Monday, October 31, 2011

Big Ten Football = Not Good

One of the things that gets cast aside once my attention span gets dominated by college hockey is college football.

I love college football, but the fact that we still don't have a likable system to decide a major-college champion is a problem, and it doesn't help that the Big Ten is basically a non-competitive entity in the sport.

If that hadn't been proven beyond a doubt before this weekend, things that happened Saturday only underscored the problems this league is having right now.

We know who the top Big Ten teams are in football. Nebraska, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State, and probably either Michigan or Ohio State are the top five. What we didn't know is how far this upper tier is from being a legitimate contender nationally.

The only one of the group -- Wisconsin -- that had even a prayer of a BCS title shot blew it the last two weekends. How did they blow it?

Well, I'm glad you asked. Against Michigan State, in Wisconsin's first true road game of the season, the Badgers jumped to a 14-0 lead, fell behind 31-17 with a bunch of third-down screw-ups on defense, special teams bloopers, and two Russell Wilson interceptions. The Badgers then tied the score thanks to two great drives led by Wilson. And then Michigan State scored on a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game. While three Badgers stood and watched, Kurt Nichol caught a deflected pass, then leaned into the end zone.

As if that wasn't gut-wrenching enough, Wisconsin went to Columbus Saturday, jumped to another early lead, and then went through a similar comedy of errors in falling behind 26-14 in the fourth quarter. Wilson led them back again, and Wisconsin took a 29-26 lead into the final minute. Then Ohio State got a 40-yard score in the last 30 seconds. Buckeyes win 33-29. Ugh.

This isn't about blame. The Badgers aren't good enough, and haven't been good enough for years. They prove it when they go on the road to play good, but inferior, teams.

(No disrespect intended here. But I'm sorry. Ohio State and Michigan State aren't as good as Wisconsin, and never should have been in position to win those games. It's a symptom of a problem for Wisconsin.)

And if Wisconsin -- with the mercenary quarterback, stout running game, and somewhat decent defense -- isn't good enough to win a national title out of the Big Ten, there's no hope.

Nebraska is decent, but got blown out at Wisconsin a month ago, and it's not like that was an accident. Michigan State and Ohio State are good teams, but MSU had no chance Saturday in Lincoln, and tOSU wasn't good enough to beat middling Miami. Or Michigan State. Michigan lost to Michigan State, and the quarterback is hardly consistent with his throws, but they're good, and they should be good enough to end their tOSU losing streak later in November.

Penn State may have lost convincingly to Alabama, but that's no crime. What is a crime is that they still only have that one loss, despite an offense that makes the phrase "sets football back 40 years" seem like an understatement. Did you watch that Illinois game? My word. I knew Illinois wasn't that good, but that was one of the worst football games you'll see all season.

Who's coming out of this league? Probably Nebraska at this rate. And what chance will Nebraska have against Oregon or Stanford or whoever else in the Rose Bowl? Probably not very much.

This is the state of Big Ten football. On the outside looking in.

BlogPoll Ballot: October 31

Another week, another ballot.

  • Wisconsin is a fraud. Typical Badger team that folds as soon as things get tough. At some point, people will get tired of the same bloopers when this team plays on the road. Two true road games this season, and two losses to inferior teams. 
  • LSU and Alabama go head to head this weekend. You might have heard about that.
  • Not impressed by anyone ranked below like No. 14. Lots of issues with those teams, especially Kansas State and Penn State. Kansas State done got exposed by OU, while Penn State still probably needs to be exposed. Tough defense, but an embarrassing offense.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Game 8: Bemidji State at UMD

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Bemidji State is going to bring a much better effort in this game.

The question: Can UMD match or exceed that effort?



Oleksuk - Connolly - Brown
Seidel - Hendrickson - Basaraba
Crandall (Justin) - Herbert - Grun
DeLisle - Tardy - Flaherty

Bergman - Lamb
Kishel - Casto
Olson - McManus

Reiter - Crandall (Aaron) - Gaffy

Kinne - George - Boehm
Illo - Walters - Orban
Jubinville - McLeod - Findlay
MacQueen - Fisher - Cain

Hunt - Areshenko
Rendle - Prapavessis
Windle - Wacker

Bakala - Walsh

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: The Michigan Tech Turnaround

I know we're barely a month into this college hockey season, and I know that means some teams still have 30 or more regular season games to play. I know that we've danced the "quick start" dance with programs in the past, and I know that it hasn't always ended well.

But I don't care. This can no longer be ignored.

Without a doubt, the biggest and best story of this young college hockey season resides in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State have everyone talking. After Friday night, WCHA fans all over should be looking long and hard at what Michigan Tech is doing.

The Huskies -- long-time doormats of the WCHA and, for the last two-plus years, one of the most insanely cursed programs in recent memory -- blasted Denver 7-2 Friday in Houghton, a win that had DU coach George Gwozdecky proclaiming that the Huskies were "by far the better team," and saying that his team "could have had Patrick Roy in goal for us." The latter comment references the fact that DU lost starting goalie Adam Murray to an injury on Tech's first goal. Juho Olkinoura finished the game, and Gwozdecky said Murray will not play in Saturday's series finale.

(More on that in a bit.)

Even if you allow for the fact that injuries robbed the Huskies of front-line players and depth for two straight years, and now those players are healthy and contributing, you still can't ignore what Mel Pearson is doing in his first year on the job. A team that won four games all of last year has already won five. A team that won two league games all of last year has already won three.

Senior goalie Josh Robinson has an .886 save percentage in his career. He's at .922 this season after stopping 38 of 40 shots against Denver Friday.

The only thing Pearson hasn't done (yet) is win away from Houghton, and it won't happen anytime soon, because the Huskies don't play on the road for two more weeks.

At 5-2 overall and 3-2 in the WCHA, there are no illusions for Pearson and the Huskies. There is a lot of work to be done, and a lot can change between now and when UMD visits Houghton in early December. But for now, it's hard not to smile when thinking about the potential this Michigan Tech team has to do something special.

As I said on the UMD broadcast Friday night, I always enjoy my time in Houghton. When my family is able to travel with me, they enjoy their time in Houghton. We've gotten to know and like many of their fans, and Houghton will always be special because it's where I called my first UMD game in 2005 (national championship game and all, that still stands as the closest I've ever come to throwing up while trying to work ... nerves can do that, I guess).

Time will tell if Pearson can engineer a rapid turnaround. But the early reviews are in, and they're wholly positive.


If it weren't for Michigan Tech's story about 260 miles away, Lake Superior State would probably be grabbing more headlines as we approach Halloween. Friday night, the Lakers took a 4-0 lead and held on to win at Miami 5-3, completing a sweep in the Thursday-Friday series.

The Friday win gives LSSU a 7-1 record on the season, notable for a number of reasons. For starters, Lake State didn't win its seventh game until Jan. 28 last season. So it took the Lakers eight games to win seven this season after needing 26 to hit that mark last season.

So far, Lake Superior State isn't getting a ton of scoring from one guy. Instead, a group of sophomores and juniors have combined to lead the way offensively. Juniors Nick McParland, Zach Trotman, and Domenic Monardo, and sophomore Kyle Jean all have at least seven points in the eight games. Goalie Kevin Kapalka has a .924 save percentage and has started all eight games.

No one thought this Lake Superior State team would make much noise in the CCHA this season, and maybe this 7-1, 5-1 start is a mirage. Maybe Miami's 2-6, 0-4 start is a mirage.

But right now, it makes for a good story, just like their Yooper brethren in Houghton.


UMD fell behind early Friday, as Bemidji State took a 2-0 lead on goals 1:05 apart in the first seven-plus minutes of the first. Scott Sandelin called his timeout after Jordan George gave the Beavers a two-goal lead, and got immediate results. Wade Bergman scored on a scramble play on the first shift after the timeout. J.T. Brown tied the score five minutes later. From there, it was all Bulldogs.

Keegan Flaherty, Chris Casto, Brady Lamb, and Jack Connolly scored as UMD won 6-2 Friday at Amsoil Arena. The Bulldogs saw that Bemidji State's power play was clicking at nearly 30 percent to start the season, so they wisely avoided the cubicle of shame, with Connolly's tripping minor at :59 of the first the only two-minute power play BSU had in the game (no shots).

UMD got back to .500 at 3-3-1, got its first WCHA points, and ran its unbeaten streak to three.

Now, it's time to take another step in this team's development. Saturdays haven't been nearly as good as Fridays for UMD so far this season, a trend that can't last long if UMD is to mold itself into a contending team.

Unquestionably, Bemidji State will be better. Can UMD match that?


Elsewhere in the WCHA, St. Cloud State went to Grand Forks, played without No. 1 goalie Mike Lee, got outshot badly, had two players kicked out of the game for illegal hits, and still shut out North Dakota 4-0.

Lee is not on the trip because of an injury that could be serious. Ryan Faragher filled in nicely in goal, shutting out the Fighting Sioux in his first WCHA start. Travis Novak's short-handed empty-net goal late was the only special teams goal of the night, despite UND having two five-minute power plays and a long five-on-three.

North Dakota has never started 0-4 in the WCHA. They'll make history if they don't solve Faragher in the second game of this series.

Nebraska-Omaha got an Alex Hudson power play goal with 21 seconds left to beat Wisconsin 5-4. It was UNO's first lead after rallying from 3-0 and 4-3 deficits. Also, Minnesota beat Alaska-Anchorage 5-0, and Colorado College rode two Rylan Schwartz goals to a 4-1 win at RPI.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Game 7: Bemidji State at UMD

The Bulldogs haven't taken good care of Amsoil Arena in its short tenure as the Bulldogs' home. It's not like they've been bad here, but they haven't created a culture where everyone expects the home barn to lead to wins.

That needs to change soon, as UMD is in the middle of a run of ten out of 14 games at home to start the season. Must make hay while the sun, well, you know.



Oleksuk - Connolly - Brown
Seidel - Hendrickson - Basaraba
Crandall (Justin) - Herbert - Grun
DeLisle - Tardy - Flaherty

Bergman - Lamb
Kishel - Casto
Olson - McManus

Reiter - Crandall (Aaron) - Gaffy

Kinne - George - Boehm
Illo - Walters - Orban
Jubinville - McLeod - Tosunian
MacQueen - Fisher - Cain

Hunt - Areshenko
Rendle - Prapavessis
Carlson - Wacker

Walsh - Bakala

Bemidji State Visit Means Bulldogs Must Roll Up Sleeves

Just think. Had the 2010-11 season played out differently, we could be sitting here talking about how the Bulldogs are trying to exact a measure of revenge this weekend.

Instead, it's just another opponent that will try to measure itself against the defending NCAA champions. Weird how that works out, isn't it?

Last March, Bemidji State got a controversial power play in overtime against UMD at the Final Five, and turned it into the winning goal. Had that been the end of UMD's season, the tone of this series would be immeasurably different.

Instead, UMD looks at another step in the right direction this weekend. There have been seven WCHA series played so far. Six of them have ended in home team sweeps. The only one that didn't? Minnesota's sweep at Amsoil Arena two weekends ago.

Now, the Bulldogs come off a relatively successful weekend in Providence, and it's time to get the first league points of the season. Bemidji State comes in trying to build more momentum off their sweep of Michigan Tech last weekend in Bemidji.

The Beavers are a solid team, largely because of their work ethic, skating ability, and an in-your-face style that tends to cause problems for UMD on occasion. They're like Michigan Tech and Alaska-Anchorage, two teams that give UMD tons of fits, but senior defenseman Brady Lamb says there are differences.

On Tech and UAA, Lamb says they like to center things around puck battles on the wall. With Bemidji, "sort of general principle is the same. They aren't so much along the wall, but they sort of wait for opponents to make mistakes and jump on them. There's a lot of dump and chase of pucks, and wait for an opportunity there."

UMD needs to show they can win that more grinding style of a hockey game. They got a taste of it last weekend in Providence, and for the most part, the Bulldogs showed they can handle it. Head coach Scott Sandelin said he wasn't thrilled with the third period UMD played on Saturday, a period that saw Providence twice rally from one-goal deficits to eventually force overtime. Other than that, he seemed pleased with what he saw from his team.

Despite that, Sandelin has made some changes to his forward lines. The Crandall - Herbert - Grun group remains intact (and that's cool, because that was UMD's most consistent line last weekend), but Travis Oleksuk moves to left wing on Jack Connolly's line. Mike Seidel moves to right wing on the second line, now centered by Jake Hendrickson.

Oleksuk - Connolly - Brown is the second attempt by UMD to create a line that is a threat to score every time it hops the boards. That's the dynamic that FCC brought this team that is almost impossible to duplicate, but yet you have to try. Having a top line that dangerous makes everyone else more dangerous, because eventually, someone will make a mistake and forget about a player because he isn't on that top line.

As UMD moves forward with this season, there is no guarantee the OCB line (every time they score, they go back for more) is going to stick the way FCC did. But Sandelin can push other buttons if necessary. The production and consistency that UMD has gotten out of the Herbert line allows the head coach to try a few different things without giving off an aura of panic about things.

A Bemidji team without Matt Read (NHL player with Philadelphia now) might seem less dangerous, but the Beavers' work ethic and intensity makes them a threat every time they play.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

UMD and Defending the Blue Line Combine for Cool Event

I know it's still a couple weeks away, but I wanted to let you know about a cool event that will be taking place on Veteran's Day during the UMD-Alaska-Anchorage men's hockey game.

For the details, I call on this press release from Defending the Blue Line, a group whose mission is to help offset the cost of playing hockey for the families of military members from all branches.

Defending the Blue Line (DTBL) is proud to announce that the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs Men’s Hockey team will wear camouflage jerseys during warm-ups on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2011 before their WCHA matchup against the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. The sweaters will then be autographed by the players and auctioned off to benefit the Stauber Brothers hockey camp for military kids in the Duluth area.

Per NCAA rules, the sweaters will not include player names, however they will be numbered and unique to that player. Sweaters will be auctioned off during the game at Amsoil Arena, with bidding closing at the beginning of the third period. Opening bid for each sweater will be $150 (USD).

Defending The Blue Line is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created by a group of National Guard soldiers in Minnesota. The charity assists families of all branches of the military with costs associated with hockey. They provide financial assistance for registration fees, free equipment, summer hockey camps, and sending many deserving families down to Xcel Energy Center for a night of fun at a Minnesota Wild game.

Defending The Blue Line is excited for this opportunity to further help military families and celebrate the service of our military heroes. Keeping the kids of military families focused and active in hockey is a great way to help keep their minds off of a parent’s upcoming deployment. 

DTBL is a charity championed by the late Derek Boogaard during his NHL career, and it is currently endorsed by NHL players Matt Hendricks (Washington), Josh Harding (Minnesota), and Brent Burns (San Jose), among others.

For more information on their work, check out their website.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Alabama-Huntsville Drops Hockey

The inevitable became the reality Monday.

The University of Alabama-Huntsville announced that it is dropping its varsity Division I men's hockey program, effective at the end of the season.

UAH interim president Malcolm Portera made the announcement, one week before he leaves the position to make room for the school's new president.

As a result of a financial analysis of our athletic program, and numerous conversations I have had with athletic directors, university presidents and commissioners of Division I ice hockey programs, it has become obvious that, for the best interest of this university, our athletic department and the ice hockey program, we move the team from the Division I level back to its original classification as a club sport at the end of the 2011-2012 season," Portera said in a written statement.

Portera said the cost savings from cutting hockey will allow the university to enhance the other 15 sports on campus.

"We will continue to honor the scholarship commitment made to these students, and if a student-athlete chooses to transfer to another program, we will provide help in making that relocation as seamless as possible," Portera said. "Coaches will remain on our staff through May 31, 2012, and the university will assist them in their endeavors to seek future employment."

The school's team will move back to club level, and its players will have an opportunity to transfer to another Division I school without the normal one-year waiting period.

(A few years back, UMD had a defenseman named Ryan Swanson, who transferred after Iona dropped its hockey program. He also had the ability to transfer without sitting a season. Isn't the NCAA nice like that?)

I've got nothing to say, really. It makes me sick that college hockey's powers that be -- all of them -- could have done more to help save this program. It also makes me sick that the University of Alabama system so badly failed this program. They turned away from a grassroots group raising over $500,000 and also backed away from other potential means of funding the program, all in the name of trying to "enhance" the school's Division II sports.

Instead of blabbing, I'll point to stuff I wrote in 2009, when UAH was inexplicably rejected by the CCHA.

It's probably curtains for the UAH program very soon. There's little chance of a Division I team being able to sustain itself as the only independent in the land. They'd have to rely on bye weeks to get non-conference dates, and good luck getting anyone willing to play in Huntsville.

... Quite simply, the CCHA took the easy way out. For college hockey fans, it's a horrible disappointment.  

The writing was on the wall then, and it's too bad that nobody tried to wash it off in the two years since.

BlogPoll Ballot


SB Nation BlogPoll Top 25 College Football Rankings

The Ciskie Blog Ballot - Week 9

Rank Team Delta
1 LSU Tigers --
2 Alabama Crimson Tide --
3 Boise St. Broncos Arrow_up 2
4 Oklahoma St. Cowboys Arrow_up 3
5 Stanford Cardinal Arrow_up 1
6 Clemson Tigers Arrow_up 2
7 Oregon Ducks Arrow_up 2
8 Arkansas Razorbacks Arrow_up 2
9 Kansas St. Wildcats Arrow_up 3
10 Oklahoma Sooners Arrow_down -6
11 Wisconsin Badgers Arrow_down -8
12 Nebraska Cornhuskers Arrow_down -1
13 Michigan St. Spartans Arrow_up 2
14 Virginia Tech Hokies --
15 South Carolina Gamecocks Arrow_up 1
16 Michigan Wolverines Arrow_up 1
17 Houston Cougars Arrow_up 1
18 Arizona St. Sun Devils Arrow_up 1
19 Penn St. Nittany Lions Arrow_up 1
20 Texas A&M Aggies Arrow_up 5
21 Cincinnati Bearcats --
22 Texas Tech Red Raiders --
23 USC Trojans --
24 Georgia Bulldogs --
25 Southern Miss. Golden Eagles --
Dropouts: West Virginia Mountaineers, Washington Huskies, Illinois Fighting Illini, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Auburn Tigers
SB Nation BlogPoll College Football Top 25 Rankings »
  • I'm floored that my ballot doesn't drop Wisconsin as far as the BCS did. Shows what the BCS thinks of the Big Ten, and the BCS is probably right. Wisconsin might still be the best team in the league, and it can't win a road game against an obviously-inferior opponent.
  • Texas Tech is a pretty good team, being that it tried to give away that game at Oklahoma, and still managed to win. Nice work.
  • Saw a chunk of Oklahoma State-Missouri. I know the Tigers aren't as good as they've been in the not-too-distant past, but Oklahoma State is just a rock-solid team that deserves more discussion in the national title picture.
  • Let the LSU-Alabama hype begin. After each won easily this week, both are off before the Nov. 5 showdown.
  • Lots of movement at the bottom of this ballot. After all, why should I keep the likes of West Virginia, Illinois, and Georgia Tech around this poll?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Game 6: UMD at Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- UMD tries for a sweep in this game, after a 5-2 win Friday. The Bulldogs are now 8-0-1 in their last nine games against non-WCHA opponents away from Duluth.

They are trying to sweep a Hockey East team in a road series for the first time since beating UMass-Lowell twice in the 2007-08 season (also the last time they played a road series against a Hockey East team).



Seidel - Connolly - Brown
Basaraba - Oleksuk - Tardy
Crandall (Justin) - Herbert - Grun
Flaherty - Hendrickson - Krause

Bergman - Lamb
Kishel - Casto
Olson - McManus

Reiter - Crandall (Aaron)

Bergland - Schaller - Montesano
Demopoulos - Mauermann - Cross
Balysky - Army - Brown (Drew)
Simon - Brown (David) - Maloney

Harvey - Hart
New - Kaib
Velischek - Shamanski

Beaudry - Gates - Stein

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Good Start, Better Finish

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The first road trip of UMD's young season got off to an auspicious start Friday night, and the finish to a 5-2 win over Providence was even better than the start.

The Bulldogs got a goal from their fourth line just 3:11 into the game, as Keegan Flaherty tipped in a goal-mouth feed from Scott Kishel after Kishel stole a puck in the neutral zone and led the charge three on one/two.

(The Friars kind of had someone back. It was sort of a three-on-one mixed with a three-on-two mixed with a two-on-one. But I digress. And blab. And confuse people.)

Yeah, I know Providence evened the score later in the period, but there are a few important takeaways from Friday's game.

For starters, UMD never trailed in the game. Travis Oleksuk gave them the lead for good in the second period. Mike Seidel added a goal two minutes later (baseball style!), then Oleksuk and Caleb Herbert (power play) scored in the third period for UMD.

The special teams game was a win. Herbert's goal on the power play was the only special teams goal of the night, but even without that, it was a win for the Bulldogs. They severely limited Providence's chances on the man advantage, and even created a couple opportunities for J.T. Brown short-handed. Oleksuk's second goal of the night came one second after a power play ended, so it was basically a power play goal, even though it didn't count as one.

When Providence carried a chunk of the first period, UMD regrouped and didn't let it happen again in the game. You can question the opponent if you want, but this was a badly-needed performance and win for the champs.

The finish was the most impressive. After taking a one-goal lead into the second intermission, UMD out-scored Providence 2-0 in the third period, out-shot the Friars 13-5, and held the Friars to just ten shot attempts in the period, all of them from outside the slot (five on each side of the offensive zone, none particularly threatening).

Kenny Reiter was shaky on a couple shots, but pretty solid. The first goal was a weird play, where it looked like the initial shot was blocked, and no one could find it for what felt like five minutes before it was shot into the net. On the second, there was a defensive breakdown, leaving a Providence player wide open at the side of the net for an easy goal.

Not sure what UMD will do in goal Saturday. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if either guy started. I know there are a lot of fans who think these games mean more than the league games do, and the PairWise certainly presents a solid argument for that being the case. But I don't think coaches see it the same way at this point. I still think they look at the league games as being the most important things on a schedule, because points are on the line. This might be a good opportunity to keep Aaron Crandall fresh, because even if you start rolling with Reiter as the No. 1 goalie, it's good to have the second guy ready to play in case something bad happens.

Freshman Adam Krause, who took a seat with defensman Luke McManus for the series opener, should be in the lineup Saturday on the fourth line, with Keegan Flaherty moving to the left wing and Krause serving as Jake Hendrickson's right wing. The fourth line had a good night Friday, chipping in a goal and some good shifts with puck possession, even when they weren't matched up against Providence's fourth line.

The Friars looked a bit like a team in transition in this game. Nate Leaman's teams at Union became progressively more and more difficult to play against, capped by last year's team that was outstanding. A good in-your-face, grinding, battle-for-every-puck-and-every-inch team that made life hell for its opponents. Coaching a different guy's recruits, you saw flashes of that style from the Friars, but it wasn't anything remotely close to 60 minutes of it.

UMD needs more of the same Saturday to finish off the sweep. It would be a very nice way to close out the first road trip of the season, and it would ensure some smiles on the trip home, despite the 4:00am Eastern wake-up call Sunday.



Some odd happenings around the WCHA Friday. In Bemidji, the Beavers beat Michigan Tech 6-5 in their home opener. BSU scored five straight after trailing 3-1 in the first. It started when the Beavers pulled Dan Bakala after he allowed three goals on four shots (yup, his save percentage on the night was .250).

Meanwhile, goaltending was also optional in St. Cloud, where St. Cloud State beat New Hampshire 7-5. The Huskies trailed early, but scored three second-period goals to take a 5-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish. It's St. Cloud State's second win of the season after a three-game losing streak.

Speaking of "optional goaltending," Wisconsin beat North Dakota 5-3 in a game where all the scoring happened in the first two periods. Neither starting goalie was sharp, but North Dakota was the only one to make a change, pulling Brad Eidsness after he allowed four goals on 18 shots.

Also Friday, Denver rallied past Minnesota State 4-2, and Minnesota improved to 5-0 with a 6-0 drubbing of Vermont.


The most bizarre happening was in Marquette, Mich., where Northern Michigan beat Michigan 5-3. During the second period, NMU's Andrew Cherniwchan got tangled up with Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick, and a fracas ensued.

(The only YouTube showing up at the moment is one of the crowd at Berry Events Center reacting to Hunwick getting ejected. It's great if you like cheering crowds and music, but it accomplishes nothing else. If I ever see a video of the incident online, I'll update.)

Hunwick ended up taking a major penalty for contact to the head, and a game misconduct. Adam Janecyk had to finish the game in goal for Michigan, allowing four NMU goals on 15 shots (Hunwick had a shutout going).

The senior goalie was apologetic via Twitter after the game.

Cherniwchan and Michigan's Luke Moffatt took matching majors for fighting, which comes with an automatic game disqualification in college hockey. Neither will be eligible to play in Saturday's rematch, while Hunwick will be.


Saturday's coverage starts at 5:30 from Providence, on 94X and the Bulldog Sports Radio Network (KQ 105.5, KQ 106.7). You can hear the game online at

Friday, October 21, 2011

Game 5: UMD at Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- On the road for the first time this season, UMD is trying to snap a three-game slide. It's the Bulldogs' longest losing streak since the tail end of the 2009-2010 season.

A long time ago.

Time for it to end.



Seidel - Connolly - Brown
Tardy - Oleksuk - Basaraba
Crandall (Justin) - Herbert - Grun
DeLisle - Hendrickson - Flaherty

Bergman - Lamb
Kishel - Casto
Johnson - Olson

Reiter - Crandall (Aaron)

Bergland - Schaller - Montesano
Demopoulos - Mauermann - Cross
Balysky - Army - Brown (Drew)
Simon - Brown (David) - Maloney

Harvey - Hart
New - Kaib
Velischek - Shamanski

Beaudry - Gates - Stein

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bulldogs Try To Regain Traction

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Four straight home games and ten out of 14 sounds like a great way to start the season.

Yet, it's a trip out east that could get UMD the team bonding they seek.

The Bulldogs are off to a surprising -- not in a good way -- 1-3 start to the season. This weekend, they have made the trip to Providence for a two-game series against the Friars of Providence College.

So far, the Bulldogs have proven potent on offense and leaky on defense, allowing 18 goals in four games while scoring 15, and that's a number high enough (you'd think) to win a few hockey games. However, with 18 goals against, and a penalty kill that's allowed eight goals in 18 chances, the ability to win games has been severely hampered.

No one on this UMD team is kidding around. They know the areas they need to improve, and the road to that improvement starts here.

Why does being on the road matter? You remove the creature comforts. You remove the familiar hops and bounces. You remove the supportive fans.

(Especially on this trip. Remember how quiet Clarkson's building was last January? Well, this could rival it, if past attendance figures are to be believed. UMD may need to create its own atmosphere on the ice, if you know what I mean.)

We all love being at Amsoil Arena, but the opportunities that exist for a team to bond and gain a little chemistry during a road trip are virtually limitless.

"It's been nice to start at home in front of our fans," senior captain and two-time All American Jack Connolly said. "It's been fun, but it's not the start that we wanted, and I think there's nothing better than getting out of town for a weekend and playing a different team. Hopefully get a couple wins under our belt out east."

Having been on this beat for over six years now, I can tell you that it's a different vibe on the road. There are no distractions, especially when you fly somewhere. It's all about the team. They eat together for the better part of four straight days on a road trip like this. They are divided up by twos in hotel rooms. They go everywhere -- practices, games, team dinners -- together. It's a serious bonding opportunity for a group that hasn't really had that yet.

It's not a knock on the home fans or the home environment. Every team benefits from that first road trip of the season. UMD hopes that it works out for them, too.

Of course, if the ills on the ice aren't corrected, it won't matter. Providence doesn't appear to be a patsy as it's been in the past. First-year coach Nate Leaman comes from Union, where he did a very good job for eight years and led the program to its first-ever NCAA appearance last season. Leaman's Friars got off to a very good start last weekend, upsetting No. 7 Boston University 5-3 in its season opener, then beating Massachusetts 6-4 on Saturday.

Leaman makes it abundantly clear that he doesn't have all the answers yet. He is using players generally recruited by former coach Tim Army, and he is still in a feeling-out process, as are his players. He likened it to have a team full of freshmen, because even Providence's seniors are trying to get Leaman's system and methods down pat.

This is a nice opportunity for UMD to make some headway in the PairWise when that ugly thing starts staring all of us down later this season. It helps immensely that Providence has already beaten a nationally-ranked team in Boston University.

But I'm not going to drone on about the PairWise in October. I refuse.

Instead of worrying about that, let's worry about UMD making itself right this weekend. It's a great chance to gain traction, with some huge series coming up (Bemidji State, Denver, UAA) in consecutive weekends.

(Yes, I included UAA in there. Love the start that Dave Shyiak has them off to in Anchorage. I may get more into that in the coming days/weeks.)


As for the lineup, don't expect any drastic changes. Max Tardy switched spots with Jake Hendrickson, with Tardy now a wing on Travis Oleksuk's line and Hendrickson centering Keegan Flaherty and Adam Krause, in practice. I don't think we'll see anything else different on Friday.

For those clamoring for a change to the top line, give it some more time. It took months for Connolly to develop the chemistry he ended up having with Justin Fontaine and eventually Mike Connolly. I know they made it look easy at times, and it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch, but it didn't happen overnight, and neither will the chemistry with Connolly, J.T. Brown, and Mike Seidel. Week three is not the time to tinker with something you think is going to work if you're a hockey coach. For now, I think the UMD staff is more focused on getting more out of Oleksuk's linemates. Oleksuk has four goals and five points, but only Dan DeLisle (single assist) has registered a scoring point while skating on Oleksuk's line. The hope is that Tardy and Joe Basaraba can generate a little more. If that doesn't happen, I wouldn't be shocked to see some more tinkering within the top six forwards.

We don't know who will start in goal Friday. I tend to think we'll see both of the goalies play this weekend, but that's not based on anything besides a gut feeling. If whoever starts Friday plays a very strong game, the staff might decide to go back to that guy Saturday.

Based on what we saw last Saturday, I would really like to see more of freshman defenseman Derik Johnson. I liked what he brought to the table against the Gophers, and I tend to think he's going to end up being as advertised -- responsible defensively, high character, physical play.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wisconsin School Uses Loophole, Sues To Make Football Playoffs

We've discussed this before, but high school football is a bit different in Wisconsin than it is in Minnesota. In Minnesota, the high school football playoffs include everybody, with the exception of the bottom teams in sections that have more than eight teams (there aren't many).

In Wisconsin, teams have to finish .500 or better in league play to qualify for the state football playoffs. Upon completion of the season, the WIAA puts together a list of qualifying teams, which totals 224 schools (32 teams in each of seven divisions). Teams are placed in divisions based on their overall enrollment, then grouped in pods of eight teams each. The top four teams in each pod are seeded, with first-round matchups drawn up to minimize travel as much as possible.

This year, the process in Wisconsin was questioned as seriously as it's been in any year since it was implemented.

Messmer/Shorewood is a Milwaukee-area co-operative. Its players and supporters have dubbed it "Messwood." Thanks to the involvement of a lawyer, this whole situation is a mess.

The program left its conference, the Woodland, without approval from the WIAA in 2007. Such a move carries a four-year ban from postseason participation, as noted in WIAA bylaws. As a result, 2011 was to be Messmer/Shorewood's last year of playoff ineligibility.

The team posted a 4-2 record in the Midwest Classic North Conference, the league it left the Woodland to join. Such a record would normally be enough to gain playoff eligibility, but because Messmer/Shorewood was in its last year of the four-year ban, the WIAA chose to exclude the team from the playoffs.

However, Messmer/Shorewood argued that the rule's placement in the bylaws makes it look like it only applies to schools that leave a conference to become an independent, not schools that leave one conference to join another. As a result, Messmer/Shorewood sued the WIAA for playoff inclusion.

And won.

I'm not going to lie. There's a part of me that says "Good ... this will teach the WIAA to have sloppily-written bylaws." There's no excuse for an organization that oversees the number of athletes, coaches, and schools the WIAA does to have a rule that is this badly written.

However, I hate the message this sends. Messmer/Shorewood was fully aware of the punishment they faced for leaving the Woodland Conference. They decided to go anyway, feeling that the move was in the best interests of the program. The fact that they were able to turn things around and put together a competitive program in the new league validates that decision. But they did it knowing full well that they were facing a four-year postseason ban.

When they put together a nice season in the fourth year of that four-year ban, they looked at the rule, saw an opportunity, and sued.

Never mind that they agreed to the ban when they switched leagues. Never mind that they understood the intent of the rule and were just fine living by that rule. Never mind that the WIAA had to take a team out of the playoffs that thought they had made it, in order to include Messmer/Shorewood.

When opportunity knocks, sue. That's what we do in this country, I guess.

Easy to accept, but harder to understand, and even harder to like.

Monday, October 17, 2011

BlogPoll Ballot: Oct. 17

Discussion points after, but here is the ballot.

  • Downgraded South Carolina because of the Lattimore injury. I think that's still a good team, but without Lattimore and Garcia, I don't think they can go far.
  • Michigan State impressed me with their performance against Michigan, especially on defense. I think Wisconsin brings an extra dimension offensively against the Spartans, but it won't be an easy win for Bucky. This is their stiffest test to date, but one they should be able to win.
  • Illinois. LOL.
  • Georgia Tech. LOL.
  • The top of the board is insane. Part of me hopes for a few upsets, so Wisconsin -- if 13-0 -- can play for the title. Part of me hopes for as many unbeaten teams as possible, to make the horrifically broken system look worse than it already does.
  • Can't figure out Texas A&M. Should be a ten-win team, but they have to finish games like they did Saturday against Baylor and less like they had been previously.