Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Seattle Screw: The Aftermath

With the Packers holding on to a 12-7 lead late in Monday's eventual "loss" to Seattle, I texted a friend/co-worker, a Vikings fan who was enamored with the way Green Bay clawed back and took the lead.

Livid at two horrific calls against the Packers in a Seattle drive, and already practically foaming at the mouth after the shenanigans at the Metrodome Sunday*, I had seen enough.

(* - If you missed it -- and I'm not sure how you could have -- the replacement officials in the 49ers-Vikings game allowed San Francisco two timeouts over and above the three each team is allocated in a half. This happened because 49ers coach and raging lunatic Jim Harbaugh called a timeout after a play to stop the clock, then persuaded the overmatched, clueless referee to let him challenge that the Vikings fumbled on the play. When said clueless referee ruled -- incorrectly -- that the Vikings fumbled, he gave San Francisco the ball and gave back the timeout. On Minnesota's next possession, the same scenario played out, only the call was upheld and the 49ers were actually charged the timeout.)

I told my buddy that I was done watching NFL games until the real officials were allowed to return. At the time, the Packers led 12-7, but had just seen an interception nullified for a bad roughing the passer call, and then an atrocious pass interference penalty called on the Packers got Seattle out of what should have been second and 25.

It was as if I was foreseeing the future.

Just a few minutes later, one of the worst calls in NFL history took a win away from the Packers and handed it to Seattle.

(Wasn't the worst. It's Week 3, and these are unqualified replacement officials.)

That seals it.

I decided there would be no more live NFL football for me, until the league figures out that it's damaging its product in ways money can't take care of. What a coincidence that has happened, with word coming Wednesday that the real officials will likely return this weekend.

The NFL has embraced things that are good for business, like fantasy football, because they aren't things that are harmful to the integrity of the product.

The NFL then suspended a bunch of Saints players and coaches for their roles in the bounty scandal, largely under the guise of protecting the integrity of the product.

However, it's clear that the league has forgotten the importance of "The Shield," as Commissioner Roger Goodell describes it.

The replacement officials damaged the integrity of the sport in ways that the Saints players couldn't dream of, even with the most blatant bounty.

It's positively insulting that the NFL hadn't moved to make a deal with the Referees Association until this week, and only because of what happened in the Green Bay game Monday.

The league has been asking -- practically begging -- for a team to get screwed or a star player to get seriously injured by an uncalled illegal hit, ever since allowing replacement officials to work games that count.

So far, we've avoided (mostly) players getting maimed by illegal hits, though the headshot on Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bay on Sunday was pretty egregious.

Monday, though, was pretty bad.

The end of the game was bad enough. But it never should have come to that. After Green Bay scored to take a 12-7 lead, Russell Wilson was intercepted along the Green Bay sideline on a tipped ball. As Wilson threw, he was hit low by Green Bay linebacker Erik Walden, who was called for roughing the passer. So, now, you can't hit the quarterback when he has the ball.

Later in the drive, on a first-and-25, Sam Shields ran a better route than Sidney Rice did, causing Rice to grab and pull at Shields to prevent an interception. Shields was called for pass interference, so instead of second-and-25, Seattle had a first down in Green Bay territory.

It's water under the bridge now, but still highly irritating. We all knew it was coming. A team was going to see a win taken away by these clowns, and it happened to be my favorite team.

Hopefully, the Packers can use this as further motivation to go on a run. The defense has played exceptionally well recently. The offense made some nice adjustments to slow down Seattle's pass rush Monday after eight first-half sacks, and those moves are ones Mike McCarthy has to remember. The best way to ruin this season is to abandon the run, open the Packers up to pass pressure, and get Aaron Rodgers killed.

Cedric Benson isn't explosive, but he's a chain-mover. As long as the Packers are keeping him going in the offense, they should be just fine. 1-2 sucks, but it's not anything that can't be rallied from.

(Oh, and Seattle's going to be pretty good, too. They can rush the quarterback, have a big and physical secondary, and Marshawn Lynch is really good. I'm still not sold on San Francisco -- look at the Minnesota game, which the Vikings controlled from the start -- and I think Seattle is a real threat in that division.)

WCHA Preseason Media Poll: Nerd Factor

It's time to crunch a few numbers from this year's media poll.

The full poll results are here.

My votes are here.

We had 25 votes this year. Minnesota got all but one first-place vote, and Alaska-Anchorage got all but one last-place vote.

North Dakota was first on one ballot, then second on 19 others. UND was no lower than fourth, and a clear No. 2 in the poll.

Opinions really started to become more diverse from the No. 3 spot all the way down to UAA, really.

Denver finished third, getting five second-place votes, along with 14 third-place votes. Five voters picked Denver fourth, and one had the Pioneers fifth.

Wisconsin is a great example of the diverse opinions found among our 25 voters this year. The Badgers picked up five third-place votes, six for fourth place, eight fifth-place votes, two for sixth, one for ninth place, and three votes for tenth place.

UMD finished fifth, but opinions were almost as across-the-board about the Bulldogs, who finished second but lost a big chunk of scoring and the main goaltender. UMD was picked fourth on two ballots, fifth and sixth by seven voters each, seventh place by five voters, then eighth by three and ninth place by one voter.

St. Cloud State was right behind UMD in the poll, but a look at the Huskies' votes shows a trend more like Wisconsin's, only not as many voters are high on SCSU. St. Cloud got one second place vote, and a single third place vote. SCSU also got six fourth-place votes, two fifths, and three sixths. The Huskies also were picked seventh on five ballots, eighth on three, ninth by three voters, and 11th on one ballot.

Colorado College came in seventh, despite getting a third-place vote. CC was picked out of the top six on 16 of 25 ballots, including a couple of tenth-place votes.

Many think Minnesota State could be this year's Michigan Tech. The Mavericks don't impress the voters, however. MSU was tabbed for a top six spot by just one of 25 voters. Nine picked MSU to finish 11th.

As for last year's Michigan Tech -- you know, Michigan Tech -- only seven of 25 voters think MTU will be good enough to get home ice; two of the seven pick the Huskies higher than sixth. Six voters picked MTU seventh, and five more tabbed the Huskies ninth.

More than half -- 13, to be exact -- of our voters picked Bemidji State 11th. The Beavers got the only last-place vote that didn't go to UAA, while the Seawolves were 11th on that ballot.

WCHA Preseason Media Poll

Here is the release sent to WCHA media and the league office regarding this year's preseason media poll, conducted through 94X -- the home of UMD hockey -- for a third straight year.

My votes can be found here.

A year after surprising many by winning the WCHA's MacNaughton Cup Championship, the Minnesota Golden Gophers are a nearly-unanimous pick of WCHA media to win the league. The annual 94X WCHA Preseason Media Poll, released Wednesday, shows the Gophers easily outdistancing the rest of the league.

A panel of 25 members of the WCHA media voted on a predicted order of finish, along with a handful of individual honors.

Minnesota received a whopping 24 of 25 first-place votes. Defending WCHA playoff champion North Dakota had the other first-place vote and finished a distant second. Denver came in third, followed by Wisconsin and Minnesota Duluth. St. Cloud State claimed the final "home-ice" position in the preseason balloting.

Minnesota junior forward Nick Bjugstad was a runaway choice for the Preseason Player of the Year. He also anchors the media's second annual Preseason All-WCHA Team, where he is joined at forward by Wisconsin junior Mark Zengerle and St. Cloud State senior Ben Hanowski. The defensemen on the team are Denver's Joey LaLeggia and Nick Jensen of St. Cloud State. Sam Brittain of Denver and Josh Thorimbert of Colorado College tied for the goaltending nod.

For the second straight year, the media chose North Dakota's Rocco Grimaldi as Preseason Rookie of the Year. Grimaldi took a redshirt after an injury-ravaged season, and he is again eligible for rookie honors.

Teams were scored under a standard system of 12 points for a first-place vote, 11 for second, and so on. The number listed with each team is the number of points that team averaged per vote.


1. Minnesota (24 first place votes) … 11.92 poll average
2. North Dakota (1) … 10.76
3. Denver … 9.92
4. Wisconsin … 7.8
5. Minnesota Duluth … 6.88
6. St. Cloud State … 6.84
7. Colorado College … 6.08
8. Nebraska Omaha … 5.48
9. Michigan Tech … 5.2
10. Minnesota State … 3.6
11. Bemidji State … 2.48
12. Alaska Anchorage … 1.04

Nick Bjugstad, forward, Minnesota (16 votes)
Others receiving more than one vote: Erik Haula, forward, Minnesota (4); Mark Zengerle, forward, Wisconsin (3)

Rocco Grimaldi, forward, North Dakota (8 1/2 votes)
Others receiving more than one vote: Nic Kerdiles, forward, Wisconsin (5); Jordan Schmaltz, defenseman, North Dakota (2 1/2); Brady Skjei, defenseman, Minnesota (2); Andy Welinski, defenseman, Minnesota Duluth (2)


Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota (20 votes); Mark Zengerle, Wisconsin (17); Ben Hanowski, St. Cloud State (8)
Others receiving more than one vote: Danny Kristo, North Dakota (7); Erik Haula, Minnesota (6); Rylan Schwartz, Colorado College (5); Corban Knight, North Dakota (3)
Joey LaLeggia, Denver (20 votes); Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State (9)
Others receiving more than one vote: Nate Schmidt, Minnesota (7); Wade Bergman, Minnesota Duluth (3)
Sam Brittain, Denver and Josh Thorimbert, Colorado College (7 1/2 votes each)
Others receiving more than one vote: Juho Olkinuora, Denver (3), Joel Rumpel, Wisconsin (2)

The following media members took part in the 94X Preseason Media Poll.

David Ahlers, KKAR Radio/University of Nebraska-Omaha; Stephen Anderson, Daily Mining Gazette; Andy Baggot, Wisconsin State Journal; Tyler Buckentine,; Mike Chambers, Denver Post; Bruce Ciskie, KZIO Radio/Bulldog Radio Network; Chris Dilks, Western College Hockey; Shane Frederick, Mankato Free Press; John Gilbert,; Kurt Haider, KENI Radio; Mick Hatten, St. Cloud Times; Dirk Hembroff, WKMJ Radio; Jack Hittinger, Bemidji Pioneer; Ken Landau, 103.9 FM The Eagle Radio; Don Lyons, Leighton Broadcasting/St. Cloud; Todd Milewski,; Dan Myers, Minnesota Hockey Magazine; Jess Myers,; Joe Paisley, Colorado Springs/Colorado College; Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune; Chris Peters, United States of Hockey; Brian Posick, WIBA Radio/Badger Radio Network; Chad Purcell, Omaha World Herald; Brad Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald; Jay Stickney, 102.3 ESPN Radio.

94X is the broadcast home of UMD Bulldog men's hockey. The full 37-game schedule, plus playoffs, can be heard on KZIO-FM, which is 94.1 in the Twin Ports, and 104.3 FM in the surrounding area. All games will also be broadcast on KBAJ 105.5 in the Grand Rapids area, and KAOD 106.7 FM in Babbitt, and on the internet at

Monday, September 24, 2012

BlogPoll: Week 5 Ballot

Busy day today with WCHA poll work, but I did submit a ballot for the BlogPoll. Here goes:

In short:
  • Whoa, Florida State.
  • Whoa, Oregon.
  • Whoa, Denard Robinson.
  • Whoa-klahoma.
  • Is Notre Dame really good? Look at the schedule. There's a threat there.
  • Beat Nebraska, Wisconsin, and I'll rank you again.

WCHA Preseason Poll: My Ballot

The annual WCHA Preseason Media Poll will be released Wednesday morning. Monday night is the voting deadline, but we do have 21 ballots returned. That's a quorum as far as I'm concerned, so I'm going to proceed with the poll.

I vote in the poll, and I invited two media representatives from each of the WCHA's teams to take part. No team is unrepresented when the list of returned ballots is looked at, though I count ten unreturned at this point.

In the interest of full disclosure, my votes appear below, starting with the generally-fruitless exercise of predicting what order the teams will finish in.

(All other voters are encouraged to post their ballots. As usual, no one will be forced to, and no one will have their individual ballot revealed.)

12. Alaska Anchorage

There are some pieces here that I like. Matt Bailey can score, and I thought Eric Scheid had his moments as a freshman (NOTE: not that it matters anymore, because he's gone). Scott Warner gives them some nice experience on the blue line. However, there is little scoring depth, and the goaltending tandem of Rob Gunderson and Chris Kamal struggled to stop the puck consistently.

The schedule-making fairy did the Seawolves no favors. Two of the three teams UAA plays both home and away: Minnesota and Wisconsin.

11. Bemidji State

Jordan George is back for one more year, but Shea Walters, Jamie MacQueen, and defenseman Brad Hunt graduated after stellar nine-year careers at BSU (or at least it felt like they were there that long). Dan Bakala, who kept the Beavers in many a game, is also gone, leaving the goaltending duties to Andrew Walsh and (maybe) Mathieu Dugas.

Someone will step up and make noise as a linemate and runnin' buddy for George. It's just a matter of who that will be. The missing pieces on the secondary lines will hurt BSU this season.

(Literally, this is the point where the decisions became extremely tough. I'd say spots 2-10 were as hard to decipher as ever before.)

10. Nebraska Omaha

Just like picking the Rams to win the NFC West, I have a feeling I'm going to regret this. But here goes. The Mavericks lost six straight and seven of eight to go from "home ice shoo-in" to "swept out of the playoffs" in a span of a month. UNO may have a revolving door in goal again. Senior John Faulkner is back, as is sophomore Dayn Belfour. But 2011-12 minutes leader Ryan Massa is taking the season off, and don't be surprised if Flyers draft pick Anthony Stolarz sees some playing time, too.

The Mavericks were gutted up front, losing Jayson Megna and Terry Broadhurst (29 combined goals) early. Dean Blais can recruit, but will the Mavs' hulking defensive corps be improved enough to offset more potential upheaval in goal and fewer goals scored?

9. Colorado College

A team that faded last season now faces a huge test. CC lost leading scorer Jaden Schwartz to the NHL (well, the AHL for now), along with experience at center in Nick Dineen, and an all-around defenseman in Gabe Guentzel.

The Tigers need production from the freshmen, including Hunter Fejes of Anchorage, but it doesn't hurt to have Rylan Schwartz back for one more season.

Junior Alexander Krushelnyski -- now that he's a junior, I no longer have to look up the correct spelling of his name -- could be in for a big offensive year. Goalie Josh Thorimbert won the job late last season, but senior Joe Howe is still around, and I'm guessing he'd like to play.

8. Minnesota State

It's just the kind of luck Troy Jutting had towards the end of his Minnesota State run. Now that he's gone, the hockey team looks to be vastly improved, perhaps enough to seriously challenge for home ice.

The improvement starts with new coach Mike Hastings, who gets his first crack at a college head-coaching job after paying plenty of dues over the years as a USHL coach and college assistant. He'll get this team to play a higher tempo, and Jutting's recent recruiting classes support such a change.

Sophomore forwards JP Lafontaine and Matt Leitner lead the way. A solid class comes in this year, including Bryce Gervais and Teddy Blueger. If the defense can stay healthy, it should get better, too.

The Mavericks need to find a No. 1 goalie on their team, but Hastings will point this program in the right direction, and he'll do it quickly.

7. Michigan Tech

Speaking of programs quickly pointed in the right direction, here's an example. Michigan Tech had as miserable a season as you can possibly conceive in 2010-11, winning four of 38 games and going scoreless for three whole games in a row (all at home).

Enter Mel Pearson. The Tech alum and longtime Michigan assistant made the most of his first head-coaching job, winning 16 games and getting Tech to the Final Five, where the Huskies lost in overtime to Denver.

Brett Olson, Jordan Baker, and goalie Josh Robinson depart, but the Huskies return the Johnstone boys (Jacob and David), the Pietila boys (Blake, Chad, and Aaron), smooth blue-line puck-mover Stephen Seigo, and big defenseman Daniel Sova, among others.

Kevin Genoe is back in goal, but he was porous last season before Robinson won the job. He's backed up by two freshmen, so there's opportunity here. Of course, the youngsters -- Pheonix Copley and Jamie Phillips -- probably see an opportunity, too.

6. Wisconsin

Don't sleep on this team. The offensive engine last year was Mark Zengerle, who returns this year, and shouldn't have to worry about being overshadowed by Jack Connolly in the pantheon of smallish WCHA centers who are a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

He's joined up front by Michael Mersch and Tyler Barnes, who combined for 25 goals last season, and promising freshman Nic Kerdiles, who got votes in our preseason rookie of the year balloting.

Everyone thinks the defense is gutted without Justin Schultz, but Jake McCabe, John Ramage, and Frankie Simonelli aren't bad guys to lean on.

Junior goalie Joel Rumpel needs to take another step forward. He's capable, but showed flashes of inconsistency last season.

5. Minnesota Duluth

Like many teams in the WCHA, UMD is dealing with some questions about goaltending. Junior Aaron Crandall is joined by newcomers Matt McNeely and Alex Fons in the battle to replace Kenny Reiter.

They'll benefit from what I think is a deeper and more experienced group of defensemen. Wade Bergman and Drew Olson have played a lot of minutes in their first three years, Chris Casto was really good from the start of the season on last year, and Luke McManus played his best hockey at the NCAA regional against Maine and Boston College. Freshman Andy Welinski -- last year's USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year -- will play a lot.

(By the way, the last USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year to ply his craft at UMD? Some guy named Jack Connolly. You may have heard of him.)

Up front, sophomore Caleb Herbert and senior Mike Seidel lead the way. Don't be surprised if freshman Austin Farley becomes a known name, and it might not take him long.

4. St. Cloud State

This is a sneaky-good hockey team that is going to surprise a lot of people (just wait until I give you some nerdy stuff on the preseason poll).

Ben Hanowski is back, and I'm certain people have forgotten that he scored 23 goals last season, and did it largely without any help from senior captain Drew LeBlanc, who red-shirted after a broken leg ruined what was supposed to be his last year in St. Cloud.

Jared Festler and Travis Novak will be missed up front, but LeBlanc's return helps placate that. Newcomers like Joey Benik don't hurt.

The defense is full of really good players. Kevin Gravel doesn't jump off the page, but he doesn't have to. The Huskies have Nick Jensen and Andrew Prochno, both of whom have plenty of offensive upside.

In goal, Ryan Faragher benefits from all the playing time he got last year when Mike Lee went down. They need to find a backup, but they have their No. 1, in all likelihood.

3. Denver

The losses of Drew Shore and Jason Zucker are the first thing people think of. That's fine, but the Pioneers return plenty. Nick Shore had 41 points, Shawn Ostrow is a very capable two-way forward, and Ty Loney will help pick up the scoring slack. Freshman Quentin Shore should pick up where his older brother left off.

(Does Denver have a rule that two Shores must be on every team now?)

DU's two best players, however, aren't forwards. Goalie Sam Brittain came back from a knee injury and got stronger as the season wore on, beating UMD in the Final Five semifinals with a tremendous performance. Oh, and then there's sophomore defenseman Joey LaLeggia, who was the most consistent freshman in the league last year. He's the best two-way defenseman Denver's had since Matt Carle.

So, yeah, Denver will be just fine. Imagine if Drew Shore and Zucker hadn't turned pro. Scary stuff ...

2. North Dakota

The suspensions of UND's four captains and four other players for one or two games of the team's opening weekend in Alaska next month gained headlines last week.

Regardless of what happens with guys like Danny Kristo, Carter Rowney, and Corban Knight sitting out one or both games of the Brice Alaska Goal Rush, UND is a serious threat to win the WCHA.

Knight, Rowney, and Kristo key the offense, but they'll have help from Rocco Grimaldi, who had his first crack at a freshman season ruined by injury. The team is strong in the back, with captain Andrew MacWilliam and Duluth native Derek Forbort leading the way. Forbort was hurt for a chunk of last season, but played the best I've seen him play at UND down the stretch. If he keeps that up, there's no reason to think the Artists Formerly Known as the Fighting Sioux won't be as strong defensively as they've been in a while.

No more Aaron Dell or Brad Eidsness in goal, but UND has Alabama-Huntsville transfer Clarke Saunders and solid freshman Zane Gothberg there.

1. Minnesota

I'm breaking a rule in a sense here.

Generally, I pick the team that I think has the fewest holes to win the WCHA. But I think North Dakota has fewer holes than Minnesota. So why are the Gophers here?

Because Minnesota will be improved on defense, and has the best offensive talent in the WCHA. That's why.

Kent Patterson kept Minnesota from having to score its way out of a lot of messes last year. Sure, Patterson's numbers weren't gaudy, but he was consistent. He didn't force his team to overcome soft goal after soft goal, and he kept his bad outings to a minimum.

If Michael Shibrowski and Adam Wilcox -- whoever plays the bulk of the games -- can duplicate that effort, Minnesota will do just fine.

Defensively, it's up to Mark Alt, Justin Holl, and Nate Schmidt to keep shot totals down and make sure their goalie only has to make one save at a time. Yes, it's a cliche. But it's a justifiable one.

Even with Nick Bjugstad, Erik Haula, Zach Budish, Nate Condon, and a host of other talented scorers on hand, the only thing that can stop the Gophers from winning the MacNaughton in their last year in the league is if the defense and goaltending are too leaky.

Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota; Ben Hanowski, St. Cloud State; Mark Zengerle, Wisconsin
Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State; Joey LaLeggia, Denver
Sam Brittain, Denver

PRESEASON WCHA ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Andy Welinski, D, Minnesota Duluth

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Central Scouting Rankings Include Numerous UMD Recruits, Local Faces

The NHL is locked out, but the process of scouting players for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft is underway.

(Of course, if the NHL season is cancelled, we don't know when that draft will happen. Or who will pick first.)

(Then again, if they use the same lottery system they rigged so Pittsburgh could win used in 2005, Toronto will be practically a shoo-in to win. Which means someone else will. Maybe Pittsburgh.)

Anyway, NHL Central Scouting has released a preliminary list of top prospects for the 2013 draft. The players are grouped by league, and then assigned a letter grade, A, B, or C.

"A" prospects are considered potential first-round picks, while "B" players are said to be second- or third-round picks. "C" level players are believed to be candidates for selection in later rounds.

As usual, UMD and local high school teams are represented on the list. Here is a rundown.

Freshman forward Austin Farley is the only current UMD player listed. The former Fargo Force (USHL) star is a "C" skater, along with four other WCHA freshmen (two of them are from Denver).

As far as recruits go, defenseman Blake Heinrich (Hill-Murray) is a "B" skater, and fellow blue-liner Willie Raskob (Shattuck-St. Mary's) is a "C" skater, as is Hibbing forward Adam Johnson.

Waterloo defenseman Ian McCoshen is listed at the "A" level. McCoshen is uncommitted, but has listed UMD among those still in the running.

Hermantown defensemen Neal Pionk and Jake Zeleznikar are both listed as "C" level skaters.

The rankings will be updated next in November, with a final listing due out before the draft.

Karson Kuhlman Latest Local Hockey Star Headed to UMD

UMD has done quite well as of late when it comes to bringing in top local players. This year's crop of freshmen includes former Duluth East defenseman Andy Welinski, who could be the best rookie blue-liner in the WCHA. He joined UMD after two seasons with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers, where he helped the team to a Clark Cup title.

Hibbing forward Adam Johnson committed to UMD during the 2010 state tournament, at which he helped Hibbing on a surprising run to the semifinals. Hermantown's Jared Thomas and Duluth East's Dom Toninato committed last season, and all three should be a part of the Bulldogs by 2014.

Now, you can add another local player to the stable of future Bulldogs.

Cloquet/Esko/Carlton forward Karson Kuhlman committed to UMD Tuesday afternoon, one day after receiving a scholarship offer. Kuhlman is a junior this year, and will be a big part of what should be an improved Lumberjacks team.

Kuhlman confirmed his commitment via Twitter. A source indicated he is likely a 2015 Bulldog, meaning he'll be able to finish his high school career and play a year of juniors. Kuhlman has played in the USHL already, getting five games in with the Dubuque Fighting Saints last spring (four assists).

It's another local win for Scott Sandelin and his staff. Looking at the list of recruits coming in -- a group that includes Hill-Murray defenseman Blake Heinrich, Shattuck defenseman Willie Raskob, Canadian forward Brett Boehm, and U.S. Under 18 forward Kyle Osterberg -- it seems that the future for UMD is bright.

National championships help in recruiting, no doubt. But we have to also give a nod to all those who helped make Amsoil Arena possible. It's as wonderful a venue as you're going to find in college hockey, and the opportunity to walk a kid through that place -- even if it's not a game night -- is a huge advantage.

It's also nice to see comments like the one from Kuhlman in Wednesday's Duluth News Tribune.

“When you grow up 12 minutes away, it’s always been something that I wanted to do,” Kuhlman said. “I slept on it for one night and I felt I was ready. This fit everything we were looking for.”

A kid who wants to be a Bulldog, pretty much from birth. Now Karson Kuhlman fulfills a dream. We're all looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Random Rabble: September 17

Hockey is coming. UMD's season opens 25 days from now. It's inching closer. The WCHA Preseason Media Poll is due out on Sept. 26, and I'll have a full preview before that date that includes my predictions that are sure to be incorrect.

Meanwhile, the NFC North is all 1-1 after Sunday's action. Somehow, the Vikings managed to get virtually no pressure from their defensive line against a team starting a guard who couldn't snap at center. The secondary picked up zero interceptions against a quarterback who threw three in his first start. Minnesota has two picks in its last 13 games.

It's not good enough, and it's too bad, because Christian Ponder has a chance to be good.

Even though he didn't have a completion over 20 yards Sunday, Ponder is pretty solid so far this season. He hasn't thrown deep much, but he throws a good and catchable deep ball. The return of Jerome Simpson from his suspension after this week should help the offense.

Perhaps that will open things for the running game, too, because the Vikings didn't have a rush over eight yards in Sunday's game.

The Packers beat the Bears Thursday, thanks to a relentless defensive effort. Clay Matthews had 3 1/2 of the team's seven sacks of Jay Cutler. Tramon Williams had two of the four interceptions.

Aaron Rodgers isn't sharp yet, but that's not a bad thing. The Packers will be just fine if the defense plays anything close to how it did on Thursday. They were physical, they were fast, and the front seven overpowered and outsmarted the Bears' offensive line.

Much to like there, and once Rodgers gets closer to his MVP form, there's no reason to think Green Bay can't go on a long run.

Are you paying attention to baseball? The Brewers are closing fast on that second National League wild card. It's been an impressive run, reminiscent of St. Louis charging after the wild card last year.

How did that turn out? Oh, yeah ...

BlogPoll: Week 3 Ballot

More movement this week. Thank you, Stanford and Pittsburgh.

  • Matt Barkley picked a bad time to play perhaps his worst game at USC. The fact his offensive line stinks didn't help him one bit.
  • I was shocked by how inept Notre Dame made Michigan State look. This could be a very interesting season in South Bend.
  • Virginia Tech usually doesn't do this until at least October.
  • Nice effort, South Florida.
  • Good for Northwestern.
  • I'm going to stab myself with a pencil if Alabama and LSU meet for the title again.

Monday, September 10, 2012

BlogPoll: Week 2 Ballot, I Guess

Here is this week's BlogPoll ballot, as submitted by yours truly Monday morning.

There is a lot to discuss. Much was moved, especially once we got through the top five.

A few thoughts:
  • Amazingly disappointing performance by Arkansas, which seemed to let the foot off the gas after opening a 28-7 lead over Louisiana-Monroe. The Razorbacks deserve to fall out of the top 25.
  • So does Wisconsin, which laid an egg bigger than any its laid in years, losing 10-7 to an average-at-best Oregon State team. The Badgers let a Beavers defense that allowed nearly 200 rushing yards per game last year hold them to 35 yards on the ground Saturday. Danny O'Brien couldn't have been worse. Not much poise, and didn't seem to have his accuracy going. The offensive line was so offensive that the line coach was canned Sunday. Strikes as a move made out of desperation, but Bret Bielema has never really done anything like this before. In my mind, that adds a bit of legitimacy to things. The season can still be salvaged, but it won't be if the line doesn't improve, both in run-blocking and pass pro.
  • Kudos to Jim Mora and UCLA. At least we're finding out that Rick Neuheisel could recruit, even if the coaching part of things was somewhat subpar.