD Demeule 16 (Mattila), 17:15 (ENG)
Shots on goal
I'm hoping for a full house, and I'm hoping there are at least a handful of people clicking in here during the game.
We'll have live updates. Thanks to the NCAA for their accommodation.
Friday, March 21, 2008
In a press conference held today, March 21 at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, officials of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and the Xcel Energy Center, along with representatives of Minnesota State University and the University of Minnesota Duluth, jointly announced plans for the WCHA’s inaugural State of Minnesota college hockey showcase. The event is slated for November 1, 2008 and will feature all four WCHA men’s member hockey teams from Minnesota – the State of Hockey.I'm down with this idea. Sounds like an interesting concept, and it's indeed something college hockey fans in the state have been asking for, in a way.
The teams will compete in a doubleheader format on Saturday, November 1, with the University of Minnesota Duluth hosting St. Cloud State University in a 4:07 pm CT match-up, followed by Minnesota State University designated as the home team in a 7:37 pm CT face-off versus the University of Minnesota. The games will count as regular season WCHA games.
The Saturday night pairings will close off weekend-long series that will see all four teams in action the preceding night, with UMD hosting St. Cloud State in Duluth and MSU and Minnesota tangling in Mariucci Arena on Friday, October 31. The Bulldogs and Huskies will also meet in St. Cloud on Jan. 9-10, while the Mavericks and the Golden Gophers will also play a home and home series in mid-January.
All tickets for the event will be sold as a two-game package with no single game ticket availability. Prices are set at $40 for lower bowl and club level, $35 for upper deck seating along the blue lines, and $30 for upper deck end-zone tickets, with an additional $2 facility fee charge added to the final purchase price. Each school has been allocated a block of tickets that will be made available to their season ticket holders on a priority basis. Tickets for the general public will not go on sale until October 1.
(Fans have wanted an actual tournament between the four, independent of the WCHA playoffs. While this isn't going to be a Beanpot-like event, it's a start. Maybe someday we'll have our own Beanpot, obviously by a different name.)
I also like that UMD and Minnesota State will split the gate, which figures to be in the neighborhood of 13,000 or more. The WCHA does a great job promoting the Final Five, and I have to assume they'll do a good job promoting this concept, especially in the first year.
We get a lot of cliche-speak from coaches, and it drives me nuts. A lot of it is media stupidity, but yet it's hard to put it all on the reporters, because some coaches are just, well, boring.
Press conferences from guys like Jacques Lemaire (Minnesota Wild) are absolute gems a high percentage of the time. He doesn't say a whole lot of controversial stuff, but he's plain-spoken enough and honest enough to be fun without being a lightning rod.
Old-school coaches like Joe Paterno (Penn State football) are generally harmless, but hardly boring.
Then you have some of these NFL guys. Bill Belichick (Patriots), Mike McCarthy (Packers), and Brad Childress (Vikings) lead the charge of boredom. They say very little, they rarely inflect, and it often looks like they'd rather be locked in their office than dealing with the press.
Personality is a good thing. Coaches who want to show some often have to be more cautious than the boring guys do, because you don't want to end up as a topic on PTI for three days after you said something controversial. It's a defensible position, but there has to be a middle ground between swearing and screaming at reporters and trying to put them to sleep when you're in their presence, right?
Well, sometimes, coaches can get caught saying too much. Maybe they rip into their own players. You never want to do that.
Or maybe, as John Gilbert says, you set sportsmanship back a decade.
The only person who seemed unimpressed was New Hampshire coach Brian McCloskey, who was justifiable proud of his Wildcats, but set sportsmanship back about a decade. "It's hard for me to say anything but how proud I am of my team," McCloskey said. "Clearly, the better team was wearing blue tonight. Duluth kept coming up with big saves, but we pressed it to the metal to the end, and we were clearly the better team."Now I understand why coaches often choose not to say much to the media. No, I'm not blaming this on the media. The question about Western dominance, which Gilbert speculates left McCloskey on edge, is legitimate. WCHA teams have won seven women's NCAA championships. There have only been seven contested. This year's title will make it eight-for-eight for the WCHA, no matter who wins.
McCloskey went on to say that UNH had played Wisconsin, "and they gave us a tougher game," and added, "Duluth would be hard-pressed to win our league."
McCloskey was so upset that his team didn't get the job done that he failed to give credit to the winning team. This came after he embarrassingly botched the name of UMD's starting goaltender (Kim Martin) at Wednesday's pre-tournament press conference. For a women's college coach to not know the name of one of the three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award.
No one doubts that New Hampshire played really well Thursday night, and it could be argued that their effort merited a better fate. However, goaltenders are part of a hockey team, too, and UMD's goaltender was better than UNH's. I would also submit that - at least in some ways - UMD played better team defense. Two of UMD's three goals came off scrambles in front of the net. UMD simply won the battle and got the puck across the goal line. UNH didn't have anything like that happen to them. When the puck got close to Martin, there were no UNH players close enough to score similarly ugly goals.
With all due respect, Coach McCloskey, keep the trap shut next time you get upset about a loss. "No comment" is better than insulting a 33-win team that just won the regular-season and playoff titles in college hockey's toughest league.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
UMD faces New Hampshire at the top of the hour here at the DECC. Crowd is just a shade over 3,000. Not bad at all. Should swell for the final if UMD is in it, and I'm guessing we'll get a few more Wisconsin fans making the trip up.
Micaela Long - Jenn Wakefield - Steph Holmes
Kelly Paton - Courtney Birchard - Sam Faber
Jennifer Hitchcock - Sadie Wright-Ward - Leah Craig
Stefanie Marty - Shannon Sisk - Angela Taylor
Kacey Bellamy - Martine Garland
Maggie Joyce - Nicole Goguen
Julia Marty - Diana Saly
Kayley Herman - Lucy Schoedel
Laura Fridfinnson - Haley Irwin - Emmanuelle Blais
Karine Demeule - Elin Holmlov - Sara O'Toole
Jessica Hawkins - Tawni Mattila - Erin Olson
Jocelyne Larocque - Myriam Trepanier
Heidi Pelttari - Jaime Rasmussen
Tara Gray - Sarah Murray
Kim Martin - Johanna Ellison - Amie Meyer
First period, 15:00 left
UMD's Blais turned the puck over in front of her own net while trying to carry back deep into her zone to get away from a UNH forecheck. While in front of the net, Blais had the puck stolen by Wakefield, who one-timed the puck past UMD's Martin for a 1-0 lead at the 4:00 mark.
Shots are 6-0 New Hampshire as we pass the 5:00 mark.
First period, 10:00 left
UMD tied the game at the 9:01 mark off a scramble in front of Herman. O'Toole and Holmlov brought the puck into the UNH zone, and O'Toole made a great move around the defense in the high slot. Holmlov poked it towards Herman, and O'Toole eventually got it across the goal line for her eighth of the season. Holmlov got the single assist.
Shots are now 11-3 New Hampshire, but UMD has been playing much better since they got their first shot just past the 5:00 mark. Should mention that UMD star forward Saara Tuominen is out with a knee injury. UMD is skating just ten forwards in this game.
End of first period
UMD played much better in the second half of the period than they did in the first. There are easily 3,500 people here, marking the largest crowd (by far) UMD has played in front of this season. Perhaps some nerves took control for a bit, but once UMD got their first shot (after UNH had the game's first seven), they played more relaxed and more efficient hockey. It was a good up-and-down period of hockey, with solid chances both ways. UNH probably had the better of the scoring chances overall, but UMD's Martin is showing why she was such an accomplished goaltender in Sweden. 14 saves on 15 shots for the period, and UMD has the lead after one.
The official attendance is 3,161 at the DECC. Short of a sellout, but it sets the stage for hopefully a bigger crowd Saturday if UMD wins.
It's a fun atmosphere, with both teams' bands on hands and plenty of loud, boisterous fans for each team.
13:00 left, 2nd period
Each team had a power play chance early in the period. UNH took a penalty at 2:16, but Pelttari tripping penalty nullified UMD's third power play before it could get anything going. Not much happening either way so far, and UMD is playing much stronger in their own zone, even though UNH has the first three shots of the period.
It's clear why UNH's penalty kill has been so good all season long. They have a ton of speed all over the rink, and they make it very difficult for the power play to get established in the offensive zone.
Still 2-1 UMD. Shots for the game 18-9 UNH.
7:00 left, 2nd period
Honestly, still not much happening. UNH hit a pipe during their second power play, but they didn't have any shots on goal, and it's still 2-1.
Shots haven't changed for some time. Still 18-9 UNH.
You hate to see UMD go into a shell this early in the game, but they really haven't had any quality scoring chances, or anything remotely resembling a quality scoring chance.
Mattila just took a tripping penalty for UMD at 13:09 of the 2nd, so UNH gets their third power play of the period. And before I can finish, Craig bangs home a rebound off a point shot for UNH. They tie the game with a power-play goal.
2-2. Shots 20-9 UNH, and they have all five shots this period.
End of second period
Not a good period for UMD. Outshot 13-0 in the period, and amazingly, this game is only tied after two periods.
Martin was awesome for UMD, and she had to be. If UMD doesn't figure things out on offense, they'll get beat by default.
The Bulldogs are tied through two, despite being outshot by a 3-1 margin. I'd say that's not a terrible position to be in, though UMD has to start getting pucks on net. Doesn't matter where they come from.
12:00 left, 3rd period
Since about the 19:00 mark of the first period, UMD has 0 shots on goal. A couple chances, including two centering feeds going right through the crease, but nothing actually on goal.
UNH now outshooting UMD 30-9 for the game, and they're now on a power play. Power play came up empty, but produced three more shots. 33-9 now for shots. Incredible. But we're still tied.
7:00 left, third period
UMD has the lead. Really.
A UNH penalty led to the first two shots UMD had since the last minute of the first period. The second of those shots was a tip-in by Fridfinnson on a shot by Irwin from the top of the right circle. UMD is about to go on a 4-on-3 power play for about 90 seconds.
3:30 left, third period
Kim Martin is incredible.
End of third period
UMD wins. Martin is the best goaltender in the world. Period.
41 saves, including 15 in the third period. UMD wins despite being outshot 43-15.
Unreal. See you Saturday.
New Hampshire 1-1-0--2
UNH Wakefield 27, 4:00
UMD O'Toole 8 (Holmlov), 9:01
UMD Fridfinnson 21 (Pelttari, Rasmussen), 12:48 (PPG)
UNH Craig 13 (Garland, Faber), 13:19 (PPG)
UMD Fridfinnson 22 (Irwin, Pelttari), 10:27 (PPG)
New Hampshire 15-13-15--43
Herman, UNH 7-0-5--12
Martin, UMD, 14-12-15--41
(New Hampshire was the other, and that was Harvard's only other loss, oddly enough by a 4-1 score.)
Harvard ended up outshooting Wisconsin by a 34-28 margin, but they couldn't get anything past Badger goalie Jessie Vetter after a first-period power-play goal by Jenny Brine. Wisconsin took good care of Vetter in the third period as they protected their lead, and Zaugg added to it early on to seal the deal.
The Badgers play at 12:30pm CT Saturday in the national championship game, in search of their third straight title. If UMD wins the second game, it will mark the third straight year that the national championship game matched WCHA teams.
I'm not into comparing regions (East vs West), but I do think this speaks very well for the WCHA's status as the power league in Division I hockey - men's and women's.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
It sucks even typing those words, but it is indeed over now.
They gave it their all last night. In the end, all you can ask of an athlete is all they can give. I don't think any of the young men on this hockey team have any trouble looking themselves in the mirror this morning. At least, I hope not.
This one's tough because of the potential we had to see a national tournament appearance from this team. It's tough because four high-quality people have played their last game for UMD. It's tough because you know that everyone involved in this program has devoted the last six months-plus to this season, and it just went up in 1-0 smoke in Denver.
Next year? I don't even want to think about it. But at some point, we will have to. Next year will be better. I think we'll see some great senior leadership from the likes of Andrew Carroll, Matt Greer, and Jason Garrison. Goaltending should be quality, again. But we gotta score more goals (duh). Hopefully, the addition of some playmakers will help us in that regard. Guys like Jack Connolly and Mike Connolly might not be big-time goal scorers, but they're going to make everyone around them better with their vision, passing ability, and hockey sense.
The other question everyone wants to have answered involves the potential of losing people early. It's the mad rage throughout hockey, after all.
I don't have any magical inside information for you, but like everyone else, I do wonder about who might depart. Here's a quick look at guys who we might want to keep an eye on.
Alex Stalock. Duh. Should be no worse than third-team All-WCHA, and that's accounting for people like Brad Schlossman who inexplicably picked Kangas ahead of him.
(Sidebar: I'm just picking on Brad, who's a fine writer. I disagree with his selection of Kangas, because I don't know how you can argue that Stalock isn't the only reason UMD was in half the games they lost this year. For all the struggles Minnesota had scoring goals, they were much better at it than UMD, plus Kangas didn't lead the league in minutes played during the regular season.)
Anyway, San Jose holds Al's draft rights, and the ball's in their court. I don't know how goalies are handled by their respective organizations, but I do know that San Jose has a good crop of goalies in their system. St. Louis left Ben Bishop in college at Maine for three years before plucking him this past week after Maine's season ended.
With the strength in goal San Jose already has, my guess is that they'll let Stalock play one more year at UMD, provided Stalock isn't begging to get out of here. I don't get that sense from him. I think he'll be back.
Jason Garrison. I only worry about him because he's a free agent. My hunch is that he'll be around for his senior year, but it depends on what the NHL teams are going to want. Can't really predict that, so my hunch is more of a hope. You can't fault a kid for taking an offer at any point, whether they're a free agent or a drafted player. However, if you an NHL team, do you think he can benefit from another year of college hockey, where you can let him develop for free, or do you think he has to move into the pro ranks to advance his game? If he's back, he's one of the real leaders on next year's team, in my humble opinion.
Jordan Fulton. His name is being mentioned here for one reason: Kris Chucko. Ask Don Lucia about that deal. Calgary had his rights, and Chucko didn't put up the numbers everyone expected him to at Minnesota. After 34 points in 76 college games, the Flames signed him. Chucko has played 146 games in the AHL and totaled 51 points. He still hasn't gotten to play a single game in the NHL. The difference: Chucko was a first-round pick. Fulton is a sixth. I have to believe Calgary isn't going to touch him. But they have shown the ability to be impatient with player development in college. Hopefully, he's back. I think he's the kind of player who will blow up next year.
In short, I don't think we'll lose anyone early. The four who depart (Matt McKnight, Mike Curry, Travis Gawryletz, Nate Ziegelmann) will be missed for different reasons, but the rest of the team should return intact. Add the young talent in the freshman class for 2008-2009, and you have the makings of a strong contender for home ice in the WCHA.
Before I go, some quick thank yous.
First, to the coaching staff. Scott Sandelin, Steve Rohlik, Lee Davidson, and Bill Watson are good people. It's a pleasure to work with them, though I'm sure we media types can be a royal pain in the rear most of the time.
I'm not sure what to call the rest of the crew, so I'll call them the "support staff", even though that term doesn't do them justice. Director of hockey operations Nick Siergiej, strength coach Justin May, trainer Suz Hoppe, equipment manager Rick Menz, and equipment guru Andy Rannels are around this team every day, and they devote a lot of their time to helping the players. None of them have any obligation to even give me the time of day, but they're all great to deal with.
(Sidebar: Rick is stepping aside this June after nearly 30 years of this grind. I don't know how you did it, sir, but I sure do admire the fact that you stuck around as long as you did.)
Athletic director Bob Nielson, marketing czar Mark Rudolph, and sports information director Bob Nygaard all deserve kudos. Sharyl Beaudin works to coordinate all our travel and set up our hotel stays on the road. None of them get enough credit for the work they do.
I thank YOU, the fans. Thanks for your support throughout the season. Thanks to all the parents and fans who sent along notes of encouragement and praise or even criticism. It's always great to hear from you.
And thanks for supporting Bulldog hockey. Don't be a stranger, even though the offseason is suckingly long. Lastly, thanks again to the seniors. McKnight, the two-year captain, who battled injuries and illness the last couple years and did everything that was asked of him. Curry, the always-entertaining and engaging kid who never quit despite spending considerable time in the doghouse. He rose up the last two weeks and played some of his best hockey. Gawryletz is one of the toughest kids I've ever met. Ziegelmann hardly played his last two years, but never openly complained to anyone. He was a great team guy and his presence will be missed on the road.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Yes, Garrison is back. And smiling ear to ear. Hopefully he can help spark a stronger defensive effort.
What's it going to take for the visiting teams to prevail Saturday?
Alaska-Anchorage at Colorado College. UAA needs to finish better. Certainly, that's easier said than done when facing Richard Bachman. But UAA outshot CC last night, and the Seawolves had some chances with the score tied 1-1. Take advantage of one of those, and you have a different game.
Michigan Tech at North Dakota. Perhaps getting a shot in the first period will help. With J.P. Lamoureux in net, you have to get pucks to him. If he has a weakness, it's that he'll sometimes give up a softie. Get traffic, get shots, and don't let up. Michael-Lee Teslak played well in net for Tech last night, but he can't win you a game if you don't get some heat on the other team's goalie somehow.
UMD at Denver. Frankly, UMD needs to take better care of their defensive responsibilities. The Bulldogs gave up too many easy goals last night, and many of them were the result of one or more players being caught out of position. Much of that starts with little battles for the puck that UMD didn't win, but it doesn't matter how it started. UMD has been very good this year at rebounding from tough losses on the road. The added pressure of "the season's on the line" will ratchet up the difficulty of doing that tonight.
Wisconsin at St. Cloud State. From the sounds of it, Wisconsin was pretty lifeless last night. Didn't seem like they had a lot of jump, and they never really got it going. The Badgers need a better all-around effort, which will lead to more pressure on SCSU goalie Jase Weslosky and less on their own goalie.
Minnesota at Minnesota State. More than any other team, the Gophers' lack of offense sunk them last night. They had four power plays in the first period, but had trouble even generating shots. In fact, Minnesota only had FIVE shots the whole period. The Gophers need to play tonight the way they played most of the overtime periods last night. The energy and skating they flashed will carry them to a couple goals, and the way Alex Kangas played in goal last night, a couple might be enough.
Friday, March 14, 2008
1. Can Minnesota play two (or three) games like they played last Friday against UMD? UMD coaches and players were nearly unanimous in their distaste for their performance in Minnesota's 4-1 win. But let's give some credit to the team that got the two points. Minnesota was very good in this game. They were opportunistic, got to the net, and took great care of freshman goaltender Alex Kangas. They didn't do all those things nearly as well on Saturday, while UMD was much stronger in a 3-2 win to earn a series split.
For Minnesota to beat Minnesota State this weekend, they have to play more like they did in the Friday game and less like they did in the first two periods on Saturday. It'll be tough in Mankato, where there should be plenty of Gopher fans but still quite a buzz in the Alltel Center.
2. Is Jase Weslosky capable of outplaying Shane Connelly in a playoff series...or vice versa? Two goalies with huge shoes to fill (Weslosky replacing Bobby Goepfert, Connelly replacing Brian Elliott) face in St. Cloud. The Huskies are a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament, but unless they improve their standing, they'll be a likely underdog in the opening round. You know SCSU's NCAA history by now.
Wisconsin needs to win this series to get in the NCAAs in all likelihood, as they are firmly on the bubble right now. With Boston University, UMD, and Notre Dame - among others - knocking on the door, Bucky better find a way to win two games this weekend, or the Kohl Center may end up being mighty empty in two weeks.
3. Will the real Peter Mannino please stand up? If the relatively inconsistent and uncharacteristically shaky Mannino we've seen in the second half shows up at Magness Arena this weekend, Denver will get bounced from the WCHA playoffs before the Final Five for a third straight year. Mannino's got plenty of big-game experience, but he hasn't won a playoff start since beating UMD in Game Two of their 2006 series, and he followed that up by allowing four second-period goals and getting yanked in Game Three as UMD finished the upset. In DU's last 15 games, Mannino started 14 times, won just four games, and was pulled from three starts. An uneven Mannino means Denver has virtually no shot.
4. Can UMD score enough to win? Even with Mannino serving as the biggest question mark in this series, UMD's offense was in absentia for most of February and the first part of March. The Bulldogs haven't scored more than three against a WCHA opponent since January 12, and they haven't scored more than three in regulation against a WCHA opponent since Thanksgiving weekend.
Now, three appears to be the magic number against Denver, as they are just 2-12 this season when allowing more than two goals. But I have a feeling it's going to take more than that at least once this weekend. I also have a feeling UMD will make it happen. Then again, I also had a feeling the Wild would hold on to a two-goal lead for once last night, and you all saw how that turned out.
5. Will Michael-Lee Teslak be good enough to carry Michigan Tech back to St. Paul? He's going to have to be really good. He knows he won't get much offensive support, especially against North Dakota. The Sioux are likely missing T.J. Oshie from how things sound right now, but it probably won't matter. Tech has played the rotation game with Teslak and Rob Nolan this year, even though Teslak is better. Why? Because Teslak has also been inconsistent. He's gotten pulled a few times, and he hasn't looked as sharp in the second half. I think part of it is the mentality that he has to shut everyone out for Tech to have a chance. When a goalie presses, it can often be ugly.
However, there's little doubt that Teslak has the talent to lead MTU to a series win. If he's on his game and can get an early goal on Friday to settle everyone down in front of him, it could get interesting in Grand Forks this weekend.
Colorado College sweeps Alaska-Anchorage
North Dakota sweeps Michigan Tech
Minnesota State in three over Minnesota
St. Cloud State sweeps Wisconsin
And I'm not touching UMD's series with a ten-foot pole. Sorry. I'm calling it, I've been here since Wednesday, and I still don't know what's going to happen. Stay tuned.
If you're a UMD fan, root for the following:
- A UMD series win. A sweep would be perfect, but a three-game win is okay.
- SCSU beats Wisconsin. A sweep and a UMD sweep likely would swing the UMD/UW PWR comparison for UMD.
- Minnesota State beats Minnesota.
- UMass-Lowell does enough against Boston University to re-crack the top 25 of the RPI and become a TUC again.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
I can confirm to you what Kevin Pates reported this morning in the Duluth News Tribune. Garrison is with us, and he was smiling more than anyone yesterday.
My guess is that he is likely available to play this weekend, though that's not a guarantee, especially on Friday. The thought may be to hold him out for one night and hope we can win without him, as we have three times in five road games since he was injured.
However, teams are only allowed to travel 22 players on road trips. You dress 20, so there are two "scratches" for each game of a road trip. It's tough to imagine that the coaches would bring Garrison on the trip if there were much doubt about his availability.
It's the same reason I wasn't surprised to hear he was left at home last weekend. If there was even a chance he wasn't ready, the team couldn't afford to have him on the trip, because if a defenseman got hurt and Garrison couldn't play, you'd be in quite a bind.
Again: My guess is that he is available to play. My guess is that he will play. What I'm not certain about is whether he will be available for three games in three days, if necessary.
So let's just sweep these guys and render it unnecessary.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
You should know, before reading anything about UMD hockey, that I cover the Bulldogs for KDAL Radio, and frankly, I'm not willing or able to hide my biases.
Along those lines, I also take seriously the privilege of being able to vote on the annual WCHA honors. Select members of the media that cover each league team get to do this. Frankly, I think we do a very good job every year (though Wisconsin fans will never forgive us for voting Bobby Goepfert of St. Cloud State the first team all-league goalie two years ago, when Bucky's Brian Elliott was a Hobey Hat Trick finalist).
This year's voting was completed earlier this week (imagine that - voting for all-league honors that actually takes place after the regular season is over - take that, Pro Bowl!!). Here are my choices, with commentary when I think it's warranted.
First team - Chad Rau, Colorado College; T.J. Oshie, North Dakota; Ryan Lasch, St. Cloud State
Second team - Blake Wheeler, Minnesota; Garrett Roe, St. Cloud State; Kyle Turris, Wisconsin
Third team - Mick Berge, Minnesota State; Ryan Duncan, North Dakota; Andreas Nodl, St. Cloud State
Apologies to - Peter Rouleau, Michigan Tech; Trevor Bruess, Minnesota State; Chris VandeVelde, North Dakota
I thought Rau was the most complete offensive player in the league, followed closely by Oshie. Lasch has incredible playmaking ability and isn't bad at scoring goals himself. I felt badly not voting for Rouleau, who worked his tail off to become a major contributor at Tech and is a lot of fun to watch.
First team - Jack Hillen, Colorado College; Taylor Chorney, North Dakota
Second team - Jason Garrison, UMD; Robbie Bina, North Dakota
Third team - Patrick Mullen, Denver; Jamie McBain, Wisconsin
Apologies to - David Fischer, Minnesota
Garrison is a bit of a homer vote on my part (I allow myself one per year), but it's totally defensible. His ability to carry the puck, his shot, and his physical play have been sorely missed over the last month. We hope to miss them no longer as of Friday.
First team - Richard Bachman, Colorado College
Second team - Alex Stalock, UMD
Third team - Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux, North Dakota
Apologies to - Michael-Lee Teslak, Michigan Tech
Stalock is a legit league Player of the Year candidate, but I would be insane not to vote for Bachman, who is a major reason why Colorado College is in line to be the top seed for their home regional in two weeks. Don't kid yourself - this team is really good. But Bachman has saved them from at least a couple lackluster efforts. Like Stalock at UMD, you can count on one or two fingers the number of poor games he has had. Consistency is what separates these three from the next group of goalies in this league, led by Teslak.
ALL-WCHA ROOKIE TEAM
Forwards - Tyler Bozak, Denver; Garrett Roe, St. Cloud State; Kyle Turris, Wisconsin
Apologies to - Mike Hoeffel, Minnesota; Evan Trupp, North Dakota
Roe is the class of this group. Turris is the sizzle. Bozak has the potential to just be really good at hockey. I like Hoeffel a lot, and his numbers don't tell the story of how he played this year. I think UND will miss Trupp a great deal as he recovers from what looked like a freak leg injury in Duluth.
Defensemen - Ben Youds, Minnesota State; Ryan McDonagh, Wisconsin
Not much here. Youds and teammate Kurt Davis are both legit candidates for this team. I believe McDonagh is going to be a force. Cade Fairchild of Minnesota and Evan Oberg of UMD also are off to good starts as collegiate defensemen.
Goalie - Richard Bachman, Colorado College
In any other year, Minnesota's Alex Kangas would take this honor easily. Unfortunately for Kangas, his timing is off.
WCHA ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Richard Bachman, Colorado College
WCHA PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Richard Bachman, Colorado College
Apologies to - Alex Stalock, G, UMD; T.J. Oshie, F, North Dakota
Seriously, this was the toughest decision I've had to make in my three years voting on this. Bachman just stands out for the reasons I've already laid out. You don't want to read them again. You may not have wanted to read them in the first place. It's fitting in a year where scoring is way down that the two best players in the league, in my view, are both goaltenders.
WCHA COACH OF THE YEAR
Troy Jutting, Minnesota State
Apologies to - Scott Owens, Colorado College
Tough call. I just think Jutting did more in the face of lower expectations and a fan base that doesn't always view him lovingly. Owens is a great coach and a class act, and in my opinion he will win the award, but Jutting's job deserves recognition. CC was expected to make the NCAA Tournament and they will. Minnesota State was expected to finish closer to the bottom of the WCHA than the top, then got off to a horrible start because their schedule was stupid (nine of first ten games on the road). They finished fourth. Down league, my you-know-what. The Mavs are a great story this year.
Please e-mail thoughts, or just let me know what you think in the comments page. I do this, in part, because I want your feedback on who I missed out on in the voting.
We had to leave a day early for Denver. Something about flights already booked and unable to accomodate 22 hockey players, their gear, their coaching staff, their radio broadcaster, and Justin May. I understand.
What does it mean? The players got a day away from skating today, and they get most of tomorrow to relax and do whatever. I don't even know how to skate, so I get to find ways to keep busy the next couple days.
Don't worry. I'll manage. Stay tuned.
(Among the items from Denver: my all-WCHA ballot, WCHA playoff picks, ripping the Wild, talking about other sports that don't matter as much as hockey, and whatever else I can think of.)
Monday, March 10, 2008
Crowds for AA games were simply amazing. There couldn't have been anyone left in Roseau. Too bad for them their team ran into the Hill-Murray buzzsaw on Friday.
Anyway, it was an incredible experience. Draining, but incredible. I can only hope it's not my only state tournament experience.
Since I did observe the games, I also took the chance to vote on the all-tournament teams. Here's how those played out:
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In Class AA, I voted for Ness, Landman, Student, Budish, Gleason, Everson, Caschetta, Cecka, and Phillippi, along with forwards Steffen Hansen (Blaine) and Issac Kohls (Hill-Murray) and defenseman David Brown (Cloquet/Esko/Carlton).
In Class A, I voted for Hanowski, Rindelaub, Mausolf, Paul, Jacques, Walters, Schreiner, Saintey, and Vannelli. I also voted for forwards Dane Shaugabay (Warroad) and Corey Leivermann (Mankato West), defenseman Erik Christensen (Mankato West), and goaltender Tyler Bruggeman (Mankato West).
(I'm a big believer in full disclosure. Along those lines, my all-WCHA picks will be posted later this week for your scrutiny.)
I'll make no comments about the public school/private school debate. It's a great divide in Minnesota, and even though it really does impact most every varsity sport, the only one that people ever talk about is hockey. Frankly, I think the debate is getting out of hand. It's something I'd be more willing to tackle were people's feelings not so strong on a subject that just isn't a world-ending topic.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Why can't that happen to UMD? It's not like they're not trying. It's not like they don't have good players. It's not like they don't deserve a bounce or two because they've created bad karma by playing dirty hockey and instigating fights (oh, the irony, given the opponent).
Instead, you're torturing us. You tease us with your twine, and the iron that precedes seems to serve as a magnet for the puck.
For over 230 minutes, you kept our fair Bulldogs at bay. You do us no favors, but you don't treat anyone else the way you treat us. It just doesn't seem fair. Why don't you like us?
Were you mad when one of our boys crashed into you while chasing a loose puck? It's understandable, but remember that we're not mad at you. We're trying to score. And you won't let us.
Listen. This is a big weekend for UMD. Two wins put them back in good NCAA Tournament position, and they assure that the Gophers will be comically traveling to play a first-round WCHA playoff series for the first time since 1998. We'd all enjoy that, and I think we're due to see it.
I only ask that you stop being mean to our Bulldogs. They don't need any special treatment like North Dakota does. Just be fair to the two sides, and the likes of Sharp/Kemp/McKnight/Gergen/Fulton and others will do the rest.
I'll be watching in Minneapolis. And I'll send Gawryletz after you if you don't acquiesce.