Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Don't **** With Shawn Thornton

Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton is a tough son-of-a-gun.

He's not the most talented guy in the NHL, but he's built quite a following for himself in Boston by simply being a stand-up guy on the ice who can pitch in some offense and score some big goals.

Tuesday night, he added to his own legend in Boston with one of the ultimate "tough-guy" maneuvers.

Shortly after taking a skate blade above the eye (total accident), Thornton was skating off the ice while he bled all over it. Apparently, some idiot on the Chicago bench had the gall to say something to Thornton, and that set him off.

To recap: Thornton was clipped by a skate blade and needed 40 stitches, and someone on the Chicago bench thought it was funny enough to say something. Whatever it was, Thornton wanted to fight the guy while he was bleeding all over the place.

And you don't think hockey players are different ... ?

2011 Milwaukee Brewers: We've Come A Long Way From Rafael Roque


To be perfectly blunt, that is a word that could be used to describe the state of the Milwaukee Brewers' pitching staff in 2010.

Outside of Yovani Gallardo being Yovani Gallardo (meaning, he was quite effective, got shelled once in a while, and sometimes took way too many pitches to get through six innings), the Brewers had virtually nothing that could be passed off as major-league caliber starting pitching. Chris Narveson and Randy Wolf are the only returnees from last year's rotation besides Gallardo, and neither was exactly stellar in 2010. Narveson had a nice season after a long minor-league odyssey, but there's no reason to think he's anything more than a fifth starter in an acceptable major-league rotation. Wolf was general manager Doug Melvin's big free-agent prize last offseason, and while he pitched well after a poor start and did log over 200 innings, he's going to be an expensive fourth starter on this team.

Dave Bush? He's in Texas. Doug Davis? Can't find him because no one wants him. Manny Parra? Bullpen-ized. And thank goodness.

After a 77-85 season that sent Ken Macha to find a different place to sleep, the Brewers entered the offseason with a decision to make.

They could trade Prince Fielder -- a free agent after the 2011 season unless hell freezes over and he signs an extention -- and get what they could for the big man. The price, besides losing the big man, would be that the 2011 Brewers had virtually no chance of being good enough to be a playoff contender.

Or ...

Finding no real market for Prince, the Brewers could load up on starting pitching through trades, deal with the potentially-gutted minor-league system later, and field a contender in 2011.

Melvin pulled off moves to bring in Shawn Marcum from Toronto (for infielder Brett Lawrie, who is a much better prospect because of his hitting than his defense, and has flashed plenty of immaturity), then pulled off a blockbuster a week before Christmas, as he was able to acquire 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke from Kansas City.

Melvin paid a steep price, giving up his best hitting prospect (Lawrie) for Marcum, then dealing his two best pitching prospects (Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress), along with the Brewers' potential Opening Day center fielder (Lorenzo Cain) and shortstop (Alcides Escobar).

Marcum and Greinke -- combined with Gallardo -- give the Brewers a formidable starting rotation. Considering what St. Louis can do, even now that Adam Wainwright is out of the picture for 2011 because of Tommy John surgery, and what the Reds have on their staff, the Brewers needed to get better in a hurry.

Factor in other National League clubs who have arms, and the decision looks even smarter. Philadelphia signed Cliff Lee, and already had Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. San Francisco -- defending WORLD CHAMPIONS -- proved they can pitch with anyone, thanks to guys like Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner.

There is virtually no chance the Brewers can win the National League Central, or National League, without their pitchers out-pitching guys everyone else thinks are better. Talk all you want about Fielder and Ryan Braun, but the pitching matters.

Of course, guys like Fielder, Braun, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and Casey McGehee can bash, and they will make the pitchers better by lowering their margin for error.

In all honesty, when you look at the 2011 Brewers, it's hard not to be excited. Then you look at all the preview magazines tabbing other teams ahead of them (I've seen Milwaukee picked as low as fourth), and it really makes you wonder.

How does a team this good on paper fly so far under the radar?

Imagine if they had "Cardinals" instead of "Brewers" on their shirts. They'd be the talk of baseball as Opening Day approaches.

That's fine. If I've learned anything in the last week, it's that flying under the radar isn't always a bad thing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

No, I Don't Have Extra Tickets

For the record, we could be more excited to see UMD in the Frozen Four for the first time in seven years.

It's awesome.

However, no matter how excited I am, or how connected you all may perceive me to be, there's one thing I am no help with.


My wife and son have acquired a pair of Frozen Four tickets the old-fashioned way.


Outside of that, and perhaps a visit to StubHub (or, if you're feeling lucky, Craigslist), I am useless. I have no extras, and I will be getting no extras.

I do have this information from UMD. It will be of great assistance to you ... if you are a season-ticket holder.

As a participating school UMD has a limited number of tournament packages to sell. Tournament packages are $195/EACH (plus $5 per order mail fee) and contain two tickets – one ticket for Thursday’s games (no re-entry) and one ticket for Saturday’s championship game.  No single day tickets are available for sale.

Due to an overwhelming response the UMD Ticket Office will be taking names of season ticket holders ONLY to be placed on a waiting list for tickets. Call or e-mail the ticket office with your name (as it appears on your season account), the number of tickets you need (as many as you own season tickets - up to 4 packages maximum) and your daytime phone number - you will be called in the next few days ONLY if tickets are available to you.  Tickets will be granted in Priority Points order. If you receive tickets you will be called and asked for your credit card information and the tickets will be mailed to you. 

As for the remainder of UMD fans who are very excited, I'm afraid I can't assist you beyond these suggestions and bits of information.

North Dakota's presence makes this a very tough ticket, but it can be done, I believe. You just have to be willing to spend.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

UMD Marches Back to St. Paul

It probably didn't play out the way anyone expected -- what with the participants combining for 45 penalty minutes and 17 power plays, but the UMD Bulldogs will play another day.

UMD used a rash of undisciplined play from Yale to jump to a 5-1 lead through two periods, then kept the ECAC's Bulldogs at bay for most of the final 20 minutes in a 5-3 win Saturday in Bridgeport, Conn. The NCAA East Regional championship game decided the first entry into the 2011 NCAA Men's Frozen Four, and UMD will be in that event for the second time under 11-year coach Scott Sandelin.

"I couldn't be more proud of our team," Sandelin said. "Coming into this tournament, nobody gave us a lot of credit. Our guys showed a lot of resiliency through this tournament, and grinded out a couple wins against two pretty good hockey teams."

Fittingly, all three members of UMD's top line -- Mike Connolly, Jack Connolly, and Justin Fontaine -- scored, as UMD got goals from five different players.

Mike Connolly's 27th goal of the season -- the most by a Bulldog since Hobey Baker winner Junior Lessard in 2003-04 -- came while the Bulldogs were a man down, and gave UMD a 1-0 lead late in the first. It was a very similar play to the short-handed goal Mike scored in the WCHA Final Five loss to Bemidji State, as he and Fontaine skated in two-on-one, and Fontaine found Mike over the middle.

In the second period, Wade Bergman netted his third goal of the season after a clean faceoff win by Jack Connolly. That gave UMD a 2-0 lead. About six minutes later, Yale started cutting ruts to the cubicle of shame.

Jack Connolly was first to take advantage, scoring from a bad angle (almost on the goal line) to make it 3-0. After Yale got within 3-1 on a power-play marker of their own, Yale junior Brian O'Neill was called for a somewhat controversial five-minute major penalty for contact to the head of Jake Hendrickson. The penalty came just eight seconds after O'Neill's 20th goal of the season cut the UMD lead to two, and there was life in the arena, which was nearly sold out.

I had a couple looks at the replay. On the second one, it looked like O'Neill hit Hendrickson below the head, but their helmets came into contact. Hendrickson did lie on the ice for a few seconds, and grabbed at his head when he fell. It's unclear if the officials got a clean look at the hit, or if they reacted to Hendrickson falling.

Earlier in the period, O'Neill was given a minor for elbowing on a high hit that could have been whistled for contact to the head. With that in mind, it makes sense that the officials would react harshly to a second incident.

"Obviously there were a lot of penalties in that second period," Mike Connolly said. "For any team, it takes away a lot of momentum.

"Our power play hadn't been great of late, but it got the job done tonight."

UMD struck twice during the major, with Mike Seidel scoring 19 seconds after O'Neill was sent off, and Fontaine capping UMD's scoring for the night during a five-on-three.

"I thought the game got taken away from us a bit there in the second period," Yale coach Keith Allain said.

Yale scored on two of three power plays they got in the third period to make it 5-3, but they could only muster four shots on goal during even-strength play during the period, and they never seriously threatened to score outside of their power plays.

"True to form, our guys did not quit," Allain said. "We refused to quit and, once again, they tried to overcome the adversity they faced and fought until the end."


It's tremendously disappointing for Yale, which played great hockey most of the season and earned the No. 1 overall seed for this tournament. They were hosting a regional for the second time in three years (they host again next year, too), and there were high expectations that Yale would be the team to end the long dry spell for the ECAC, a league that has not placed a team in the Frozen Four since Cornell made it in 2003.

While it's easy to take pot-shots at the ECAC, Sandelin is quick to credit the league, and especially the two teams UMD played in this regional. He also noted that UMD played Clarkson earlier in the season, and "it was a battle."

"There's a lot of parity," Sandelin said. "There's a fine line. This team (Yale) can push the puck up the rink as good as anyone. I thought Union was as hard-working a team as we've seen."

The reality is that -- just like with the Big Ten in college football and basketball -- there will be a group of fans inevitably looking at the end results, and taking shots at the ECAC. The EZAC jokes will not just stop because Yale won 28 games and Union 26, or because Yale went out west and thumped Colorado College, while Union went to Mariucci and beat the Gophers.

Those jokes won't stop until an ECAC team ends the league's long Frozen Four drought.


As for UMD, a season-long goal has been achieved.

"We reached one of our goals, which was getting there," Mike Connolly said.

For Jack Connolly, it's a chance to match an achievement his older brother, Chris, got in 2008, when Boston University won the national title.

"It's definitely not an easy road to get to the Frozen Four," Jack said. "Seeing him go through it, and all the hard work they did as a team, I think we're emulating that on our team pretty well. I feel like there's no reason we can't go down there and get a couple wins."

"It's right in our backyard," Wade Bergman said. "It'll be nice and close for our fans to get to, and that'll help to have the hometown support. It'll be nice not to travel far."

"We're fortunate enough to be there, and have the support of the state," Mike Connolly said. "We're looking to make the most of it. It's not very often you get an opportunity like this."

No one doubts that North Dakota -- should they beat Denver Sunday -- will have a huge presence in St. Paul. Hell, they probably will have a ton of fans there even if they aren't among the Frozen Four. But UMD is Minnesota's entry in a tournament Minnesota (the university, that is) bid for the right to host a few years back. The expectation was that the Gophers would be able to re-create the 2002 magic, when Matt Koalska and Grant Potulny sent the XCel Energy Center into utter euphoria.


We've talked at length this season about UMD's struggles in five-minute major power plays. The Bulldogs have had X power plays that have run at least three minutes in length, and before Saturday, they had only scored twice.

Before O'Neill's major penalty began, Sandelin decided to make a change to his top power play unit.

"I made the decision to put Mike Seidel out there instead of Brown going into that major," Sandelin said, "so we could balance out our power plays a little bit."

Seidel made the call pay off just 19 seconds later with his eighth goal of the season. All eight have come away from home.

UMD scored five power play goals in two games this weekend, as the one power play no one on ESPN wanted to acknowledge clicked at nearly 30 percent in the regional tournament.

We talked on Saturday's pregame about how UMD has been motivated a bit by perceived slights during the selection show and run-up to this tournament. Fans are often annoyed when athletes talk about these slights, because the athletes are usually full of crap, and we're usually talking about major events during which no outside motivation should be necessary.

But it wasn't about getting the players in the right mindset. It was about the extra juice they clearly got from feeling disrespected.

You might not believe it out there, but it's clear there was a little extra satisfaction for UMD to use their special teams to win this regional. If I had $1 for every comment I heard from a UMD player or coach this weekend related to the idea that either "No one respected our power play," or "No one gave us enough respect as a team," I'd have a lot more than $1.


The East Regional All-Tournament team was all UMD and Yale players. Yale forward Chad Ziegler and defenseman Nick Jaskowiak were joined by UMD forwards Jack and Mike Connolly, defenseman Justin Faulk, and goalie Kenny Reiter.

Reiter was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

"Kenny was phenomenal," Jack Connolly said. "Stood on his head all weekend, made huge stops. He kept us in both games this weekend, and he was our No. 1 star for the weekend. He just played out of his mind."


Naturally, the regional final drew a bit more media than the semifinals did, which means some poor sap who didn't show up earlier was surprised to see all the Bulldog players sporting funky-colored hair.

And said reporter had to become the 348th person to ask about it.

Mike Connolly kept the answer short and sweet.

"Blonds have more fun, right?"

And now, they'll have that fun in the Capital City.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Game 40: UMD vs. Yale (NCAA East Regional Championship)

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Friday's win didn't buy UMD a lot more season. Just 24 hours.

Win this game, and the season extends two weeks.

Yale is the opponent, which brings to mind the obvious joke.

The Bulldogs are going to the Frozen Four.

Which ones?



Connolly (Mike) - Connolly (Jack) - Fontaine
Schmidt - Oleksuk - Brown
Seidel - Hendrickson - Basaraba
Flaherty - Tardy - Grun

Faulk - Montgomery
Bergman - Lamb
Olson - Palm

Reiter - Crandall

Agostino - Bourbonais - Ziegler
Cahill - Miller - O'Neill
Laganiere - Mason - Brockett
Kearney - Limbert - Little

Trentowski - Jaskowiakk
Dueck - Peel
Matczak - Martin

Rondeau - Maricic - Malcolm

(NOTE: Maricic is listed first on the line chart, but he was Friday, too, and Rondeau started. We're assuming Rondeau will start again.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: One More Win To Go for UMD

SHELTON, Conn. -- It's officially Saturday on the East Coast, by the way. So don't even think about it.

Watching ESPN's NCAA hockey selection program on Sunday, you'd have thought UMD had some middling, pathetic power play that clicked at like 12 percent.

Nope. 22 percent.

Friday in Bridgeport, UMD made Union pay for a week's worth of hearing about the Dutchmen and their wonderful special teams. Union -- 31 percent on the power play this season -- put up a doughnut in nine power play chances, and UMD scored two man-advantage goals to win 2-0.

The Bulldogs prefer to play a skating game, not a muck-and-grind game. Union tends to lean more towards the muck-and-grind, though they certainly have some guys up front who like to move it move it.

In this game, UMD played more of a grinding style, killing penalties with hard work and a lot of good ol' "want to," blocking shots, paying the price to clear pucks, and winning a lot of one-on-one battles.

I've said all season long that, while this is not the preferred way for UMD to play, and it's obvious when you watch some of their skill guys, they are more capable than ever of grinding out victories. UMD teams of the past weren't as good at this, and it showed when they played teams like Alaska-Anchorage, Michigan Tech, and Bemidji State, who have the muck-and-grind style perfected when they're playing well.

Then UMD would go up against a more skating-oriented team like Denver, and they'd do well, no matter Denver's position in the college hockey pecking order relative to UMD.

With Friday's win, UMD has moved into the NCAA East Regional final Saturday night against No. 1 overall seed Yale, a 2-1 overtime winner over Air Force. UMD is 3-0 in NCAA Tournament openers under Scott Sandelin, who had nothing but praise for his players' effort after the game.

As he should. The Bulldogs rolled up their sleeves, fought off some tight officiating (it wasn't bad at all ... just tight), and won a game that most probably figured they wouldn't win, given the circumstances.

UMD's matchup with Yale Saturday night should prove very interesting. I didn't watch a lot of Yale this season, but did get a look at them in their win over Air Force Friday evening. It seems they want to play a style that will make UMD a bit more comfortable. The Bulldogs will have to be cognizant of a few things in the regional final.
  • Take care of the puck. They only give you one. UMD was pretty smart, especially on penalty kills. They got in a bit of trouble at times by not taking the safe play on clearing attempts at even-strength, but that didn't happen often, because not much of the game was played five-on-five.
  • Discipline. Yale might not be as good as Union on the power play, but you know the one about what happens when you keep playing with fire. UMD just can't afford to play the kind of game they played Friday. It might not doom them, but it certainly increases the odds that Yale will move on.
  • Skate. Move the feet. Make sure the officials have no reason to call anything.
A crew from Hockey East worked the UMD game Friday, while a CCHA group did the Yale game. I know the gut reaction of UMD fans is to hope the CCHA crew works Saturday (one or the other will get the assignment, and I don't know which one at this point). I'm not sure it matters. Whoever it is, UMD has to do a better job avoiding the avoidable penalties.

UMD hasn't made the Frozen Four since 2004. Experienced guys like Justin Fontaine, Kyle Schmidt, Mike Montgomery, and Mike Connolly led the way Friday with superb performances. Noticeably good were J.T. Brown, Wade Bergman, and Travis Oleksuk, who worked his butt off all day long.

They all need to do it again Saturday.

One more win, and a goal -- the Frozen Four -- will be reached.


Friday's opening NCAA games weren't completed without some controversy. Michigan "scored" the game-winning "goal" early in overtime to beat Nebraska-Omaha 3-2.

Take a look for yourself (via Goon).

I tempered my initial reaction on Twitter ( if you aren't already a follower) for the simple reason that watching a small picture online isn't exactly the best way to judge what really happened in this world of 42-inch high definition televisions.

Since I'm watching online and not getting a great picture much of the time, I figured I'd allow others to help me out a bit. When those others only confirmed what I had already suspected, it became clear that what happened here was, as the great Gorilla Monsoon was prone to say, a miscarriage of justice.

For years, common sense has not been accepted as a standard to overturn a call on the ice. In the eyes of ECAC referees Harry Dumas and Chris McDonald, there was no need to use this years-old standard by which reviews are conducted. Instead, they adopted their own standard.

Since they were probably sure that the puck crossed the line, and everyone talked about Michigan getting screwed in overtime last year (though the difference between a quick whistle and a video review should not need to be explained), they called it a goal.

As the old commercial says, "probably" doesn't cut it.

Being 90 percent sure isn't good enough. Neither is 95. That's not the long-adopted standard, and it shouldn't be the standard. The standard is and should be 100 percent certainty. At some point, the officials have to be encouraged to make calls and trust what their eye tells them. Otherwise, why not just take the officials off the ice, out of the way, and let a video replay judge make all the calls after the plays are completed?

What happened to UNO was wrong, and it's unfortunate that such a well-played, entertaining game had to be ruined by such a dumb mistake by two officials who should know better.


How about those Tigers? UNO might have been jobbed out of the tournament, but there was no such luck knocking the WCHA's other team out Friday. Colorado College whacked No. 1 West Regional seed Boston College 8-4 in Friday's big stunner.

The Tigers struck twice on the power play and twice short-handed. They hung a touchdown on BC goalie John Muse, who had exactly zero losses in eight NCAA Tournament starts before Friday. What a way to go out ...

Colorado College plays Michigan for a spot in the Frozen Four Saturday night in St. Louis. It won't be a cakewalk by any means, but CC certainly has been playing well. If you don't believe me, ask Dave Hakstol, whose North Dakota team got by in a 4-3 thriller last Friday at the Final Five. Or ask Jerry York, who isn't used to seeing his teams give up eight goals in a game, especially in the NCAA Tournament.

The Tigers are for real. After a .500 season in the WCHA, Scott Owens appears to have his team peaking when it counts the most.


Here is a full capsule of Friday's results and Saturday's games. All times are Central.

Bridgeport, Conn.
UMD 2, Union 0
Yale 2, Air Force 1, OT
St. Louis, Mo.
Michigan 3, Nebraska-Omaha 2, OT
Colorado College 8, Boston College 4

Green Bay, Wisc.
North Dakota vs. RPI, 12:30pm
Denver vs. Western Michigan, 4pm

Manchester, N.H.
Miami vs. New Hampshire, 3pm
Merrimack vs. Notre Dame, 6:30pm

Bridgeport, Conn.
Yale vs. UMD, 5:30pm

St. Louis, Mo.
Michigan vs. Colorado College, 8pm

We'll have the UMD game on 94X and the Bulldog Sports Network starting with a 5pm pregame show. You can hear the game at

ESPNU will have live coverage of the regional finals, as well as a couple of the Saturday afternoon games. They will also have all the games streamed live on, whether they are televised live or not.

All games televised will be in high definition.

Game 39: UMD vs. Union (NCAA East Regional Semifinal)

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- It's now officially win or go home for UMD.

The Bulldogs battle Union in the first game of the NCAA Tournament here, marking their seventh NCAA appearance and second in three years. The Bulldogs' task is a tall one, facing a Union team that earned their first-ever ECAC regular-season title and went 2-1 against WCHA foes this year.



Connolly (Mike) - Connolly (Jack) - Fontaine
Schmidt - Oleksuk - Brown
Seidel - Hendrickson - Basaraba
Flaherty - Tardy - Grun

Faulk - Montgomery
Bergman - Lamb
Olson - Palm

Reiter - Crandall

Carr - Welsh - Jooris
Presiznuk - Zajac - Hatch
Sullivan - Simpson (John) - Simpson (Wayne)
Buote - Pallos - Cain

Forgaard - Julseth-White
Bodie - Matheson
Coburn - Stuart

Kinkaid - Grosenick - Milan

Thursday, March 24, 2011

UMD's Climb Not Complete

SHELTON, Conn. -- Through all 38 games so far this season, the UMD Bulldogs have held on to one single goal.

Destination: St. Paul.

The goal this year was to climb the mountain. Grab the brass ring. Whatever championship analogy you want to use, UMD was out to accomplish it.

Last weekend, UMD missed out on the chance at the Broadmoor Trophy, losing to Bemidji State in the WCHA Final Five.

No matter. The Broadmoor is awesome, but it's not as awesome as the ultimate prize, and that's what UMD is after this weekend ... a shot at the NCAA title in St. Paul.

It starts in the NCAA East Regional Friday, as the No. 3-seeded Bulldogs battle No. 2 seed Union College. It's Union's first trip to the NCAA Tournament, but that only matters to those who tend to overrate experience.

(As I mentioned yesterday, the Bulldogs have NCAA Tournament experience, but it just doesn't translate to this game in my view. The more important thing to note is that neither school has won the national title, and UMD hasn't played for a national title since 1984.)

Union has some very impressive forwards, especially junior Kelly Zajac, the leading scorer with 42 points. If that last name sounds familiar, it's because Kelly's brother Travis is a forward for the New Jersey Devils. Played his college hockey at North Dakota. Zajac is more of a setup man, but Union has some guys who can score, including freshman Daniel Carr, who has 20 goals, 12 of them on the power play.

John (er, Wayne) Simpson has 16 goals, nine on the power play.

See a theme?

Union's 31 percent power play is a big storyline heading into this game. When you're that good with the man advantage, virtually anyone who takes penalties against you is going to be in a heap of trouble.

Junior All-American Jack Connolly and head coach Scott Sandelin both echoed those thoughts during Thursday's pre-tournament press conference in Bridgeport. Many will oversimplify this, and say that the special teams game is the only thing that matters in this game.

Sometimes, when it looks that obvious, it ends up going the other way. We don't know who the officials are for the game, but they will come from either the CCHA or Hockey East, as those leagues aren't represented in the game. Officials from both leagues have a reputation for calling games much more tightly than we see in the WCHA. Right away, that could become an advantage for Union, a team in a league where officials lean more toward that tendency.

(This fact will eventually lead me into a rant on the WCHA's current state of officiating, but I will lay off for now. It's a different topic likely best tackled during the offseason.)

We'll see how it plays out. Officiating bounces are something UMD has not been accustomed to lately, but they did get some earlier in the season. They usually even out over this many games.)

One other point to make about Union's power play, and this is not meant as a slam of any kind, because I know they're good. However, Union outscored opponents 51-27 on the power play in their 39 games this season. The margin during the Dutchmen's 22 ECAC games was only 22-16, meaning Union scored 29 power play goals -- and allowed 11 --  in 17 non-conference games. In their home non-conference games, Union hit at nearly 50 percent, while they were barely 20 percent in road games. They also had a lot more power plays in the home games, which were worked by ECAC officials.

You hate to put a game on the officiating before it even happens, but it's a valid point to say that how the game is called will help determine its final outcome. If it's a five-on-five game where both teams are allowed the occasional stick foul or grab without a call, it probably works in UMD's advantage, because it keeps Union's dangerous power play from being a factor. UMD scores a slightly higher percentage of their goals by means other than the power play, and UMD likely wants a game where they can roll all four lines, rather than turning it into a special teams game where they are constantly trying to match against Union's top guys.

Faceoffs will be a huge factor. UMD has been spotty in this area throughout the season. With Union being the home team and holding that last line change, expect to see a lot of Zajac taking faceoffs against Jack Connolly. Zajac has won over 60 percent of draws this year. Jeremy Welsh could also match up against Connolly, as he sits just under 60 percent.

For UMD to take the flight back home Saturday and be able to look ahead toward at least one more game, they're going to have to be sharp in all phases, starting Friday afternoon. Anything less, and disappointment could lie ahead.


--> UMD reports no injuries. The lineup should look similar to what it's been for the last couple weekends ... if not identical.

--> UMD set a school record this season, losing just four road games. These are neutral-site games, so that record will stand no matter what happens this weekend.

--> The Bulldogs also set a school record for attendance, drawing 110,399 fans to the DECC and Amsoil Arena. That is an average of 5,810 per game.

--> Union assistant coach Ben Barr is from Duluth, and his grandparents live in Hermantown. He grew up in the Glen Avon neighborhood.

--> Mike Connolly has scored half (three) of his team's six short-handed goals this season.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Michigan State Turns Heads With Hockey Hire

Michigan State probably stunned a few people with the announcement Wednesday that CCHA Commissioner Tom Anastos was taking over as the new head coach.

It would be easy enough for Anastos to explain his decision by simply noting that he hasn't coached in 20 years or so and just wanted to get back into the game again. He did just that when chatting with Adam Wodon of College Hockey News.

CHN: If you listen to the chatter out there, some people are questioning you for getting off a sinking ship; and wondering if you were working for the CCHA against the Big Ten while talking to Michigan State at the same time. Would you like to put that to rest.

Anastos: That would be absolutely not true. From the minute I received the call from Mark Hollis (on Sunday), I made contact to (the CCHA person) I directly report (to, Bowling Green AD) Greg Christopher. I was in constant communication with him. This Big Ten thing, I've been involved with for months. I've spoken to the Big Ten, I've made petitions to the Big Ten to essentially bring Penn State into our league.

We were all preparing for it (the Big Ten announcement). Being on the other end, we essentially came to a conclusion some time ago what the outcome would be. Now, what's the next step? My doing this has zero to do with the Big Ten. If the Big Ten change didn't happen, I'd still be right here.

Of course, the timing of the decision doesn't allow him to just blow it off.

The CCHA was crippled by Monday's announcement that Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State would depart to join the Big Ten.

(Well, let's be honest. Until Mark Osiecki gets a bit more time to do his thing in Columbus, the CCHA wasn't affected at all by tOSU leaving. But it really sucks for them that Osiecki is not likely to leave that program among the league's mediocre for long, and they also have to deal with losing Michigan and Michigan State.)

As someone pointed out to me Wednesday, and I completely agree, the CCHA has to move quickly here on two fronts. First off, they have to find someone to replace Anastos. The best candidate for that might have been former Michigan State coach Rick Comley, but his -- alleged? -- actions in Fairbanks during the CCHA playoffs might leave that up in the air a bit. You have to think that the league has a few names in mind, but if they were floored by this move, they might have been caught off-guard.

This becomes an important thing because the perception left among all in college hockey by Anastos' departure is not a good one. It's hard to shake the idea that Anastos sees the writing on the wall, and is perhaps escaping the ship before it inevitably sinks, leaving college hockey down again to five leagues that are contributing teams to the NCAA Tournament.

Someone needs to speak to what Anastos told Wodon. Make it abundantly clear that the CCHA is not the sinking ship this move -- a longtime college hockey administrator taking a coaching job practically out of nowhere -- makes it appear to be.

And if something bad happens to the CCHA, what happens to their top two remaining programs, Notre Dame and Miami? They're not folding, what with Miami having just opened a new rink a few years ago and the Irish about to follow. Should the CCHA be in trouble, would Hockey East and the WCHA be trying (or about to try) to land them?

The WCHA would be smart to try, if they're interested. There is no easy way to replace the clout Minnesota and Wisconsin bring a league, but if the WCHA could increase their geographic footprint and overall league profile by adding two hockey powerhouses, why not?

We're far too early in the process to decide on the fates of programs like Lake Superior State, Northern Michigan, Ferris State, Bowling Green, and Western Michigan. For that matter, independent Alabama-Huntsville is still out there.

Wait, that's six teams.

Hmm ...

(I purposely didn't put Alaska in this group. I think the Nanooks are going to find a league if the CCHA disappears, but perhaps they can finally unite with state rival Alaska-Anchorage when they do.)

There are no easy answers to any of this, but after seeing all the changes that came to college football in the last couple years, and the pleothora of changes that were threatened or reported but didn't happen, one has to wonder what we could be on the verge of in college hockey.

It might not be earth-shattering, but it's change. Change isn't always well-received, even if it's for the greater good.

In this case, those changes can only be for the greater good if they don't involve the dissolution of programs. That means the CCHA must remain alive and well.

It also means Alabama-Huntsville has to find a league. The Chargers have a solid foundation of a hockey tradition, but it won't last with the program continuing on as an independent. That's simply not a formula for long-lasting success in today's college sports world, unless you're Notre Dame and BYU football.

And even those schools recognize that their other varsity sports need leagues.

UMD Travels in Style

SHELTON, Conn. -- I told Jack Connolly he had to blog about this, but hockey players aren't always the quickest to do such things.

UMD was forced by circumstances to take a charter flight to Connecticut for Friday's NCAA East Regional clash with Union College of Schenectady, N.Y.

(You try to find 40 seats on a flight to Connecticut -- or even nearby New York City -- on this short of notice. It ain't easy.)

The aircraft that was sent to Duluth for this task? A 737 equipped with so many seats that entire rows were empty. Fantastic. Nice and comfortable, and enough to draw some looks and words of surprise from players as they boarded. The best part? Dan DeLisle didn't have to duck.

Neither did I.

Even better? Most of the people who wanted to were able to sit in their own row. At worst, take the window, and someone takes the aisle, leaving plenty of leg room.

Best hockey plane trip of the year, no doubt. We should charter more often.

Now, we have to hope that this isn't the highlight of the weekend.

The Bulldogs match up well with a Union team that -- by all accounts -- likes to get up and down the rink. I'm not sure if the comparison to Nebraska-Omaha is valid, but UNO brings a lot of speed to the table, with some physical guys in the back to help keep those forwards skating.

I haven't seen enough of Union to label them as similar, but when I hear about teams in our league that like to get up and down the rink and might not be the most physical up front, that's who I think of first.

If UMD doesn't play their game, they're in trouble. Anyone will acknowledge that.

But if you look at the four regional brackets for the tournament, there is no question that the East Regional is the most favorable for UMD in terms of their chances of advancing.

In the Midwest, there are two WCHA teams in Denver and North Dakota. While I'm wholly convinced that UMD can beat both of them, the UND matchup isn't the most favorable because of their size and ability to win battles along the wall.

The Northeast Regional includes a Miami team that ended UMD's magical run in 2009. It also has a Merrimack team that looks scary as hell. The Warriors have a legit star in Stephane da Costa, and some big bangers on defense. Merrimack was the most penalized team in the country during the season, and it wasn't for a bunch of hooking minors.

All you have to look at in the West is top seed and defending champion Boston College. They're not big and imposing, but they're tough, smart, damn good, and very experienced. I tend to believe experience is overrated, because when people talk about rings in college sports, credit is often given to guys who didn't play a big role on a past championship team. Boston College has those guys. They also have a goalie -- John Muse -- who is 8-0 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. They have guys like Cam Atkinson up front, who was a star on last year's title team.

It's not just experience. It's guys who played a big role in their titles and are still around.

In the East, you have a Yale team that nearly tasted the Frozen Four last year, went out because their defense and goaltending needed to improve, and then improved those things. Union has steadily gotten better under Nate Leaman, and they are not a slouch despite their history.

If you believe in experience, UMD has advantages, thanks to guys like Jack Connolly, Mike Connolly, Justin Fontaine (them again!), Mike Montgomery, Brady Lamb, and Travis Oleksuk, all of whom -- among others -- played on the 2009 team. However, this is the first NCAA dance for key players like Kenny Reiter, Justin Faulk, J.T. Brown, Jake Hendrickson, and Wade Bergman.

In the end, in a tournament that is typically all about matchups, UMD did well with their draw. For a No. 3 seed, you can't ask much more than that.

Now, it's up to them to show everyone why they were a top team in the polls and Pairwise for much of the season.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Few Words About Union

I watch as much hockey as I can during the season.

Can't say I saw Union play. I have no idea how good they are, who their top players are, or how often they are guilty of dirty hits.

To give myself and others a better idea about Union -- and the city they hail from -- I figured I'd best ask someone who knows.

Daniel Greene writes for the Union Hockey Blog, and he was kind enough to provide answers to my questions.

1. How did you get interested in Union hockey?
I am currently a senior at Union College. Since freshman year I've covered the team for the school newspaper, the Concordiensis. My passion for covering the Dutchmen has grown over my four years as I have become the sports editor of the newspaper, co-sports director of the school radio station (WRUC, 89.7FM), arena reporter for USCHO, and created the Union Hockey Blog in my junior year. The blog has grown so much over the past two years, and I love doing it.

I've been a college hockey fan my entire life. My family has had season tickets to Army Hockey since the mid-1990s and have been to almost every Frozen Four for the past decade, along with many other college hockey tournaments and games.

2. Tell us about Schenectady and the college atmosphere there.
The city is located about 30 minutes north of Albany, which is the capital of New York. I'm not much of a Schenectady historian, but Schenectady is famous for where General Electric was founded. There is still a huge GE Factory in the city (which reminds me of Willy Wonka's factory) that is still a major GE facility (President Obama visited the site a few months ago). Schenetady is an urban area that had a bad reputation for a number of years, but is currently on the rise. Personally, I really like Schenectady.

While the city is very urban, the college campus is very suburban. It's almost like a puzzle piece that doesn't fit. The center piece of the campus is the Nott Memorial, which is the only 16-sided building in the world (I think). Union was founded in 1795 and is the first college to have a planned out campus. There are about 2,100 undergraduates at the school, and most of them are from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. There is a lot of tradition at Union because of it is so old and is known as "The Mother of Fraternities" (the first fraternities were founded by Union students in the 1800s). The school is mainly known for the high level of education, engineering, traditions, Greek life, and now men's ice hockey.

3. Union seems to have been building to the team they have this year. Talk about the impact Nate Leaman has had on this program.

It is absolutely amazing what Coach Leaman has done here during his eight years. Since Union's move to D-I in 1991-92, the team was, for the most part, the laughingstock of the ECAC and D-I hockey. During his first four years the team still struggled, but in the four years that I've been in school the team has improved tremendously. They received their first First Round bye in the ECAC playoffs (2008), won their first ECAC playoff series (2009), made it to their first ECAC Championship game (2010), and are now going to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance (2011).

The amazing thing about all of this is that Leaman has done all of this without athletic scholarships, a booster club like bigger college hockey programs have, and other resources. He's been able to find talented players that have been overlooked by other teams and like his system and staff. I'm pretty sure Union is the only team in the ECAC without an NHL draft pick. Leaman has taught these guys how to play hard and be disciplined, and has brought a sense of winning to the program.

4. How good is this power play? What makes them so dangerous?
Union's power-play is excellent, which is evident by their 31% conversion rate (tops in the nation). What makes the PP unit so dangerous is that there are 10 guys on the team that can be on the PP and contribute, so no matter what unit is on the ice they're going to be very dangerous. Union has three big time finishers on the PP in freshman forward Daniel Carr (12 goals), and sophomore forwards Wayne Simpson (9 goals) and Jeremy Welsh (8 goals).

5. What is the impact of a guy like Keith Kinkaid on the team?
Having a great goaltender is always important, especially in the playoffs, because he solidifies the team and picks them up when they're down. Keith has done a great job keeping the Dutchmen in games all season, and has been the reason why Union has won a good amount of games this season. He's not a flashy goaltender, since he is great positionaly and uses his big frame to his advantage. Keith is the first big time NHL prospect Union has had in a while.

6. What -- if anything -- scares you most about playing UMD?
I guess what I'm most scared about is the FCC line, which essentially has three guys with 50 points. It also scares me a little that these guys have done this in the WCHA. The ECAC isn't known for their scorers, so it will be interesting to see how Union handles an offensive skill set they probably haven't seen this season.

7. Who are the key players that will catch our eye and make an impact on the game Friday?
Personally, senior forward Adam Presizniuk is the best player on the team. He is Union's all-time leading scorer at the D-I level and is very talented. I also love his linemate, freshman Matt Hatch, who is extremely fast and hard-working. He's always going 110% and causing havoc on the ice. I'm also a fan of freshman defenseman Mat Bodie, who is great offensively. Even though he has a "untraditional" skating style, he has still managed to break all of Union's scoring records for defensemen in his first season.

8. It may never come down to a rematch, but how do you feel about being in Yale's bracket? Would you rather be in a regional with teams outside the ECAC?

I'm actually happy about it. I feel that Yale is the weakest of the top seeded teams. While I've only seen Yale live, I have watched BC, North Dakota, and Miami on TV and I think they are just on a different level. I think it's also a good thing that we're familiar with them, so we know what to expect (that is if we play them). I'm also not convinced that Yale goaltender Ryan Rondeau is that great.

9. How much does it bug you when people judge Union and the ECAC based on past perceptions of the league?

It really doesn't bug me because I know it's true. I've seen enough college hockey during my life to understand that the WCHA, CCHA, and Hockey East have talents that the ECAC doesn't have. It just seems like the ECAC will have a handful of stars, while the other leagues have teams full of stars. Also, history supports this judgement since the last ECAC team to make the Frozen Four was Cornell in 2003, and the last ECAC team to win the championship was Harvard in 1989. The ECAC needs to end both streaks in order to gain respect.

I think Union has gained a lot of respect this season, but need to make some noise in the national tourney to gain more national recognition for the program and the ECAC.

Other Notes: Senior John Simpson and sophomore Wayne Simpson are brothers from Massachusetts. They play on the same line... freshman defender Mat Bodie and sophomore forward Kyle Bodie are also brothers from Manitoba. Mat plays every game, while Kyle is in and out of the lineup and usually plays on the 4th line.

Learn About Union Hockey

As I batten down the hatches in Proctor, preparing for the storm the weather terrorists say will leave me with no heat and electricity for a month (possibly exaggerated), here is a quick link for those looking to learn a bit more about Friday's opponent, the Union Dutchmen.

For those who don't know, Union is making their first NCAA appearance when they play UMD Friday in Bridgeport, Conn., and the splash page on their athletics site notes all the historical achievements they've reached this year.

Among them:

Most power play goals in a single season
Most wins by a coach in school history
Most single-season wins by a goaltender
Best scoring offense and defense
Most wins in school history
First Cleary Cup (ECAC regular season championship) in school history

I tried to help their UMD knowledge a bit by doing a Q&A with the guys at the Union Hockey Blog.

They have reciprocated, and I'll be posting answers to my Union hockey questions later.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Big Ten Hockey Official

Not surprisingly, the formation of a Big Ten Conference for men's hockey became official Monday.

The league issued a press release to announce what's been suspected since the day Penn State announced they were starting up a hockey program and building a new arena to house it.

Here is the text of the Big Ten's announcement.

The directors of athletics of Big Ten institutions which sponsor men's ice hockey unanimously announce their intention to recommend to the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors in June the establishment of men's ice hockey as an official conference sport for the 2013-14 academic year with participation by Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.

The recommendation includes both the establishment of the inaugural Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament in March of 2014, with the winner earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship, and a 20-game conference schedule with each team playing the other five schools four times (two home games and two away games). In addition, the Big Ten's men's ice hockey programs will continue to proactively work to maintain a strong schedule of non-conference competition with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).

In September of 2010, Penn State announced the establishment of men's and women's ice hockey programs set to begin competition in the 2012-13 academic year, giving the Big Ten six institutions sponsoring men's ice hockey. Big Ten rules allow for a conference championship when six institutions sponsor a program in any given sport.

Since Penn State's announcement, the conference has researched and investigated the establishment of men's ice hockey as a conference sport. The conference has sought input and communicated both internally with conference chancellors, presidents, administrators and coaches, and externally with members of the hockey community, including the CCHA and WCHA.

With the addition of Nebraska on July 1, 2011, the broad-based athletic programs of the 12 Big Ten institutions will sponsor 298 teams with more than 9,500 men and women student-athletes competing for Big Ten Championships. The conference currently features 25 official conference sports, 12 for men and 13 for women. The last official conference sport established by the Big Ten was women's rowing in the 1999-2000 academic year.

Simultaneously, the University of Minnesota announced their intention to be a part of this venture.

The University of Minnesota and the five other Big Ten institutions which sponsor men's ice hockey announced today their intention to recommend to the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors in June the establishment of men's ice hockey as an official conference sport. Competitive play would begin in the 2013‐14 academic year, and in addition to Minnesota, the participating schools in the league would be Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.

The recommendation includes both the establishment of the inaugural Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament in March 2014, with the winner earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship, and a 20‐game conference schedule with each team playing the other five schools twice at home and twice on the road. 

"It's worth celebrating that a BCS conference institution in Penn State has joined the great landscape of college hockey. We are also pleased that the Big Ten has embraced this move by recommending that men's hockey be added as an official conference sport," Minnesota director of athletics Joel Maturi said. "At the same time there are some mixed emotions for us, as Minnesota is an original and proud member of the WCHA. We would depart with fond memories, and the sincere belief that many of the great WCHA rivalries that the Gophers have been a part of will continue through non-conference play."

In addition, the Big Ten announced that participating schools will continue to proactively work to maintain a strong schedule of non‐conference competition with the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA).

"We are excited about the possibility of a Big Ten hockey conference beginning with the 2013-14 season," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "Our rivalry with Wisconsin is well documented and it will be nice to play Michigan and Michigan State more than once a year. It will also be exciting to create new rivalries with Ohio State and Penn State. Right now we enjoy playing in the WCHA and will work with the league and WCHA schools to maintain established and traditional rivalries to ensure a competitive and entertaining non-conference schedule."

In September 2010, Penn State announced the establishment of men's and women's ice hockey programs set to begin competition in the 2012‐13 academic year, giving the Big Ten six institutions sponsoring men's ice hockey. Big Ten rules allow for a conference championship when six institutions sponsor a program in any given sport.

Obviously, this announcement is expected to have an impact on the sport. Here are a few bullet thoughts, many of which I've probably covered either here or on the air before.
  • Expect the departing WCHA teams -- Minnesota and Wisconsin -- to have a scheduling arrangement with the remaining WCHA teams, most notably North Dakota, St. Cloud State, UMD, Bemidji State, Minnesota State, and St. Cloud State. The teams that bolted from the CCHA -- Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State -- will probably have a similar arrangement with the league they left. There should be a high priority placed on having the teams play members of the conferences they are leaving. No one in Sault Ste. Marie is going to give a crap about Lake Superior State playing Minnesota, but they'll care if Michigan shows up on the schedule. As for Penn State, it makes sense to have them play WCHA teams to even up the non-conference arrangements.
  • The development is going to hurt the CCHA more. Programs like Lake Superior State, Ferris State, and even Western Michigan and Bowling Green rely in part on the income they get from extra attendance when Michigan and Michigan State visit. Having Notre Dame in the league helps, but they're simply not as big a draw. Not only that, but there is simply no reason for the CCHA to ever again play its championship in Detroit. If you thought the crowd in St. Paul for the Bemidji State-UMD/UAA-Colorado College doubleheader Thursday was sparse, you should have seen what the Joe had for Notre Dame-Miami Friday afternoon. It was visually striking in that it would have been extremely embarrassing if 1) I was a big-time CCHA supporter, or 2) I hadn't seen it happen so many times before, no matter who played in that Friday afternoon game. The CCHA should look at moving to a smaller rink, perhaps the one Fort Wayne used to host a regional last year. The days of them selling 15,000 tickets for the league championship in Detroit are likely over.
  • From a conference standpoint, the WCHA is still on solid ground, with new additions Nebraska-Omaha and Bemidji State both doing well this year. UNO is looking at a new building for their program, and Bemidji just opened one. They will lose income with Minnesota and Wisconsin leaving -- no doubt -- but North Dakota is a decent (sarcasm) program, and the league still sports college hockey's best coach (Dean Blais).
  • The CCHA, meanwhile, is down to eight teams. Room for expansion, but they have to worry about further losses first. Will programs like Lake Superior State, Ferris State, and Bowling Green survive without having the Big Ten schools on their schedule? It's a question that will be answered in the coming couple of years. Will the CCHA reconsider adding Alabama-Huntsville? It's not a hideous trip for anyone in the league outside of Alaska and the Upper Michigan schools, but most of the trips in league play are tough on them.
  • I mentioned room for expansion, but who will be the schools adding hockey? If Illinois or Nebraska add it, they will join the Big Ten. You've undoubtedly heard about Paul Kelly's dream of USC or UCLA, but those are logistical nightmares, even for the WCHA. Imagine being USC or UCLA, knowing you would need a facility, a coaching staff, players, and also to fly to every one of your road series because Colorado is the closest state housing Division I hockey programs. Tough sell, methinks. 
  • Will Alaska join the WCHA? The NCAA exemption rule indicates any WCHA team that went to Alaska twice would be allowed to play four extra non-conference games. The WCHA can't stand on the "You can't schedule an 11-team league" excuse anymore. It also puts the two Alaska schools in college hockey on a stronger footing, and in a league where they could play each other four times per season without any problems. Furthermore, it might open up more non-conference dates for everyone in the WCHA. That means more home games, something that could be attractive to potential newcomers. Just a thought.
  • With the CCHA at a maximum of nine teams (assuming they pull the collective head out and take UAH), and the WCHA at a maximum of 11 (if they add UAF, something I admit is unlikely), there is room in those leagues for expansion. There is room in Hockey East for expansion. All is not lost in college hockey. Actually, this might be a good thing.

Matt Cooke is Trevor Gillies With More Skill

Sunday's nationally-televised Rangers-Penguins game was marred by an incident involving -- yeah, you guessed it -- Pittsburgh agitator and cheap-shot artist Matt Cooke.

The victim this time was former Wisconsin and Rangers rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

McDonagh stayed in the game, but that doesn't mean anything. Concussion symptoms often pop up after the fact, which is precisely why the NHL's long-standing method of suspending based on injuries suffered is just stupid.

Anyway, Cooke was penalized and kicked out of the game, and he has an in-person hearing with the NHL Monday, at which the hammer should be dropped on the longtime troublemaker.

There simply is no excuse for Cooke anymore. Not for a shot like this, which is a direct shot targeting the head of an unsuspecting opponent.

At least, I think it's reasonable to suggest McDonagh was unsuspecting. After all, in today's NHL, why would he think even Matt Cooke is dumb enough to elbow someone in the head on national television?

Even Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was irked.

"I don't think you can talk about eliminating headshots as an organization and not expect that to be examined," coach Dan Bylsma said. "It looks to be contact right to the head. The league will look at that at treat it as such."

Ten games is a starting point for Cooke. That's how many games the Penguins have in the regular season. If the NHL wants to finally start sending a message to repeat offenders, they'll find the right thing to do here is suspend Cooke for the playoffs, too. No matter how far Pittsburgh goes.

No excuses this time.

This is a repeat offender, and there was no effort made to mask this one.

Say goodbye, Matt Cooke.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Jack Connolly Named Hobey Baker Finalist

The Hobey Baker Memorial Award is the most prestigious honor given out in college hockey. Annually, it is awarded to the sport's top player, with the nod also given to those who are good people off the ice.

In the award's history, it has been won by four UMD Bulldogs: Tom Kurvers, Bill Watson, Chris Marinucci, and Junior Lessard.

In 2010, UMD is going after a fifth Hobey winner.

Junior All-America center Jack Connolly has been named a finalist for the award. The list of ten finalists was released by the committee Thursday.

Entering the WCHA Final Five Thursday afternoon, Connolly has 15 goals and 54 points to lead the Bulldogs and tie for the WCHA lead with North Dakota's Matt Frattin, who has played in two more games (39 to Connolly's 37). Connolly has 1.46 points per game, tops in the WCHA and third in the nation behind Miami senior Andy Miele and Niagara's Paul Zanette.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Game 38: Bemidji State vs. UMD (WCHA Final Five First Round)

ST. PAUL -- Here we go from St. Paul.



Connolly (Mike) - Connolly (Jack) - Fontaine
Schmidt - Oleksuk - Brown
Seidel - Hendrickson - Basaraba
DeLisle - Flaherty - Grun

Faulk - Montgomery
Bergman - Lamb
Olson - Palm

Reiter - Crandall

George - Read - Lowe
Billberg - McLeod - Illo
MacQueen - Walters - Cramer
Jubinville - Fisher - Findlay

Areshenko - Hunt
Rendle - Adams
Carlson - MacIntyre

Bakala - Dugas - Bosch

Adam Johnson Commits to UMD

I don't do many posts on recruiting for a couple different reasons.

For starters, it involves a lot of out-of-town players, guys who just don't resonate with the Northland until they get to UMD and make noise.

Also, we're talking -- generally -- about players who won't make an impact at UMD for some time. By the time they actually arrive, the day they committed is generally forgotten.

Of course, when we're talking about a local talent who has already made a name for himself, it's a worthy story.

UMD has gained a commitment from Hibbing/Chisholm sophomore Adam Johnson, likely for the 2013-14 season. Johnson had a great season at Hibbing, leading the Blue Jackets with 42 goals and 85 points in 31 games. He did it after converting to forward from defense to start the season, and he really blossomed at the state tournament.

In St. Paul, Johnson had an incredible game in the semifinals against Hermantown, scoring a natural hat trick to bring Hibbing back from 4-1 down to a 4-4 tie. Hermantown won the game, but Johnson's goal-scoring and playmaking ability were center stage at Minnesota's biggest hockey event, and he didn't disappoint.

Being able to retain top local talent is a huge plus for any Division I program. UMD is no exception, and fans will be thrilled to see Johnson don the UMD uniform in a bit more than two years.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Back in the Capital City

The WCHA converted their league tournament to the Final Five format in 1993. Since that happened, UMD has never made the tournament three years in a row.

Until now.

UMD starts their third straight St. Paul soiree with an afternoon date against Bemidji State, the only other Minnesota team in the Final Five, Thursday at the XCel Energy Center.

The Beavers stunned Nebraska-Omaha in two games during the first round, moving their improbable record against UNO to 5-0-1 this season. That means over one-third of BSU's wins this season came against the Mavericks.

Go figure.

It's easy to just put that series on goaltending, because BSU's Dan Bakala was indeed a difference-maker, but he can't score the goals.

"Our best players played very well," coach Tom Serratore said.

By that, he doesn't just mean Bakala. He's also giving the nod to Matt Read, Jordan George, and Ian Lowe, as he should.

Especially Read.

"We had no secondary scoring this year," Serratore said. "Teams could key on him more. He does everything. He's very versatile, got great depth to his game. He's tough as nails. He's good defensively. He makes plays."

Along with guys like Justin Fontaine and Mike Montgomery from UMD, Read could have bolted for the pros, and there's a chance he'd be in the NHL right now if he had chosen the right free-agent contract.

Instead, Read returned, intent on leading his school into the WCHA, and intent on leaving his mark on the growing Bemidji State hockey program.

While his play was consistently strong throughout the season, Read's Beavers were up-and-down all year long, finishing tenth in the standings and never really even threatening to get a home-ice position. They found the right formula against UNO, however, and they found a way to get into the Final Five in their WCHA debut.

"It's kind of like that run we made to the Frozen Four a couple years ago," Serratore said. "There's a real buzz in the community."

For UMD, it's a trip that will never get old. The Bulldogs are there once again, and this time they're playing with no pressure on them.

UMD is virtually assured -- if not completely -- of a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Anything they can do this weekend is not to cement their spot in the field. Instead, it's gravy on what's been a successful season. Last year, UMD knew they probably needed to beat North Dakota in the play-in game. When they lost 2-0, it brought a good season to a grinding halt. Two years ago, they needed a win over Minnesota to have a shot at the NCAAs. They got it, then added two more on a magical run through the tournament.

No one wants to go one-and-done at the Final Five, but UMD at least can go into Thursday's game without insane pressure to win games. It's hard to say for sure that it will help their mindset, or that the mindset needs help.


The Bulldogs are playing a tough opponent, one that needs to win to keep their season going. It's a team they've struggled with in the recent past (4-7-1 in the last 12 games against Bemidji), and one that can burn UMD with good top-line play and quality goaltending.

So what does Scott Sandelin do?

Last weekend, he wanted the Connolly-Connolly-Fontaine line to match up against Garrett Roe's line for St. Cloud State.

Will he want FCC to have to deal with Read all afternoon long?

UMD is home team, so they get the last change, and they get to dictate matchups. Getting the Connollys away from Read might end up being a priority, as UMD has a couple lines -- including the third line with emerging sophomore Jake Hendrickson -- that could match up well against Read's group.

Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing the top lines battle one another. Read is a great defensive forward, but FCC hasn't backed down from many (if any) challenges this season. That's why they've been as good as they've been, and why they have played together virtually the entire season.

My guess is that we'll see a bit of juggling Thursday, especially if UMD gets off to a less-than-stellar start. Sandelin won't fool around in a playoff game. He will seek out the best matchups to benefit his team. As home coach for the game, it's a luxury he will take full advantage of.

Dany Heatley Channels His Inner Badger With Elbow on Steve Ott

Former Wisconsin Badger Dany Heatley hasn't been known for dirty play in his NHL career. He's more the "goal-scoring" and "lazy skating" guy.

Tuesday night, Heatley decided to add "cheap elbow thrower" to his repertoire, using Dallas' Steve Ott as a target.

The NHL Wheel of Justice says Heatley will receiver a "paltry fine" for his hit, as you have to take into account Heatley's status as a superstar.

In all reality, Heatley should be suspended. But he probably won't be, because the NHL has a history of unpredictability (read: stupidity) on this subject.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sign of the Times in Media

Couldn't help but notice this gem of a story about sports media. Turns out The Washington Post has subtly changed the name of the blog that covers the NFL team based out of their fair city.

Here's the skinny from Dan Steinberg of the Post, who notes that the team asked the newspaper to rename its blog, which was called "R******s Insider" (sorry, but we don't want to get in trouble here). The paper now calls its blog "Football Insider," which should incense officials in the National Football League.

After all, you're stretching the brand and potentially damaging the NFL name.

For such a crappy football organization to spend time worrying about something like this is kind of funny.

Steinberg unloaded in his blog post about the move.

Well, that’s cool. Well played, Washington Football Team. I only wish the Washington Nationals, Capitals and Wizards were as forward-thinking about protecting their brands from the scarcy specters of the Nationals Journal, Capitals Insider and Wizards Insider Web logs.

This is not the only shot being fired by sports teams or organizations at the media.

The WIAA happens to be embroiled in their own controversy.

And lawsuit.

The case stems from an agreement between the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, which represents high schools, and a video production company called American Hi-Fi. The contract gives the company the right to stream high school sports events in Wisconsin over the Internet.

The agreement, however, precludes newspapers and other media organizations around the state from freely streaming the games themselves. To do so, they must first get a license from the WIAA, which charges as much as $1,500 per game for the privilege. A Wisconsin newspaper owned by McLean-based Gannett Co. challenged these restrictions as a violation of its First Amendment rights, prompting the WIAA to go to court last year to seek a declaratory judgment.

A federal district court decided in the WIAA’s favor last year. “Ultimately this is a case about commerce, not the right to a free press,” the court wrote in its decision. “The principal reason the WIAA granted an exclusive license to stream its games over the internet is not to promote discourse, but to create and grow an additional source of revenue.”

That is indeed why the WIAA says its contract with American Hi-Fi is exclusive; by giving the company “exclusive” rights to the games, it increases the value of the rights, much like an NFL or Olympics TV deal. WIAA spokesman Todd Clark says the streaming contract is part of a package of sponsorships that raise about $300,000 a year for the association. “Instead of raising ticket prices so that they’re unaffordable for families,” he said, “we chose to [offset expenses] through these contracts.”

This is a dangerous line for sports organizations to cross. Revenue is important, but so is the media's right to report on the events. The threat of raising ticket prices -- as if that's the only other source of revenue for the WIAA -- is kind of comical. It's not like the games cost much now, and raising ticket prices a couple bucks across the board isn't suddenly going to take a half-full arena and make it less than that. The people that want to go will still go.

Monday, March 14, 2011


If that's what it takes to get UMD into the NCAA field and back to the Final Five, we'll take it, right?

Mike Montgomery said it best ... everyone got their money's worth.

The longest game in UMD men's hockey history lasted into the third overtime before Mike Connolly ended it with -- as both TV's Judd Medak and radio's Kraig Karakas pointed out -- a very similar goal to the one that ended that magical NCAA game against Princeton two years ago.

With the series win, UMD is a lock for the NCAA field when it's announced Sunday. Before that, the Bulldogs have a chance to improve their seeding position. If things go well, they could still earn a top four spot, meaning a No. 1 regional seed. A place in the middle of the bracket does seem a bit more likely, but anything is possible.

We'll have more on the Final Five as the week goes on. For now, just enjoy the video.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Game 37: St. Cloud State at UMD (Playoffs Game 2)

The stakes are high both ways in this one, even though it only appears to be one way on the surface.

Yes, St. Cloud State needs to win to save their season. It doesn't get much more significant than that.

However, UMD is in the driver's seat here. A win in this game, and they can start preparing for the WCHA Final Five, whenever they are to play.

(If things go UMD's way in the Bemidji State-Omaha series, as well as Minnesota State-Denver, UMD might be able to get a bye into Friday's semifinals. Of course, that's a longshot, and avoiding a Sunday game when a Thursday game is on the horizon is vitally important, no matter what else happens.)

I'll stop babbling. The Bulldogs need to close this thing out here, instead of letting the proverbial wounded warrior off the mat.



Connolly (Mike) - Connolly (Jack) - Fontaine
Schmidt - Oleksuk - Brown
Seidel - Hendrickson - Basaraba
DeLisle - Flaherty - Grun

Faulk - Montgomery
Bergman - Lamb
Olson - Palm

Reiter - Crandall - Gaffy

Hanowski - Roe - Eddy
Festler - Marvin - Novak
Reid - LeBlanc - Dowd
MacMillan - Christian - Oslund

Lauridsen - Jensen
Gravel - Johnson
Zabkowicz - Barta

Lee - Dunn

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Bulldogs One Win Away From St. Paul

Writing while watching the Hermantown-St. Thomas Academy game is hard, but we'll try to persevere.

UMD looked strong Friday night at Amsoil Arena, winning 4-2 in front of a less-than-large crowd that appeared distracted at times by the Duluth East game that was going on at the same time.

The Bulldogs got an early lead and then gave up what has to be fairly categorized as a soft goal to tie the score, following the exact script of the team's 8-2 loss to St. Cloud State exactly a month earlier.

Then they flipped the script. They played strong defensively, giving little time and space to St. Cloud's top skill players, Garrett Roe and Drew LeBlanc. Coach Scott Sandelin was able to match his top line of Connolly/Connolly/Fontaine up with Roe's line effectively, which bears watching as the series continues Saturday night.

Line matchups can become important in the playoffs, and Sandelin's ability to use his top line against the Huskies' top group could prove huge as we move forward. UMD has a good defensive line, with Jake Hendirckson, Joe Basaraba, and David Grun. If necessary, Sandelin -- who gets the last line change as the home coach -- could work that group against Roe's line. But if FCC can play against them and be effective, there's no reason to do anything different.

Now, it's time for a follow-up. There are a few areas where UMD needs to be improved over Friday.

Kenny Reiter made a couple nice saves, most notably in the third period. He also allowed a soft goal to David Eddy, and was victimized by that odd goal through the five-hole in the third period. Not going to blame him on that, but it's a goal a lot of today's goalies -- with such butterfly tendencies -- probably wouldn't have given up. Reiter looked a bit uneven at times, like he might have been fighting the puck. He also came up big a few times, making it clear he was seeing the puck just fine, thankyouverymuch. Just need him to be a little more consistent. We know he can do it, as he was a huge factor in last year's playoff run.

Defensively, there were few breakdowns and few poor shifts. St. Cloud State is going to come hard Saturday, especially in the first ten to 15 minutes of the game. UMD has to exceed that intensity level and play the game at the level they did Friday, at the minimum. An early lead might be enough to get SCSU to break down a bit, given that they're playing from their season and know it.

The next time someone says "You make your own luck" to you, slap them. UMD hit five pipes Friday, and had two more go off SCSU goalie Mike Lee, meaning they counted as saves and not pipes. There's no real way to fix that, but UMD did a great job fighting off the bad luck and continuing to work hard and bear down on the net Friday. It's sometimes easier said than done, but it has to continue Saturday to avoid Sunday.

And we all want to avoid Sunday. Though we'll do it if that's what it takes to go to St. Paul.


Road teams tasted success Friday. Alaska-Anchorage won at Minnesota, Wisconsin at Colorado College, and Bemidji State at Nebraska-Omaha.

Not to say that St. Cloud State or Minnesota State can't come back, but it's a much more daunting task to win two straight on the road than it is to win one of two. Those Friday night road winners are in much better position to steal their series.

(No, I'm not looking it up, but I'm guessing it's not terribly common for the home team to win Friday and then lose Saturday and Sunday. It's probably happened the other way around far more often.)

I posted on Twitter during the week that I thought Wisconsin, Bemidji State, and UAA had the best shots at winning their series among the five road teams that weren't playing UMD. Nothing really shocked me there on Friday, as Dan Bakala carried the Beavers, Wisconsin rode a strong defense (I had looked at one point in the second period, and CC had 12 total shots on goal despite having five power play chances), and the Seawolves just keep playing well.

Based on the crowds I saw a couple times that I caught UAA on TV, no one in Anchorage had really noticed their improved hockey team. Hopefully, they'll get the message if the Seawolves can manage one more win in Minneapolis.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Game 36: St. Cloud State at UMD (Playoffs Game 1)

Back to 0-0-0 we go, after a long journey to the Land of 20-Win Seasons.

None of those 20 wins matter now. It's win or go home.

(Despite a bit of evidence to the contrary ... evidence that indicates UMD is already in the NCAA Tournament ... we will operate under the assumption that a series win is needed this weekend.)



Connolly (Mike) - Connolly (Jack) - Fontaine
Schmidt - Oleksuk - Brown
Seidel - Hendrickson - Basaraba
DeLisle - Flaherty - Grun

Faulk - Montgomery
Bergman - Lamb
Olson - Palm

Reiter - Crandall - Gaffy

Hanowski - Roe - Eddy
Festler - Marvin - Novak
Reid - LeBlanc - Dowd
MacMillan - Christian - Oslund

Lauridsen - Jensen
Gravel - Johnson
Zabkowicz - Barta

Lee - Dunn

Playoff Hockey: Forget About the Past?

The UMD Bulldogs open WCHA playoff action against St. Cloud State Friday night.

When the pairing became official last Saturday, it invoked screeches of horror from UMD fans, who clearly haven't forgotten what happened at Amsoil Arena one month ago Friday.

That was when the Huskies rolled into town and -- as a certain KFAN talk-show host likes to say -- kicked six different kinds of dog manure out of UMD.

8-2 was the final. Obviously, in terms of wins and losses, it wouldn't have mattered if it was 3-2, and in the eyes of UMD fans, it might as well have been 18-2.

UMD had nothing for the Huskies on that night. As Kraig Karakas said at the end of the game, it's the kind of tape you just have to burn and forget about. UMD coach Scott Sandelin said the next night that he did watch the tape, but there wasn't much to draw on from it.

It was such a bad game that neither team can take anything significant from its result or its flow. UMD was bad in multiple areas, including battle level, passing, skating, hitting, and goaltending. But they failed elsewhere, too, and their result to falling way behind was less than desirable.

Since then, the Bulldogs have shown push-back while behind in games against St. Cloud State, Minnesota State, Colorado College, and Nebraska-Omaha. They're only 2-3-2 in that stretch, but they fought back while down, and were able to get a point out of a game (SCSU) in which they trailed 3-0.

There is no question the UMD side remembers that night. Oddly enough, it's SCSU coach Bob Motzko who is trying to forget it now, telling Kevin Pates it will have no bearing on this weekend.

I'm not sure I agree, though I normally feel the way Motzko does.

It doesn't seem like the Bulldogs are trying to cast that game from a month ago aside as insignificant, or an aberration, or anything remotely like that.

Instead, it sounds like they're trying to use that performance as a means for motivation. Granted, the ultimate motivation has to come from what's on the line, but it seems UMD is bound and determined to not let that -- or something close to it -- happen again.

The potential pitfalls this weekend are incredible for UMD. By all accounts, the Bulldogs could finish with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they win the Final Five, but they could also play themselves out of the tourney altogether by not performing well this weekend. It's not a likely scenario, but no team wants to take their fate -- so to speak -- out of their hands by not getting the job done on the ice.

This is not an ideal matchup for UMD, but there wasn't one to be found in the range of potential opponents UMD had by Saturday. Denver won, eliminating the best possible scenario, which was Minnesota State as an opening-round foe.

That left Bemidji State, St. Cloud State, and Alaska-Anchorage as the options. Losing the UNO game Saturday eliminated Bemidji from the list, and with Dan Bakala and their defense, that wasn't ideal anyway. UAA plays a tough, physical style that can be akin to football at times. In the playoffs, where so much more is usually let go by officials who don't want to be part of the outcome, that's not always a good kind of team to play against.

That left the Huskies, who out-everythinged the Bulldogs for that one game a month ago, then watched in horror as UMD stormed back from 3-0 down the next night, looking very much like the 20-win Bulldogs.

St. Cloud has talent. Garrett Roe has been on fire, Aaron Marvin -- for all his obvious faults -- is one of the best two-way forwards in the league, and their defensive corps has some impressive young talent, most notably freshman Nick Jensen. Mike Lee has been good in goal lately after an up-and-down start to the season that played a huge role in the Huskies' struggles out of the gate.

Which UMD team will St. Cloud State see this weekend?

Quick answer: If it's the one that lose 8-2, it doesn't matter who the opponent is. If it's the one that pushed back the next night, this will be a fun weekend at Amsoil Arena.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

All-WCHA Teams Announced

We all voted. We gave you a chance to chime in (most of you generally failed at providing anything substantive, but you're fans, so it's okay).

Now, it's time to see how the All-WCHA teams look. With the new Final Five format, there is no more awards banquet on the Thursday of the play-in round. With that gone, the league has decided to simply throw out a press release to announce the honors, then they will try to have all the major award winners on hand during the Final Five for media availability and recognition during the games.

Here is the press release from the WCHA:

Two seniors representing regular season and MacNaughton Cup champion University of North Dakota – forward Matt Frattin and defensemen Chay Genoway – were today (March 10) honored as WCHA Player of the Year and WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year, respectively, to highlight the men’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association individual awards for the 2010-11 season. Frattin and Genoway were also both voted to the All-WCHA First Team.
    The league’s other major individual awards went to University of Wisconsin defensemen Justin Schultz as WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, University of Denver forward Jason Zucker as WCHA Rookie of the Year, Frattin as WCHA Scoring Champion, North Dakota netminder Aaron Dell as WCHA Goaltending Champion, and to Dean Blais of the University of Nebraska Omaha as WCHA Coach of the Year.
    Frattin, who received 58 votes in player of the year balloting, also captured the league’s scoring title (conference games only) with 40 points (22g, 18a), the most points by a Sioux player in league games since 2000-01. In 28 league games he averaged 1.43 points per game as the Sioux claimed the regular season championship for a record 15th time overall and second time in the past three seasons. A native of Edmonton, Alberta, Frattin is tied for the NCAA Div. 1 lead with 29 goals, including a nation’s-best 19 goals scored away from home, and leads UND in points (49), goals (29), power-play goals (9), game-winning goals (4), and shorthanded goals (2). He is currently riding his second nine-game point streak for the season, scored a goal in eight straight games earlier this season, and has gone consecutive games without a point on only two occasions. Frattin is a draftee of the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs.
    Genoway, who also earned All-WCHA First Team honors, was named the men’s WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year in a vote of league member team Faculty Athletic Representatives. A two-time team captain and one of only three individuals to earn WCHA Scholar-Athlete honors four times (the others were Scott McCulloch of Colorado College from 2005-09 and Jenna Hewitt of Minnesota State from 2006-10), Genoway maintains a 3.558 cumulative grade-point average at North Dakota and will graduate in May with a BBA in Management. After a season-ending injury last year, the Morden, Manitoba product went on to earn a 4.0 GPA in the fall of 2010, has done a team-leading 68.5 hours of community service during this academic year and was named an ESPN the Magazine All-American as a junior. He is the fourth highest scoring defenseman overall in the WCHA this season with 26 points (6g, 20a) despite missing eight games, ranked second in the WCHA in points per game by a defenseman at 0.95, leads all active WCHA defensemen with 116 career points, and put together a 12-game point streak earlier this season, tying a 33-year old school record for defensemen. Genoway is also a finalist for the Lowe’s Senior Class Award and has earned UND’s Archie Krum Memorial Athletic Scholarship for “leadership qualities, high academic standards and athletic excellence” three years in a row.
    The WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year Award is determined from nominations made by the member institutions and each institution then has one final vote. The criteria is as follows: 1) must be a senior student-athlete, i.e. one who is finishing his competition as an eligible player in the WCHA; 2) consistently displays outstanding sportsmanship on and off the ice; 3) is a good student making satisfactory progress toward a degree; and 4) is a good hockey player who has performed consistently as a regular member of the team.
    To earn recognition as a WCHA Scholar-Athlete, student-athletes must have completed at least one year of residency at their present institution prior to the current academic year and must also have a grade-point average of at least 3.50 on a 4.0 scale for the previous two semesters or three quarters, or may qualify if his or her overall GPA is at least 3.50 for all terms at his or her present institution.
    The league’s 12 head coaches voted the University of Wisconsin’s Justin Schultz as WCHA Defensive Player of the Year. From West Kelowna, British Columbia, Schultz is the first sophomore to win the award and also earned All-WCHA First Team accolades. Schultz is the second straight Badger to earn the league’s top defensive award, with defensemen Brendan Smith earning the honor in 2009-10. Schultz’s 18 goals so far this season are the most for any defenseman in the country since the 2002-03 season and one off the UW record. He’s the nation’s leading point scorer among defensemen and also leads the Badgers with 46 points. Among his goals are nine power-play goals, five first goals and three game-winning goals, including an overtime game-winning goal. A draftee of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, he posted the first hat trick by a UW defenseman since 1991-92 and logs over 30 minutes of ice time per game.
    Honored as the WCHA Rookie of the Year was University of Denver forward Jason Zucker, who was named on 78 ballots after leading all first-year conference players in scoring – and finishing third overall – with 36 points (20g, 16a). From Las Vegas, Nevada, Zucker made a strong bid to become just the second freshman in the 59-year history of the WCHA to win a scoring title, with DU’s Vic Venasky first accomplishing the feat in 1970-71 with 39 points (14g, 25a) in 22 games. One of only two players to score 20 goals in WCHA action, he ranked second nationally among rookies with 1.12 points per game, had 12 multiple-point games, and tallied 14 points (4g, 10a) during a career-high nine-game point streak. Zucker was named the National Div. 1 Rookie of the Month for February and was a two-time WCHA Rookie of the Week. He is a draftee of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.
    Earning the WCHA goaltending crown for 2010-11 was North Dakota’s Aaron Dell, who was also voted to the All-WCHA First Team. A sophomore from Airdrie, Alberta, Dell topped all league netminders with a 1.97 goals-against average in conference play, posting a 19-4-1 WCHA mark and a .912 save percentage over 1,432:09 of action. He won the league’s goaltending crown by the widest margin since 2001-02 and led the WCHA in league wins (19) and winning percentage (.812). In 33 overall games, Dell is tied for second in the nation in wins (24), ranks second in GAA (1.95), third in winning percentage (.781), and is tied for fourth in shutouts (4). A two-time WCHA Defensive Player of the Week, he put together a shutout streak of 224 minutes, :31 seconds, the second-longest in school history and the longest in nearly 60 years.
    The WCHA Coach of the Year for 2010-11 is Dean Blais of the University of Nebraska Omaha. Blais, who earns the award for the fourth time in his collegiate coaching career, led his Mavericks to a 17-9-2 league mark and third place finish, just one point out of second, as well as to a home playoff berth in the team’s first season in the WCHA. Named on 49 ballots, he guided UNO to it’s best-ever conference finish, to the most conference wins in school history, and as of March 10, the Mavericks have also already secured the second-highest single season win total in school history with 21. Blais, who earned his 300th career win on Feb. 12 against Wisconsin, was previously honored as the league’s coach of the year in 1996-97, 1998-99 and 2000-01 as head coach at North Dakota.
    Three different conference-member teams – North Dakota, Minnesota Duluth and Wisconsin – are represented on the All-WCHA First Team for 2010-11. Named to the All-WCHA First Team (statistics are league games only) were: F – Matt Frattin, Sr., North Dakota (28 gp, 22-18=40); F - Jack Connolly, Jr., Minnesota Duluth (28 gp, 9-28=37); F – Mike Connolly, Jr., Minnesota Duluth (28 gp, 19-15=34); D – Justin Schultz, So., Wisconsin (28 gp, 10-19=29); D – Chay Genoway, Sr., North Dakota (20 gp, 5-14=19); G – Aaron Dell, So., North Dakota (19-4-1, 1.97 gaa, .912 sv%).
    Members of the 2010-11 All-WCHA Second Team are: F – Jason Zucker, Fr., Denver (28 gp, 20-16=36); F – Drew Shore, So., Denver (28 gp, 15-19=34): F – Justin Fontaine, Sr., Minnesota Duluth (28 gp, 14-18=32); D – Jake Gardiner, Jr., Wisconsin (28 gp, 5-18=23); D – Matt Donovan, So., Denver (28 gp, 4-17=21); G – Kent Patterson, Jr., Minnesota (13-5-5, 2.31 gaa, .926 sv%).
    Voted to the All-WCHA Third Team for 2010-11 were: F – Jason Gregoire, Jr., North Dakota (24 gp, 18-13=31); F – Jaden Schwartz, Fr., Colorado College (17 gp, 10-15=25); F – Drew LeBlanc, Jr., St. Cloud State (28 gp, 11-17=28); D – Kurt Davis, Sr., Minnesota State (28 gp, 5-14=19); D – Justin Faulk, Fr., Minnesota Duluth (28 gp, 6-15=21); G – John Faulkner, So., Nebraska Omaha (16-9-2, 2.54 gaa, .910 sv%).
    And voted to the All-WCHA Rookie Team for 2010-11 were: F – Jason Zucker, Fr., Denver (28 gp, 20-16=36); F – Jaden Schwartz, Fr., Colorado College (17 gp, 10-15=25); F – J.T. Brown, Fr., Minnesota Duluth (28 gp, 12-14=26); D – Justin Faulk, Fr., Minnesota Duluth (28 gp, 6-15=21); D – David Makowski, Fr., Denver (27 gp, 4-14=18); G – Sam Brittain, Fr., Denver (13-6-3, 2.40 gaa, .920 sv%).
    Two players named to the all-league teams were also earlier honored on Feb. 10 as WCHA Scholar-Athletes for 2010-11. They were Chay Genoway (Sr., D, North Dakota) and Drew LeBlanc (Jr., F, St. Cloud State).
    Major award winners and members of the various all-league teams who were also recognized today as member of the 2010-11 men’s All-WCHA Academic Team were: Matt Donovan (So., D, Denver), Drew Shore (So., F, Denver), Kent Patterson (Jr., G, Minnesota), Jack Connolly (Jr., F, Minnesota Duluth), Justin Fontaine (Sr., F, Minnesota Duluth), John Faulkner (So., G, Nebraska Omaha), Matt Frattin (Sr., F, North Dakota), Chay Genoway (Sr., D, North Dakota), Jason Gregoire (Jr., F, North Dakota), and Drew LeBlanc (Jr., F, St. Cloud State).
    Voting for the major awards and all-league teams in the WCHA is done by conference member team coaches, players, sports information directors and local media. Each member team receives eight ballots and there are 96 total voters. Points for the all-league teams are awarded on a five (1st team vote), three (2nd team), and one (3rd team vote) basis. The WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year award is selected by league-member Faculty Athletic Representatives while the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year is selected by the league’s 12 head coaches.

2010-11 WCHA Major Award Winners

WCHA Player of the Year
Matt Frattin • Senior, Forward
University of North Dakota (Edmonton, AB)

WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year
Chay Genoway • Senior, Defenseman
University of North Dakota (Morden, MB)

WCHA Defensive Player of the Year
Justin Schultz • Sophomore, Defenseman
University of Wisconsin (West Kelowna, BC)

WCHA Rookie of the Year
Jason Zucker • Freshman, Forward
University of Denver (Las Vegas, NV)

WCHA Scoring Champion
Matt Frattin • Senior, Forward
University of North Dakota (Edmonton, AB)

WCHA Goaltending Champion
Aaron Dell • Sophomore, Goaltender
University of North Dakota (Airdrie, AB)

WCHA Coach of the Year
Dean Blais • University of Nebraska Omaha (49 votes)

2010-11 All-WCHA First Team
  Pos    Name    Team    Ht    Wt    Yr    Hometown    Pts
    F    Matt Frattin    North Dakota    6-0    206    Sr    Edmonton, AB    435
    F    Jack Connolly    Minnesota Duluth    5-8    160    Jr    Duluth, MN    354
    F    Mike Connolly    Minnesota Duluth    5-9    190    Jr    Calgary, AB    354
    D    Justin Schultz    Wisconsin    6-1    185    So    West Kelowna, BC    438
    D    Chay Genoway    North Dakota    5-9    177    Sr    Morden, MB    273
    G    Aaron Dell    North Dakota    6-0    191    So    Airdrie, AB    283

2010-11 All-WCHA Second Team
   Pos    Name    Team    Ht    Wt    Yr    Hometown    Pts
    F    Jason Zucker    Denver    5-10    175    Fr    Las Vegas, NV    320
    F    Drew Shore    Denver    6-3    190    So    Denver, CO    196
    F    Justin Fontaine    Minnesota Duluth    5-11    175    Sr    Bonnyville, AB    183
    D    Jake Gardiner    Wisconsin    6-2    193    Jr    Minnetonka, MN    253
    D    Matt Donovan    Denver    6-0    190    So    Edmond, OK    151
    G    Kent Patterson    Minnesota    6-1    180    Jr    Plymouth, MN    141

2010-11 All-WCHA Third Team
   Pos    Name    Team    Ht    Wt    Yr    Hometown    Pts
    F    Jason Gregoire    North Dakota    5-11    196    Jr    Winnipeg, MB    113
    F    Jaden Schwartz    Colorado College    5-10    182    Fr    Wilcox, SK    87
    F    Drew LeBlanc    St. Cloud State    6-0    185    Jr    Hermantown, MN    74
    D    Kurt Davis    Minnesota State    5-9    175    Sr    Plymouth, MN    150
    D    Justin Faulk    Minnesota Duluth    5-11    200    Fr    South St. Paul, MN    99
    G    John Faulkner    Nebraska Omaha    6-1    207    So    Sarnia, ON    123

2010-11 All-WCHA Rookie Team
   Pos    Name    Team    Ht    Wt    Yr    Hometown    Votes
    F    Jason Zucker    Denver    5-10    175    Fr    Las Vegas, NV    91
    F    Jaden Schwartz    Colorado College    5-10    182    Fr    Wilcox, SK    80
    F    J.T. Brown    Minnesota Duluth    5-10    170    Fr    Burnsville, MN    44
    D    Justin Faulk    Minnesota Duluth    5-11    200    Fr    South St. Paul, MN    82
    D    David Makowski    Denver    6-0    205    Fr    Wildwood, MO    44
    G    Sam Brittain    Denver    6-3    210    Fr    Calgary, AB    79