Tuesday, March 31, 2009


It's a program whose alumni and fanbase have eaten alive competent coaches like Tubby Smith (now with Minnesota) and Billy Gillispie (now unemployed).

Am I really supposed to believe the same won't happen to John Calipari?

The Memphis coach has reportedly decided to leave the school to become the next coach at Kentucky, replacing the fired Gillispie. He apparently wasn't a nice-enough guy, though something tells me that if he had won 60 games over two years instead of 47, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Frankly, "not a nice-enough guy" is a pretty poor excuse for firing a coach who hasn't had much of a chance to coach his own recruits. But it's not my buyout money, so I don't care what Kentucky thinks they have to do.

But what happens when they have to buy out Calipari for not being nice enough, or not winning enough, or not recruiting enough blue-chippers?

Reality is that I respect Calipari a great deal. I think he's a good coach, and I think he's generally a pretty decent fellow as far as college coaches go. He reminded me of a snake-oil salesman at Massachusetts, but he seems much more genuine to me now. That's a trait that Kentucky fans will find endearing, because it doesn't sound like they felt that way about Gillispie.

The criticism of Calipari (besides his ridiculous salary) is that he has never won in a big conference. However, that's not terribly important. If he can get the kind of recruits at Kentucky that he got at Massachusetts and Memphis, there's no reason to think he won't be highly successful.

It's also worth noting that he hasn't just won in big conferences. He's thoroughly dominated.

If he doesn't get eaten live by the fans, Calipari will put Kentucky back into national championship contention. From there, let's hope those fans understand that college basketball isn't what it used to be, and sometimes it really has to be good enough to make the Elite Eight.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Now, for the good news.
Minnesota Duluth senior center MacGregor Sharp signed a free-agent contract Monday with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks and will be assigned to the Iowa Chops of the American Hockey League in DesMoines. He's expected to be in uniform Tuesday.

"Every kid who ever puts up a pair of skates has a dream of playing professional hockey and that's my dream," Sharp said Monday before leaving for Des Moines. "The way our season ended was a little disappointing, but we had a great year and these were the best four years of my life."
You can't help but feel the same mixed emotions. It was a great run. It sucked how it ended, but this is a tremendous opportunity for Sharp. Couldn't happen to a nicer kid, and as much as I've always disliked the Ducks, it's going to be harder now that they have Sharp signed, and they have the draft rights to one of my favorite non-UMD college players (Nick Bonino of Boston U.). If only we could get them to trade Pronger.

There's a real college flavor on the Iowa Chops right now. Sharp should be familiar with guys like Stu Bickel (Minnesota), Andrew Thomas (Denver), Ryan Dingle (Denver), and Charlie Kronschnabel (Alaska-Anchorage).

I'm sure all UMD fans join me in wishing him the best of luck, and thanking him for the role he played in leading UMD to the NCAA Tournament.


I was thumbing through some baseball previews over the weekend, and a thought popped into my head.

Tons of people are picking the Tampa Bay Rays to do what they did last year, which was win the AL East. Most have them at least in the top three, and easily finishing with a winning record.

This makes sense, since I doubt half the youngsters on the Rays roster are suddenly going to forget how to play baseball.

The next thing people are going to wonder is obvious: Who is going to pull this year what the Rays did last year?

Most of us aren't dumb enough to think baseball is suddenly going to be like the NFL, where teams can come from literally nowhere to play for a world championship. However, it doesn't stop us from dreaming of the next Cinderella story.

With that in mind, I figured I'd take a look at who may have a shot of coming from the depths of baseball sucktitude.

First off, it makes sense to define some rules. That will allow us to eliminate teams from being considered. A good place to start is to take out the teams that made the playoffs last year. After all, you're not coming out of nowhere to make the playoffs if you made them just one year ago.

This takes out eight teams: Tampa Bay (duh), Boston, the White Sox, and the Angels in the American League; Philadelphia, the Dodgers, Milwaukee, and the Cubs in the National League.

Next, any team that won 80 or more games in 2008 has to be eliminated. Bid farewell to the Yankees, Toronto, Minnesota, and Cleveland in the American League; the Mets, Florida, Houston, St. Louis, and Arizona in the National League.

Tampa Bay hadn't made the playoffs in franchise history before 2008. So being bad for just a year or two isn't going to cut it. Therefore, we'll eliminate any remaining teams that have made the playoffs since 2003. That means it's time for a goodbye for Detroit and Oakland in the American League; Atlanta, Colorado, San Francisco, and San Diego in the National League.

Well, we've taken out a lot of teams. In fact, we only have Seattle, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Texas left in the American League. In the National League, we're left with Washington, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.

I'll arbitrarily remove Texas (79 wins last year, no pitching whatsoever) and Cincinnati (74 wins, never as historically bad as the others on this list) from consideration. Good for them if they win, but we're looking for the odds on a real shocker happening.

In alphabetical order, here is a quick glance at each team:

Baltimore -- Great young catcher in Matt Wieters, but when will the Orioles have the smarts to call him up? I like some of their young arms, but they're a year or two away from doing what Tampa did, I think.

Kansas City -- They have some guys who can throw. As stupid as the Gil Meche signing looked, he's not a bad lead for the rotation. Greinke, Davies, and Hochevar are nice. They have a good lineup, and they're worth a second look here, I think. No, really. They could be vastly improved.

Pittsburgh -- After all these years, you'd think they could put together one decent season. It still hasn't happened, and I'm not betting on it now. That said, I think they're the second-best pick on this list. They have some young pitchers with experience, and Nate McLouth is a good table-setter at the top of the order.

Seattle -- They stole the Brewers' scouting ace as their new GM, but it's clear this is a rebuilding effort and not a quick-fix job. Not this year.

Washington -- Made a big splash by trying to sign Mark Teixiera and actually signing Adam Dunn, but they still have major problems. Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman can't drive in all the runs by themselves, and they can't drive in runners that aren't on base. Until that changes, it doesn't matter how promising their pitching is.

I'm not saying it's going to happen, but if there is to be a Tampa Bay-like turnaround by someone in the 2009 season, bet on it happening in Kansas City. The Royals have drafted well, and GM Dayton Moore has worked to rebuild the reputation of his organization. Getting Coco Crisp and Mike Jacobs to help solidify the lineup was huge for them, and they didn't have to sell off the farm system to do it. Throw in young stars like David DeJesus, Mike Aviles, Billy Butler, and Alex Gordon, and you have a lineup that should produce runs. I already talked about their rotation, and closer Joakim Soria was just sick last year (42 saves, 1.60 ERA, 39 hits and 19 walks in 67 1/3 innings).

The American League Central is in a bit of flux right now. Detroit had a horrible year last year, Cleveland has been making a habit out of being inconsistent, and the White Sox are a shell of the team that lucked into a division title last year.

A two-team race between Minnesota and Kansas City? I'd pay to see that happen.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Besides "Thank you," but that seems obvious.

But, thank you. You have given those who will return a hell of a lot to live up to.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


For some reason, I didn't get a vote this year.


Anyway, here's how I would have voted. Since that matters.

First team

Ryan Stoa, Minnesota
Jordan Schroeder, Minnesota
Ryan Lasch, St. Cloud State

Second team
Justin Fontaine, UMD
MacGregor Sharp, UMD
Garrett Roe, St. Cloud State

Third team
Kael Mouillierat, Minnesota State
Anthony Maiani, Denver
Ryan Duncan, North Dakota

Apologies to
Rhett Rakhshani, Denver; Jay Barriball, Minnesota; Paul Crowder, Alaska-Anchorage; Kevin Clark, Alaska-Anchorage; Rylan Galiardi, Minnesota State

First team
Cade Fairchild, Minnesota
Patrick Wiercioch, Denver

Second team
Jamie McBain, Wisconsin
Chay Genoway, North Dakota

Third team
Kurt Davis, Minnesota State
Brad Miller, North Dakota

Apologies to
Josh Meyers, UMD; Evan Oberg, UMD; Garrett Raboin, St. Cloud State; Brendan Smith, Wisconsin; Geoff Kinrade, Michigan Tech

First team
Alex Stalock, UMD

Second team
Brad Eidsness, North Dakota

Third team
Marc Cheverie, Denver

Apologies to
Shane Connelly, Wisconsin; Jase Weslosky, St. Cloud State


Jordan Schroeder, Minnesota
Mike Connolly, UMD
Jack Connolly, UMD

Patrick Wiercioch, Denver
Curtis Leinweber, Alaska-Anchorage

Brad Eidsness, North Dakota

Apologies to: Jordan Schroeder, Ryan Stoa

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - Jordan Schroeder, F, Minnesota
Apologies to: Brad Eidsness

COACH OF THE YEAR - Dave Hakstol, North Dakota
Apologies to: George Gwozdecky, Don Lucia

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Pretty cool honor for longtime UMD football coach Jim Malosky. This information provided by UMD's athletic department.
Legendary University of Minnesota Duluth football coach Jim Malosky will be presented with the 2009 Distinguished Minnesotan Award by the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame at its annual awards dinner on April 19 in St. Paul, Minn. The Distinguished Minnesotan Award honors an individual who has made a lifelong contribution to football in the state of Minnesota.

Malosky, a native of Crosby, Minn., retired from the UMD head coaching ranks in February 1998 after a memorable and prosperous 40-year run. At the time, he was the winningest head coach in NCAA Division II history and held down the No. 11 spot on college football's all-time coaching win list, amassing a 255-125-13 overall record -- for a .665 winning percentage. Malosky, who finished with a sub-.500 record just twice during his final 28 seasons on the sidelines, guided the Bulldogs to three Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles (1960, 1961, and 1973) and six Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championships (1979, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995 and 1996). In addition, no less than 20 of his players attained various All-American honors during his tenure and five went on t play in the National Football League. Chosen the Coach of the Year by the MIAC, the NSIC, and NAA District 13 on 10 occasions during his four decades of service, Malosky is a member of the UMD Athletic Hall of Fame (1999), the University of Minnesota Hall of Fame (1996) and the Minnesota High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame (1994). The Bulldogs' recently-renovated home football facility now bears his name -- James S. Malosky Stadium.
I can think of no more fitting or deserving recipient. Congratulations, Coach Malosky!

Monday, March 16, 2009


In many ways, this is a sad time for me.

Growing up, one of the daily rituals was grabbing the Superior Evening Telegram (as it was then called) and trying to learn a bit about the world.

Because there was a time where the Brewers games weren't on the radio here, it gave me a chance to follow their progress, or lack thereof. I read the newspaper because my dad did. We took turns, and then he took out the page that had the daily crossword puzzle on it, and he set it aside to work on whenever.

Since the Telegram didn't publish on Sundays, we read the Duluth News Tribune. I got to keep updated on all the baseball stats, other sports stuff that interested me, and we all got our fingers a bit dirty with newspaper ink.

Kids growing up these days don't do this. Actually, not many adults are, either.

Newspaper circulation is down everywhere. Worse yet, the old Evening (now Daily) Telegram is internet-only, save for two publications per week (for now). The Duluth News Tribune is laying off people left and right, and choosing to cover a Division I hockey playoff series from the newspaper office, while doing the same with a Division I national women's hockey quarterfinal.

The Rocky Mountain News shut down after 150 years, leaving its former employees trying to launch a website. Meanwhile, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer publishes for the last time Tuesday, reverting after that to an online-only publication.

At least they're leaning in the right direction. A big part of the death of the newspaper business has been its inability to adapt to the move toward the internet. Certainly, the current state of the economy has played a role, and Rush Limbaugh blames the liberals, so there's that, too.

No matter what, newspapers will continue to shrivel away until someone does something to fix their presence on the internet. It's not that newspapers aren't a presence there. It's that they haven't figured out how to make money with it. Paid subscriptions aren't really an option, because there are too many free sources of news on the internet. If the DNT, for example, starts charging for its stories, people will still be able to get the big news from places like Yahoo!, Google, Drudge, Breitbart, etc. Why would they pay the DNT for similar content?

Advertising is the way to go, and it's up to these companies to find ways to make it happen.

Here's hoping they do. When I would travel with UMD, I enjoyed getting the daily newspaper in whatever town we were visiting. Sure, I could read it for free on the internet, but I had read a physical copy of the newspaper ever since I was young, and part of me just isn't ready for the change, no matter how I may say I understand and accept that it is here.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Oh, not really.

This particular video is not of the sports realm. Instead, it shows why the news media is so frowned-upon in this country.

After all, it takes a satirical program to do what a real news program should have been doing all along. Too bad that Jessica Simpson's "sudden weight gain" was more important.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


You know I work for FanHouse. I am allowed great freedom there to get my voice out to a large audience. It's not really all that difficult of a job, but it's a hell of a lot of fun, and it's very rewarding.

Since you all know I do this, I don't feel the need to pimp the hell out of it.

There are exceptions. And this is one of them.

I wrote a piece for FanHouse about the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament. I'd love it if you clicked over and checked it out.

See. Was that so hard?

Monday, March 09, 2009


I try not to make a habit out of responding to any random person's take on the UMD men's hockey team. With all due respect to any random person, if I tried to answer everyone, I'd have no time for anything else.

Among the random people with a take on the season is Duluth media veteran Howie Hanson. If you've been around for any length of time, you probably realize that Howie is the same guy who was gloom-and-doom about the 2004 Bulldogs. He took advantage of the fact that only one of the 60 or so Division I teams at the time could win the national title, so by continually predicting that UMD would fade away, he had a 98.3 percent chance of eventually being right.

Of course, Howie's never spotted on press row, and he's never been spotted anywhere near the UMD locker room at the DECC. He isn't a regular at practice, and if he attends games, he is doing so by purchasing a ticket.

None of this, of course, means that he doesn't know what he's talking about. You can't automatically dismiss people's opinions because you don't think they're plugged-in. In this case, the fact that someone doesn't spend any time around the UMD program doesn't mean they can't have an opinion about its performance.

It's weird, though, that pretty much every word Hanson writes about the Bulldogs is negative. The latest of these negative words can be found here.

I'm not going to address every single thing he says. Instead, I'm going to zero in on a couple of points.
Simply, UMD Hockey screams for change. Eh, fans: don’t be misled into thinking the program made strides this season, buying into the spin that it was one of the league’s most competitive regular seasons ever.
Are you saying that the program didn't make strides? If you are, you're wrong. Did the program make as many strides as hoped? No. However, they were almost unanimously picked to finish eighth in the league, yet had a shot at home ice heading into the final night of the season.

That's not to ignore that UMD incredibly failed to get home ice. It's instead pointing out another fact regarding what happened.

Furthermore, to call the statement "This was one of the most competitive WCHA seasons ever" spin is completely misleading. The word "spin" insinuates that you're trying to take a statement that isn't totally true and use it to sway the opinions of the masses.

This was one of the most competitive WCHA seasons ever. That's not a theory or an opinion. It's a fact. It is extremely rare that the top eight positions in a ten-team league are not totally decided heading into the final weekend. Five teams were battling for three home-ice positions. Two of them were playing bottom-feeder teams, and UMD and Minnesota went a combined 1-3 on the weekend.

Does any of this excuse UMD losing twice to a team it should have beaten twice? No.

The simple issue with this is that Hanson has, for some odd reason, disliked Scott Sandelin from day one. Again, it doesn't disqualify the man from having an opinion, but he has taken shots at this program from the day Sandelin walked in the door, and he won't stop until long after Sandelin is gone. Not even a national championship contender for the first time in 20 years could make Hanson think Sandelin was worth a crap.

Is it wrong to get mad about the last three years and call for a coaching change? No. Hell, Patrick Reusse was on the radio Saturday calling for Don Lucia's head. Now, if Lucia could ever conceivably be fired from a job where he's won two national championships and over 65 percent of his games, I'm not stupid enough to think Sandelin is untouchable.

However, if you're going to call for a coach's head, you need to at least get your facts straight. Hanson goes on to talk about the necessary change in the UMD program.
A seventh-place finish in the WCHA, with a team that on paper had so much promise, isn’t acceptable.
Is a seventh-place finish acceptable? Never. I don't care if you're picked to finish tenth.

But where was this promise on paper? If it was there, no one saw it. The Bulldogs were picked by experienced coaches and a largely veteran media contingent to finish eighth. As much as I wanted to pick UMD higher than fifth in the league standings because I believed (still do) in these players and coaches, I couldn't.

Outside of the goal, where Alex Stalock tied for the WCHA goaltending title, thus fulfilling his end of the deal, the Bulldogs were not full of big-time talent or any real offensive firepower. Fortunately for them, guys like Justin Fontaine and MacGregor Sharp had career years, and freshmen like Mike and Jack Connolly were absolutely solid.

Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough.

And, no, "not good enough" is not acceptable.
A head coaching change is long overdue. All-local scholarship players could finish higher in the league, and certainly generate more enthusiasm for the program.
How does "A" equal "B" here? I understand that many longtime Duluthians feel a bit of anxiety every time a non-local recruit signs with UMD, but where does this "local players would do better" stupidity come from?

Would it be great to have a pipeline of Northeastern Minnesota kids helping UMD contend for national titles? Sure.

Reality intervenes, however, because there aren't 25 really good local players worthy of Division I scholarships every four years.

Even if you branch out to International Falls and across northwest Wisconsin, you're not going to find enough kids to sustain a Division I program. They just don't exist.

And while people like Howie Hanson (and me, for that matter) have family and roots in this area and may never want to leave, not everyone who grows up here wants to stay here. It's a fact of life. It would be great to get all the great local talent that does exist, but you can't force someone to play at UMD who would rather play for the Gophers or someone else. You also can't force kids to wait until you think they're ready, because they may disagree with you.

Minnesota doesn't get every kid they want (Jake Gardiner). North Dakota doesn't get every kid they want (Dylan Olsen, baby!). Wisconsin doesn't get every kid they want (just ask Phil Kessel). Similarly, they don't get every kid in their backyard that's good enough to play Division I hockey. After all, the Gophers lost out on Stalock, the Badgers on Kessel, and the Fighting Sioux didn't get Aaron Marvin or Mike Lee.

I'm not ragging on Howie for wanting a coaching change. His reasoning, however, is, as it was in 2004, incredibly flawed and rarely rooted in fact. That's what happens when you develop an unhealthy bias against someone you don't know.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


The UMD women's hockey team is in the eight-team NCAA Tournament. They open defense of their 2008 NCAA Championship Saturday at fourth-seed New Hampshire.

The winner advances to the Frozen Four in Boston March 20 and 22.

The full NCAA Division I Women's Championship bracket can be found here.

Meanwhile, UWS and St. Scholastica have both received at-large bids to the NCAA Division III Men's Championship, according to information I have received. The full bracket has not been announced, but it's expected that both teams will be in quarterfinal play Saturday. The best guess I can muster is that UWS will be seeded first in the West and host MIAC champion Gustavus Adolphus, while St. Scholastica will get the third seed and travel to NCHA playoff champion UW-Stout.

The NCAA Division III Men's Frozen Four is March 21 and 22 in Lake Placid, New York.


There's enough hockey going on to keep even a diehard hockey fan happy and busy.

Let's take a whirl around this great sport.

College men's hockey

Can't hide the truth, can we? Not only was the weekend series against Alaska-Anchorage not what anyone expected or hoped for, it reminded us way too much of last year's UMD team.

There's a good reason why this is Alaska-Anchorage's first road sweep since November 10-11, 2000. It's just been a perpetual struggle for the Seawolves to find their legs when they make one of their insanely long road trips that they make every year. It's also a program that's been known for their disastrous meltdowns in the second half of every season.

Now, instead of the home series they could have had to open the WCHA playoffs, UMD is traveling, and it just so happens to be to Colorado Springs. These are tough roadies to make in the playoffs, because they involve the short-notice booking of a flight for a traveling party of approximately 30 people.

I saw Jeff Papas at the DECC Saturday night, and I told the radio voice of the Bulldogs to make sure he has a lot to read on this trip (I'm way late to the party, but if you're a baseball guy, I recommend David Halberstam's Summer of '49). There's a good chance they will have to leave a day earlier than normal (Wednesday instead of Thursday), and unlike most hotels on the civilized Earth, internet at the hotel in Colorado Springs is not free. Spend three or four nights there, and it can get quite pricey to be plugged in to the superhighway.

Anyway, on to things you care about ...

The boys need to find a way to put the last three games behind them. Ties in Houghton and Minneapolis are hardly shameful, but the way they lost the games to Minnesota (5-3) and Anchorage (5-4 and 4-3) just stinks, and it may be tough to recover from.

They have no choice.

UMD has slipped to 18th in the Pairwise Rankings, which mimic the process used to select teams for the NCAA Tournament. A spot anywhere higher than 15th is usually a good place to be, and 18th will leave UMD on the outside looking in.

Of course, a series win in the Springs would be a great help to UMD's position. Here's hoping that an 0-3-2 string to end the regular season wasn't a sign of things to come, as it's been in the past.

(The Mr. Pessimist in me can't help but remember the 2004-2005 season, when UMD went crazy late in the season, trying to recover from an early losing streak and poor performances in second-half home series against Alaska-Anchorage and Michigan Tech. That Bulldog team fell short of home ice in the WCHA playoffs, and got absolutely whacked in a two-game series at North Dakota. This is not the type of history to repeat.)


While the NCHA Peters Cup Championship went to UW-Stout Saturday in Superior, the Yellowjackets should still get the top seed among Western teams selected for the NCAA Division III Championship. The pairings are due out Sunday night.

UWS is in a great position, thanks to a balanced attack and experienced goalie Chad Beiswenger, who reminds this observer of St. Norbert's Kyle Jones. You may remember Jones practically carrying the Green Knights to a national title a year ago, pitching back-to-back shutouts at the Frozen Four in Lake Placid. Well, Beiswenger has that kind of talent, and he's had that kind of season.

It's an absolute certainty that UWS will be in the field, a near certainty that they'll host a quarterfinal game Saturday at Wessman Arena, and they're in the best position yet to take home their second title.

St. Scholastica

There may be some bullets coming out of Mark Wick's forehead as I type this on Sunday evening. The Saints are on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament, and I wish I could reassure them.

There have been too many head-scratching decisions by the selection committee over the years, and while I find it illogical that CSS wouldn't make the tournament, I can't guarantee they will.

I can say UWS will make it because you might as well shut the tournament down forever if the Yellowjackets aren't in.

Scholastica presents a tough out in the tourney (assuming they make it), thanks to a senior class second-to-few in Division III. Goalie Steve Bounds keeps them in every game, which is always nice to have in the postseason. Goals, as you know, can be hard to come by in the playoffs.

College women's hockey


Both teams lost in their conference tournament semifinals. UMD is likely to make the NCAAs, while UWS is a longshot.

The problem for UMD is that they are clearly inferior to WCHA champion Wisconsin, and they are probably not as good as Minnesota, either.

The problem for the rest of the country is that nobody is likely as good as any of the above three.

UWS made the Frozen Four a year ago, but appear to have ended their season.

High school hockey

The state tournament begins with Class A games Wednesday at XCel Energy Center. Virginia/MIB represents the north, and they draw top seed Little Falls for a quarterfinal game Wednesday at 6pm.

I like this VMIB team, led by Chris Westin and Garrett Hendrickson, but Ben Hanowski and the Flyers are probably too tough. Will Lustig, the Blue Devils' goalie, holds the key. If he can slow down the unbeaten Flyers' attack, he gives his team a chance to win. If VMIB tries to match firepower with Little Falls, it could turn into a long night.

AA games start Thursday in St. Paul. Duluth East, the Section 7 champion, drew the fourth seed and will play Cretin-Derham Hall in the quarterfinals. The Greyhounds are very impressive, led by UMD recruit Max Tardy and North Dakota recruit Derek Forbort. They are clearly the 'Hounds two best players, and they were easily the two best on the ice in the section final Thursday, as East dismantled Elk River 4-1 (outshot them 42-10).

I think Duluth East has a puncher's chance at a state title, and the potential semifinal matchup with Edina Friday could be one of the best games in a long time at the state tournament.

Friday, March 06, 2009


Four years ago, 11 players comprised the largest freshman class for the UMD men's hockey program in some time. After four early departures, including three involving guys who signed pro contracts, we were left with a class of seven seniors this season.

At around 7:45pm Saturday, those seven UMD seniors will hit the ice with their parents, as the school participates in the annual tradition known as Senior Night.

This weekend holds a bit more significance because UMD still has a real shot at home ice in the WCHA playoffs (regardless of what some perpetually negative local media types want you to think), so it might not be the last time these seven get to skate the DECC ice.

Shouldn't change anything in terms of the emotions that will permeate the DECC Saturday.

The common thread of these seniors is that they're all real good people. While none of them have posted lights-out numbers this season, all seven have been key contributors to a Bulldog team that is trying to close out their first NCAA berth since 2004.

Andrew Carroll

If there's a better leader on a team in Division I, I'd like to know about it. Carroll has been a true role model.

You hear all the time about the player who is the first one on the ice and the last one off. Carroll takes this old adage to an extreme. His work ethic is not only second-to-none, but it's totally contagious.

I remember meeting the team at the DECC for a bus ride to the Twin Cities airport earlier this season. The boys skated before the trip, and they were wrapping up when I got there. Everyone got off the ice but one guy. Andrew stayed on the ice until the Zamboni was about to run him over, only stopping then.

For a guy with "only" 55 points in his college career, it might be a stretch to say Andrew has a long pro career in front of him. However, I wouldn't put anything past him. Even if he doesn't play for a long time, you couldn't find a better coach.

He's a natural leader. He understands the game and plays a clean style, and he's great with kids. Hockey will benefit from having Andrew Carroll around, regardless of how long he sticks around the game.

Jay Cascalenda

Team guy.

It's another overused phrase, but it applies to Jay. He bounced between forward and defense for a good portion of his early Bulldog career, and he was never bothered by a lack of power-play time on a team where the defenseman don't normally get a lot of chances to contribute offensively outside of the power play.

He did his job, which was to take care of his zone and his goaltender. You'd be hard-pressed to outskate him, and you were probably never going to outsmart him.

Michael Gergen

Gergen has a passion for hockey and an understanding of the game that are hard to top. When his playing days are over, I would welcome him into a broadcast booth near you, where he can continue to speak articulately about the sport. I can tell you that I always enjoyed our conversations about the game.

But before does that, he can play. Gergs has a shot on him, and while some argued that he used that shot too much, it's hard to argue against a lot of his decisions. When you're struggling to score goals, as UMD has for much of Gergen's career, you want your best players to be aggressive with the puck and make goalies stop it. Gergen sometimes would dangle a bit too much and take ill-timed shots, but I'll take mistimed aggression over passiveness any day of the week.

Michael really developed as a guy unafraid of physical contact, and a guy willing to do the little things.

Matt Greer

You need grinders. They can give you energy when things aren't going well, and they are often really good at killing penalties.

Of course, they don't score a lot of goals, and that's the sexy part of hockey.

Matt never seemed to care much about being sexy. He just played the game. Played it damn well, too.

Greer doesn't jump at you the way Carroll does. He's a smooth penalty-killer, and he works his tail off. Similar to Carroll, Matt's ability to communicate and his leadership skills make him a potential coach in the future. In the meantime, I think back to this season's "Skate With The Bulldogs". My kid was already on the ice, and I was standing by the door in the corner. Greer skated over to me and menacingly said "Where is he?". Of course, the boy had a blast skating with his heroes. Still hasn't washed his jersey since, either.

Nick Kemp

It's fun when the local kids decide to go to UMD. Sometimes, expectations become unrealistic, and that's kind of what happened with Kemp. Like most of his fellow seniors, Kemp was never going to be outworked on the ice, and you had to practically pry him off the ice.

There always seemed to be a special connection between Nick and the younger fans. I'm sure it has a lot to do with the fact that he was a local product. Well, that and he almost always has a smile on his face. Kids seem to migrate to familiar people who appear to be happy.

There are still a goodly number of local kids on the team. Doesn't mean we won't miss Kemper the Wrecker. He did everything he could to help this team, including a rather infamous glove-dropping incident a couple years ago in Mankato.

And who hasn't wanted to punch a player while stuck spending the weekend in Mankato?

(Kidding. I like Mankato. No, really, I do. Any city that has a TGI Friday's is cool with me.)

Josh Meyers

The first time I saw Josh play, it was pretty obvious he had some skills. His freshman year was hampered by injury, but I knew he had a shot, and I knew he would be a factor on the power play.

UMD defensemen never seem to put up great numbers five-on-five. It's not for lack of trying, but one of those things that makes you say "It is what it is".

Meyers has a huge shot. He often shoots accurately. He knows the right place to be in the defensive zone, and his experience and leadership will be sorely missed next year. Hopefully, he's passed enough knowledge on to the likes of Evan Oberg and Mike Montgomery so they can be 25-minute-per-game guys next year.

MacGregor Sharp

It was absolutely fitting to me that Sharpie picked up that hat trick Saturday night at Minnesota. It sucked that UMD lost the game, but it doesn't diminish the meaning of what Sharpie did. When I was broadcasting the games, I got sick of reminding the world that UMD had such a long hat trick drought. I did it habitually every time a UMD player scored two in a game, and it got to the point where I didn't have to look it up anymore. It was committed to memory.

Sharp worked endlessly on his shot over the offseason, and it shows. He is more confident with the puck now, more willing to shoot from anywhere on the rink. It's paid off to the tune of 17 goals, matching his point total from a year ago.

I'm not sure what the chances are of this guy getting a shot in pro hockey, but anyone who can shoot like he can should have a chance waiting for him somewhere. Not only does Sharpie have an impressive shot, but he carries with him that willingness to go into the tough areas that you simply can't teach.

Before things went south for me, this was to be my first senior class. I'm proud to have worked with and gotten to know these kids, and I'm thrilled to say that they represented UMD and Bulldog hockey well for four years.

Thank you.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Via WCH comes this interesting nugget:
Four of the top six Class 2A boys’ hockey teams in the state will face off in a doubleheader that begins at 6 tonight at Mariucci Arena. Game 1: No. 2 Bloomington Jefferson vs. No. 3 Edina in the Section 2 final; Game 2: No. 1 Eden Prairie vs. No. 6 Minnetonka in the Section 6 final. Not surprisingly, ticket sales have been brisk.

Officials said there are likely going to be about 2,000 tickets remaining for general sale when doors open at 5 tonight Mariucci Arena. Those hoping to snag a pair are advised to head down early because tickets could go fast.
Applause to Minnesota hockey fans. This is awesome.

I know everyone loves the romance of the state tournament, and the fact that over 18,000 fans will cram into the XCel Energy Center. But this is a lot more impressive. Mariucci Arena "only" seats 10,000, but think about this.

Two high school games are going to sell out one of the best college hockey facilities around.

I'm not sure we can duplicate this in a normal year, but as Chris at WCH points out, the crowd was pretty big last year, too.

Meanwhile, 3,000 fans showed up in Thief River Falls to watch Moorhead beat Roseau for the 8AA title Wednesday night. There were around 4,000 fans at the DECC to take in the 7A final between Hibbing and Virginia (both an hour or more drive away from Duluth, mind you). Another 4,000 or so are expected at the DECC tonight for the 7AA title game.

Then, next Thursday, two crowds of 17,000 or more will be in St. Paul for the state AA quarterfinals.

This is the State of Hockey. It's a phrase popularized by the Wild, but it means so much more than that.

Monday, March 02, 2009


Tim Stapleton got more than one game with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Not only did he get a second shot, but he made the most of that one, too.

There was a nice story about Stapleton in the Toronto Star Saturday. Ignore that author Kevin McGran said Timmy went to Minnesota and not UMD. It's a good read.


The chances of seven UMD men's hockey seniors finally getting a home ice playoff series took a huge blow over the weekend. The one-point weekend at Minnesota was ill-timed, because it means UMD no longer can finish in the top five of the WCHA without help.

However, it's not the end of the world. Dreams of home ice for the seven great kids who comprise the Bulldog senior class are not dead. Was it a huge blow? Yes. But it's not the death shot.

There are a number of scenarios that are realistic and could lead to UMD getting home ice.

It all starts with either three or four points against Alaska-Anchorage. Anything less than that, and all these scenarios begin to look less realistic.

If the season ended right now, UMD would finish seventh. They'd play a first-round series at Wisconsin. However, the Bulldogs are within striking distance of third-place Colorado College.

To get home ice, UMD needs help. If they can outpoint St. Cloud State (home and home against Minnesota State) and Minnesota (at Michigan Tech), they're in. The three teams each have 27 points, but UMD loses the tie-breaker with both teams, whether only two of them are tied or all three remain tied.

UMD could also pass Wisconsin if they sweep Alaska-Anchorage while Wisconsin gets no more than one point against North Dakota. A three-point weekend against Anchorage would require that Wisconsin get swept by North Dakota.

The Bulldogs pass Colorado College if they sweep UAA and CC loses to Denver Saturday. They could tie Colorado College (and win the head-to-head tie-breaker because of a 1-0-1 season record) if they get three points against UAA and CC loses to Denver.

The simplest way to put it: UMD needs to finish Saturday night having passed two teams in the standings. With CC playing a single game against Denver, Wisconsin playing red-hot North Dakota, Minnesota making a tough trip to Houghton, and St. Cloud State playing an inconsistent MSU outfit, there's no reason to think it can't happen.

If things don't work out, UMD will have a week to figure out their woes on Olympic ice. The Bulldogs have played series at Alaska-Anchorage, Colorado College, St. Cloud State, and Minnesota, plus a series at Wisconsin, who's rink is five feet short in width of being Olympic-size. The Bulldogs also played a single game at Northern Michigan. The record sits at 3-5-3 in these games, meaning half of UMD's losses have come on Olympic ice.

No matter how it works out, a road series would take place on Olympic ice for UMD.

Before I go, congrats to Bulldog senior MacGregor Sharp (in the above photo). His natural hat trick against Minnesota was the first hat trick by a Bulldog since October of 2004, and it is fitting that a guy who worked so hard on his goal-scoring touch over the off-season would pull it off.