Monday, March 07, 2011

My 2011 All-WCHA Ballot

By now, you probably know the drill.

Every year, the media who cover the WCHA are asked to vote on the league's annual awards and honors. As the radio voice at UMD, I am honored to receive a vote.

And I will -- every year -- post my ballot once it is submitted and the deadline for submissions has passed. I fully encourage all voters to take this step, though I am not going to look down on those who do not.

In the case of my 2011 ballot, I'm ready to be taken to the woodshed by North Dakota fans. Here goes. All lists are alphabetical where applicable.

First Team
Jack Connolly, UMD
Mike Connolly, UMD
Jason Zucker, Denver

Second Team
Justin Fontaine, UMD
Matt Frattin, North Dakota
Drew Shore, Denver

Third Team
Drew LeBlanc, St. Cloud State
Joey Martin, Nebraska-Omaha
Craig Smith, Wisconsin

Apologies to ...
Jacob Cepis, Minnesota
Jason Gregoire, North Dakota
Matt Read, Bemidji State
Garrett Roe, St. Cloud State

Tough choices up top. Basically, I looked at my top six, and saw very little separation. North Dakota fans will probably scream about Frattin not being on the first team, but I was jocking Zucker early in the season, and my mancrush only increased when I saw him play in person. One area I thought Zucker was a bit better was his all-around play. Frattin is underrated as a penalty kill guy/defensive player, in part, because people don't look at him that way. But his speed really makes him a factor in all zones.

In the end, though, I thought Zucker was a bit more impressive this season, and Jack Connolly would be a lot of people's choice for Player of the Year were it not for the fact that he has Mike Connolly as a teammate.

Killed me not to have Gregoire on the team, but LeBlanc has been really good for SCSU, and Cepis has stepped up big-time as his team was about to fall off the face of the earth.

First Team
Jake Gardiner, Wisconsin
Chay Genoway, North Dakota

Second Team
Matt Donovan, Denver
Justin Schultz, Wisconsin

Third Team
Kurt Davis, Minnesota State
Justin Faulk, UMD

Apologies to ...
Ben Blood, North Dakota
Gabe Guentzel, Colorado College
Eric Olimb, Nebraska-Omaha

In my opinion, Gardiner was the best defenseman in the league who didn't miss any games. I wasn't about to punish Genoway -- who was having a Hobey Baker season -- for catching his skate in bad ice along the boards in Colorado Springs. Genoway might be the best player in college hockey, and if he is, he'll show it in the next month.

Olimb impressed with his ability in all zones, but wasn't quite as dynamic as some above him on the list. I really like how Davis was able to control play at times for MSU, a team that lacks depth all over the ice, especially on defense.

First Team
Sam Brittain, Denver

Second Team
Kent Patterson, Minnesota

Third Team
Dan Bakala, Bemidji State

Apologies to ...
Aaron Dell, North Dakota
John Faulkner, Nebraska-Omaha

Brittain had some rocky starts, but everyone on this list did. He was the best overall goalie in the league, I believe. But it's close. Bakala could be a game-changer in the playoffs, but so could his counterpart this weekend, Faulkner. The latter was rock solid at Amsoil Arena, making some real nice saves to help his team to a split last weekend.

Patterson, meanwhile, could be the Gophers MVP, and Dell won a lot of games. Not on this list? Scott Gudmandson, who was too up-and-down in my opinion to make the top five.

J.T. Brown, UMD
Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College
Jason Zucker, Denver
Justin Faulk, UMD
David Makowski, Denver
Sam Brittain, Denver

Apologies to ...
Erik Haula, F, Minnesota
Nick Jensen, D, St. Cloud State
Brock Montpetit, F, Nebraska-Omaha
Brock Nelson, F, North Dakota

This was actually pretty easy. Only kind of tough choice was Schwartz -- who missed a lot of time -- over Haula, who has really emerged. Jensen impressed for SCSU, but not enough to vault ahead of Faulk and Makowski.

Mike Connolly, F, UMD
I've been beating this drum since December. Why stop now? Connolly's ability in all zones, his insane competitiveness (which is almost enough to make Alex Stalock look blasé in comparison), and his goal-scoring touch make him the league's best. Am I biased? We'll find out when the final results are released. There's a good chance I am, but in six years of seeing every player and every team, I haven't seen a guy with the ability to control all phases of a game the way Mike Connolly has multiple times this season.

Simply put, he doesn't play the game like a normal hockey player. You can't teach his fire, his intensity, or his competitive level, and when you mesh those things with talent that's equally tough to teach, and you make that player very coachable, you've created a dangerous player.

Is he the best UMD player (we'll add "non-goalie" here so Stalock is in a category by himself) of the Sandelin era? It's highly possible. He's a better two-way player than Junior Lessard was. He's a better goal scorer than Evan Schwabe or Tim Stapleton were. He's probably going to end up with more goals than Justin Fontaine, who's pretty damn good in that area.

Jason Zucker, F, Denver
Watching the 2010 World Juniors, I saw a player in Zucker who had character, was a factor in all phases, but not one who struck me as a great skater.

I must have been blind. Zucker can fly. He made an impact at Denver from the start, something that's not easy for a freshman to do, and he's the first drafted player ever from the state of Nevada.

At some point, he's going to join the Wild, and boy will they be glad they burned a second-round pick on Zucker last summer. He'll make them very happy.

Dean Blais, Nebraska-Omaha
I'm not trying to make it sound like I was right when I was really wrong. When I voted the Mavericks eighth, I was dead wrong. But here's what I wrote.

I have the greatest respect for Dean Blais' coaching ability, and I think this UNO team will be better than the one he fielded last year. Throw out all the CCHA snark you want, but he won 20 games in a good league with a team that didn't appear to be that strong on paper.

The WCHA should and will be tougher on this Maverick team, but they're probably good enough to make a run at home ice.  

See? I was wrong, but I wasn't.

Actually, no, I was just wrong. Badly.

UNO finished third, threatened for a time to win the league, and was very impressive. There might not be a better coach in the country, and certainly not in this league. Props to Blais on the job he did.


Dirty said...

Prepare for the onslaught, Ciskie!!! This has been linked on SiouxSports.

Bruce Ciskie said...

I have my riot gear on.

Anonymous said...

Your votes make me laugh.

Austin said...

and im not sure why my name shows up like that

Anonymous said...

I always have thought you were unbiased and really respected your coverage.....not anymore.

Bruce Ciskie said...

Wow, Rick ... that cuts deep. Did I step on a kitten after I posted this or something?

LeftyZL said...

I thought your 1st team ballot went something like this:

Connolly, Connolly, Fontaine
Montgomery, Faulk

That's only logical for you after listening to you on the radio.

Runninwiththedogs said...

Lol. As if Sioux fans' ballots aren't:

Gregoire, Frattin, Malone
Genoway, Blood

Knight, Trupp, Hextall
Marto, Forbort

Kristo, Nelson, Lamoureux
Lapoint, MacWilliam

LeftyZL said...

Actually, Here's Mine:
1st Team: Mike Connolly, Matt Frattin, Jason Zucker, Gardiner, Blood, Dell

2nd Team: Jack Connolly, Drew Shore, Jaden Schwartz, Schultz, Donovan, Kent Patterson

3rd Team: Justin Fontaine, Jason Gregoire, Drew LeBlanc, Justin Faulk, Olimb?, Faulkner

All Rookie: Same as Ciskie's. Rookie team was easy.

Player of the Year: Frattin

Runninwiththedogs said...

No one has any love for Mark Zengerle?

Nathan said...


Thanks for posting your ballot. These are always fun to read. Full disclosure - I am a North Dakota fan.

In my opinion, you should have included Gregoire on your list. UND finished the season with far and away the best offensive and defensive numbers. Yet when I look at your ballot, I see one Sioux forward and one defensemen represeneted.

Too many players, not enough all league spots available I suppose.


LeftyZL said...

Forgot Zengerle...He seemed to start strong and then fade. That's just how I remember him.

Now that I look up his stats...Only having 10 of his 35 points after Christmas. No wonder I forgot about him.

Thane said...

To leave Frattin off the First team is a huge void, and perhaps a homer vote leaving both Connolly's there. No big deal, all the other voters have him as player of the year in the WCHA.
Ben Blood was a +28, playing against the top forwards in the league, and he doesn't even make your 3rd team. I understand he was the only defenseman to hold the Connollys without a point. WOW!!!
You did get Blais and Zucker right, but then again so did everyone else.

Bruce Ciskie said...


The Connollys just went a game without a point ... Friday night. But nice try there. Blood is a great defenseman, but I couldn't justify voting him ahead of guys who had good plus-minuses (overrated stat to an extent) AND made significant offensive contributions. If anything, you should be arguing over him not making it ahead of Kurt Davis, but Davis is a guy virtually anyone in this league would like to have.

As for the Connollys, Jack is fourth in the nation in points per game. Is he really that unworthy?

tho0505 said...

Here comes the onslaught! Interesting take on your 1st team. No love for Frattin??! I am a Sioux fan, but seriously if you've watched a game by him he's absolutely amazing. Best shot in college right now.

I like your all-rookie team, no one from ND should have been on it. Even as a Sioux fan, I think you showed Genoway too much love and Ben Blood, too little. I'd at least have BB as a 2nd team, if not 1st team and drop Genoway down to 3rd team.

Jordan said...

Anyone been watching Donovan for the past 6 weeks? He's not 8th-team anything this season compared to the others on the list.

SIOUX 7 said...

Being a Sioux fan, I don't see anything that could be called "questionable" with your ballot. All of those players are worthy of recognition.

Keep up the good work.

Christopher said...

I am not sure how you leave Frattin off the first team. He is a man among boys ourt there. I haven't seen a player with that accuracy in a very long time.

You solidified your lack of intelligence with college hockey by leaving Dell off.

Jonathan said...

Connolly had a great year, but was eclipsed by one player... Matt Frattin. You should have recognized that. I agree with leaving Blood off the ballot. He's a great defenseman when the puck is coming at him, but an awful defenseman moving the puck forward. Way too many giveaways.

Keaton said...

This is disappointing. As a UMD student, I am embarrassed that you could be this big of a homer. We finished 4th in WCHA and saying we stumbled to the finish line would be the understatement of the year. Two guys on the all WHCA first team? Outside the Law Firm of Connolly, Connolly and Fontaine, no Bulldog put up substantial numbers, meaning they were the best players on an otherwise relatively weak team.

The only team Jacob Cepis should have made is the all WCHA Goon Squad alongside Lee Marvin from SCSU. I watched 6 games Cepis played in this year and the only thing he did well, besides looking like a boy amongst men, was take cheap shots at guys and almost always after the whistle.

Dan Bakala being your third team Goalie is also extremely questionable. He lost almost twice as many games as he won You can go ahead and argue that it had alot to do with the team in front of him, but he finished 7th in GAA and Save % respectively in the WCHA. Those don't sound like numbers of the third best goalie in the league.

Lastly, naming Mike Connolly player of the year is utterly unconscionable. He isn't even the best player on his team. He scored 5 goals in a game this year. That is an admirable feat and I get that, but when the tough got going (last 4 games of the regular season), Connolly's contribution was marginal. The WCHA player of the year is unanimous for the first time since Ryan Duncan won in 06-07 (the same year he won the Hobey Baker) and the unanimous winner is going to be Matt Frattin from North Dakota.

SCSU coach Bob Motzko said it best when he called Frattin a "Man-child". Thats simply what he is. He has had his way with every defense and goalie in the league and rewarding him with the Player of the Year award is only just.

Bruce Ciskie said...


You can feel Mike Connolly wasn't the best player on his team, but I can tell you that a number of people who are paid to watch and observe this league disagree with you. I'm only one of those.


I wasn't referring to anyone specific, and I didn't mention J. Connolly's power play statistics. I mentioned his points per game numbers, and he is fourth in Division I there. None of the three players ahead of him in that statistic are from the WCHA.

sioux rube said...

What a joke.

Kerri Tyler said...

As a Sioux fan, there are only three things that I truly disagree with you on...Frattin on the second team and not the first, Dell not being on any team, and Connolly as POY as opposed to Frattin. Frattin dominated all year and perhaps deserves a little more recognition than you gave him. Dell is in the lead for goaltender of the year iirc.

Also, Keaton, Lee Marvin is a former UND player....Aaron Marvin attends SCSU...they are cousins.

Keaton said...

Bruce, being paid to watch hockey doesn't necessarily give anyone credibility. John Madden was once paid to watch football and we all know how that went. Regardless, you can call Mike Connolly the best player on his team, but he still doesn't play anywhere near the level Matt Frattin does.

Let's reconvene on this "discussion" in say....3 years. That will give Mr. Frattin enough time to be a 30+ goal scorer in the big leagues and make this argument null.

Kerri, thanks for pointing that out about AARON Marvin. He is definitely who I was talking about, but got his name mixed up with Lee's.

Runninwiththedogs said...

Keaton is clearly a UMD student but a UND fan. S/he doesn't even know the meaning of the word unanimous. If Ciskie and Jess Myers voted Mike Connolly player of the year, then the voted can't be unanimous because NOT EVERYONE VOTED FOR FRATTIN. Teehee!

Frattin will have a lovely ECHL career.

Keaton said...

Ok, so I meant should be unanimous. I understand the meaning of the word.

I guess we'll see come Thursday how ridiculous these picks really are. Teehee!

Jonathan said...

"Frattin will have a wonderful ECHL career."
Yes, because the Maple Leafs sent scouts to watch Matt Frattin several times this year, just because they wanted to throw away some cash. Frattin will see playing time in the NHL his first year. Guaranteed.

Runninwiththedogs said...

I bet there are still scouts sent to watch Patrick White, ya know.

Anonymous said...

Ciskie's picks= epic fail. Nice work genius, go jump in lake superior

The Arch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Arch said...

You guys are a bunch of little whiners. Jeezus grow up. He didn't pick Frattin. Maybe if you weren't on your knees so much for the guy you'd see other people playing around the league. Learn the difference between an opinion and fact before you try to come on a guys forum (which is always a great read) and speak negatively about it. If you don't like it, do the work and make your own one. If you won't do that, just shut the hell up.